P Cubed Conference

Social Enterprise: The New Model for CSR

With the conclusion of our P-Cubed Conference, which saw 160 participants from the  corporate, social entrepreneurship and non-profit spaces come together to listen and deliberate on this unique synergy of concepts, we are now more certain than ever that the time is ripe and the moment right to launch this movement. We believe that combining the resources of CSR with the models of social entrepreneurship can be instrumental in bringing about sustainable change and addressing the numerous social and economic challenges we face as a country today. It is a differentiated and timely intervention, given the growing social entrepreneurship ecosystems in various cities, as well as the recently mandated CSR allocations from big business.

The P-Cubed Conference featured eminent speakers from different sectors associated with the theme, and each of them highlighted a unique angle of the subject at hand. The Minister of IT and Panchayati Raj Mr. Taraka Ramarao touched briefly on new initiatives of his department in promoting micro and rural entrepreneurship, through technological innovation. As micro-entrepreneurship falls within the ambit of Vikasa International Center’s mandate, this was an interesting insight into potential future programs.

In his keynote address, Deputy British High Commissioner Mr. Andrew McAllister expounded on the provenance and the success of social enterprises in the UK, and how these models can be replicated in an Indian context. He also spoke about the emerging role of CSR, and how the increased flow of funds could ideally be directed into socially motivated business enterprises. He highlighted the crucial importance of the consumer in making informed and socially conscious purchasing decisions. Mr. McAllister said that the British government would be eager to play a part in the establishment of this process and actively take up a role in such partnerships in the future. His talk was well received by the audience and Vikasa International Center; we expressed our gratitude for his presence and valuable contributions, and hopedthat we will be able to partner with the British government in the future.

Industrialist and Chairperson of CII-Telangana, Ms. Vanitha Datla spoke inspiringly about the corporate social responsibility angle, from the perspective of industry in general and her company in particular. She likened the fixing of relationships between companies and NGOs to a ‘marriage bureau’, and commended Vikasa International Center for hosting such an event that brought together various sectors onto a common platform, where such mutually beneficial and long-lasting collaborations could be formed. She highlighted the importance of locating trustworthy and impactful enterprises to invest in as part of corporate social responsibility.

Dr. Raghunathan, CEO of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation proved to be an eloquent and immensely captivating speaker. He touched upon several vital themes, and illustrated exactly the juxtaposition between CSR and social enterprises by discussing the example of GMR Foundation’s craft center (from where, incidentally, we sourced the jute folders presented to participants at the conference). He spoke about the necessity of big industry to engage in more meaningful CSR initiatives, using the term ‘socially responsible business’. Using GMR as an example, he commented on how sometimes the very nature of an industry is exploitative of natural resources, and impacts the environment negatively, and how socially responsible business would then have to make an extra effort to curb or minimize such impact. The second half of his talk was focused on the nature of social enterprises, their value and benefits, in the context of India’s burgeoning youth population and unemployment.

Mr Vijay Kumar Gupta, Senior Member of CII-BYST and MD of Kwality Phototonics made a comprehensive presentation on social enterprises using as examples his own initiatives as part of CII-BYST, nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth especially from the marginalized and underprivileged sectors. During his talk he elaborated on the added value of social enterprises as opposed to regular businesses, including the fact that they tend to employ greater numbers of people.

The Conference featured three speakers: Mr Pradeep Sharma, CEO of Grey Matters (a social enterprise working with improving education in lower-income English speaking schools); Ms. Radhika Shankar, a leading social entrepreneurship consultant; and Mr. Adarsh Kataruka, Founder of Soul Ace Ventures which works with CSR and business sustainability. Each speaker drew out different threads connected to CSR and social enterprises. While Pradeep used his own enterprise as an illustration of a successful business venture with a tangible and impactful social agenda, Radhika primarily focused on the theoretical aspects of social enterprises, elaborating on business models, frameworks of innovation, spectrums of impact investing and finally corporate business with a ‘social conscience’. The ideal model, as advocated by Radhika, is one of blended value – sustainability and possibility to scale.

Finally, Mr Adarsh presented on the crux of the theme by discussing how CSR resources can be tied in with social enterprise models. Questions arose from the audience regarding the plausibility of social entrepreneurs approaching companies for funding, as well as the legalities behind using CSR funds towards ‘for-profit’ initiatives. His talk was followed by General Manager Dr. Vijay Bhaskar presenting Vikasa International Center’s products and services, and a 45-minute open floor question and answer session convened by Mr. Ram Khata (agricultural social entrepreneur), Mr. Raj Jangam (Founder of Untld Hyderabad) and Mr. Subodh (Head of IPR at Tata Consultancy Services).

Overall, the Conference succeeded in two major aspects: it was the first of its kind in discussing this particular nexus of ideas, i.e. bringing together CSR and social enterprises, and this was widely acknowledged and appreciated by several of the participants. Secondly, the Conference successfully launched Vikasa International Center’s name into the public domain, especially in the sectors of social enterprises and CSR, attached to its mandate of filling this niche gap – tying up two significant dimensions in India’s development into one nucleus of potential.

As for learning gleaned from the discussions, deliberations and personal exchanges, there are three noteworthy observations that were repeatedly brought out: one, that there is a definite requirement for a better, more cohesive and more collaborative ecosystem for social entrepreneurship not just in Hyderabad but throughout the country. At the moment, disparate entities working towards the same goal are not necessarily able to come together for greater impact. The second major challenge that was articulated was the difficulty in getting venture capitalist / impact investor support, as it was noted that these investors are not necessarily socially oriented, or ‘tuned in’ to the triple bottom line approach. Finally, through the kinds of  questions that arose from the participants, it might be a good idea to hold a follow-up workshop on the legalities of CSR and its accommodation of funding social enterprises, as well as connecting CSR departments with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Through the entire event ran the common thread of the importance of partnership, collaboration and discourse/discussions to keep the movement alive. We are currently working on forging Partnership’s with potential organizations and  strategic collaborations. We hope the spark that was lit on 5th March 2015 at the P-Cubed Conference will turn into a raging fire for equality, inclusion and social progress.