BL Club Report: Social enterprise opportunities abound

R.Yegya Narayanan Coimbatore | Updated on November 21, 2017 Published on May 29, 2013

Vaidya Nathan, Founder & CEO, Classle Knowledge Pvt. Ltd., speaking at a Business Line club meeting at Nehru Institute of Management Studies, Coimbatore.

It is imperative that today's youngsters feel themselves to be part of social enterprise as future lies there, according to Vaidya Nathan, Founder & CEO, Classle Knowledge Pvt. Ltd, Chennai.

He said today’s demography also ‘refuses to be treated as a consumer’ and whatever is done should ‘fit into their overall value system’.

Speaking at a Business Line club meeting, organised by Nehru Institute of Management Studies, Coimbatore and sponsored by Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Ltd (TMB), he said the students should think as being part of social enterprise as they ‘have a jump start’ and said ‘every single thing you complain about is an opportunity’.

He mentioned whatever was not there was an opportunity. It was where the ‘opportunity lies’ since big businesses eye that pie. Several global giants spend a colossal amount in identifying such opportunities. So, for us Indians, instead waiting for Western companies to understand them, take them to their countries and bring them back to India, it would be profitable for the Indians to jump the line by grabbing them first.

He added there were Venture Capitalists and other investors who would be willing to fund such asset class for social ventures since they smell tremendous market opportunities. He clarified that this (social venture) was not social service, was not philanthropy but was an enterprise that has a profit theme woven into it.

Vaidya Nathan said ‘profit is not a bad word’. In India we consider profit (wealth) as Lakshmi or Kubhera. But what was embedded into it was ‘people and planning’. When this was done from that perspective, all of a sudden people see a huge opportunity. When done, people do not talk about CSR but an enterprise that was ‘socially relevant’.

He explained instead of talking about consumers, students should worry about citizens and making quality of their lives better. People should be looked upon not as consumers for marketing products but as citizens whom they should serve. It is not who owns what that is important but what is being made accessible to whom.

One should not talk about who could afford a college degree and who could not. It should be more of who can ‘get access to education and who can not’. Rather than discussing who could own a car and who could not, the attention should be on who has access to flexible personal transportation and who does not have. There are businesses that ask such questions and become ‘extremely profitable’.

Referring to a study by a Professor from the University of Chicago, USA, he said the Professor had stated that decades of money spent on women's emancipation in rural Tamil Nadu did not make any impact. But suddenly women, especially girls, in rural Tamil Nadu started pursuing education and began asserting their rights to be ‘dignified individuals’.

What caused this change? Cable TV! The service that was offered at Rs 100 a month opened a new window to the world and they were able to see what was happening outside their own neighbourhood where women were treated in a dignified manner and wanted to be like them, triggering massive change.

Vaidya Nathan’s advice to the students was that they should ‘look at what is the need of the society’. He said the earlier generation was just earning to save for the next generation and not merely to spend on themselves. But now, as expansion in the number of educational institutions has shown, people want to spend to increase the potential for the future. The students should identify the gap out there and try to fill it.

K.Nanthini, Principal of the institute, P.Subramanian, Chief Manager, Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Ltd, R.S.Puram, Coimbatore, and P.Subramaniam, Senior Regional Manager, The Hindu, Coimbatore, spoke at the event.

Published on May 29, 2013
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