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20 social enterprises get World Bank grant

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 02, 2013 Published on May 02, 2013

Twenty social enterprises were on Wednesday awarded grants of $100,000 each by the India Development Marketplace funded by the World Bank Group at the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.

The Development Marketplace is a competitive grants programme seeking to support scalable, replicable social enterprise projects.

This year, the 20 projects, selected from 195 applicants, include a wide range of products and services targeted at the bottom of the pyramid in three States – Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Of the 20, seven are registered for-profit organisations, 12 have non-profit base and one operates as a hybrid.

The selected enterprises were judged on five parameters — innovation, scalability or growth potential, sustainability, social impact and gender issues.

Elaborating on the sustainability of the selected projects, Drew von Glahn, Program Lead, Development Marketplace, said of the 14 projects awarded grants in 2011 in Rajasthan, Odisha and Bihar, "seven have been able to raise funds in the market and are examples of successful business models. They no longer need our funds."

However, the role of World Bank doesn’t end with disbursing funds. "In the next 18 months, these enterprises will undergo business mentoring, receive technical assistance in areas of business development, financial management and strategic planning," said Parvathi Menon, Managing Director, Innovation Alchemy, Lead Partner, India Development Marketplace. Innovation Alchemy is a Bangalore-based firm focussed on supporting social enterprises.

One of the winners this year, Waterlife India Pvt Ltd, is a for-profit model that provides low-cost, clean drinking water in rural areas. Under the model, the Government installs capital-intensive structures (pipeline, filtration plant) while Waterlife provides operational assistance and charges about Rs 4-7 to provide 20 litres of water.

Sudesh Menon, Managing Director, Waterlife, an engineer from IIT Kharagpur (batch 1991) was working for General Electric before he started this enterprise. "A lot of people told me that rural people will never pay for water, but I had a desire and intent to give back to the society and with this grant I will scale up work in the existing 12 States," he said.

On social enterprises, Onno Ruhl, India Country Director, South Asia, World Bank, said, "Their method and rigour and how they implement their technology is commendable. This year, we gave a little more focus on enterprises working with women and children, as I feel development process cannot succeed without focusing on opportunities that women can provide."

Out of the 20 winners this year, eight are targeted at the uplift of women and children.

Another enterprise, Under The Mango Tree (UTMT), run by Vijaya Pastala, trains Indian farmers in bee-keeping. "My enterprise focuses on three issues — falling agricultural productivity, market access and agricultural livelihoods. We work in partnership with field-based NGOs to develop a cadre of local master trainers in bee-keeping. The model works as it is not very expensive and the returns are good."

She said what was unique about UTMT was that it was a hybrid model. Under the set-up, UTMT Society focuses on training and capacity building for farmers, while UTMT Naturals and Organics Pvt Ltd is involved with marketing and selling honey produced.

"We are working with about 3,000 farmers right now and aim to reach 10,000 farmers in Madhya Pradesh with this grant," Pastala added.

"I feel as if a panchayat bank has been recognised by the World Bank," said K.S. Sunanda, Chairperson, Alternative For India Development, an enterprise that works for delivery of banking/financial inclusion products/ services to excluded families by combining panchayat kiosk banking outlets and self-help group strategies.

navadha.p@thehindu.co.in

(The writer was in Bhopal on a trip sponsored by The World Bank.)

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Published on May 02, 2013
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