Boosting sociopreneurship in India

We have all heard of entrepreneurship. There is a whole corpus of literature on its characteristics and immense potential. An entrepreneur differs from one who runs a business, or any kind of enterprise, in some important respects.

The former is determined to bring to fruition an idea or innovation on his own volition, on the strength of his own vision and efforts, and for his own sense of emotional fulfilment, without making the return on money spent the exclusive criterion of success; whereas a run-of-the-mill businessperson is usually engaged in familiar or much-trodden fields of activity, essentially commercial and profit-seeking in nature, through well-worn organisational structures and traditional modes of securing resources.

An entrepreneur, again, prefers to be self-employed in order to able to exercise freedom of experimentation, decision and action to the fullest extent. He is ready and willing to take risks to that end. In contrast, an average businessperson is prone to stick to established grooves, averse to risks and resistant to launching any path-breaking projects.

In short, an entrepreneur distinguishes himself by his passion, drive and outside-the-box thinking in search of ‘fields fresh and pastures new’, while a businessperson is apt to be a conformist, content with more of whatever has been found to be dependable, predictable and profitable over the years.


Hitherto, entrepreneurship has been associated with ventures meant for the production and distribution of economic goods, by exploring new avenues of investment and partnership in terms of market research, venture capital, start-ups, incubation, continued financial counselling and similar reinforcing approaches. It was hardly viewed as a catalyst of social transformation.

In recent years, a new branch of entrepreneurship — called sociopreneurship — comprising a new breed of entrepreneurs called social entrepreneurs, pressing into service their role as an agent of social change has been rapidly gaining ground. Sociopreneurs can be defined as self-motivated and self-propelled individuals with a social conscience and social commitment who are impelled by an irresistible urge to fulfil a social need or remedy a social ill by applying the same principles of creativity, innovation and experimentation as are relevant to entrepreneurship in general, with voluntarism as the driving force.

As Mr Nishant Sarawgi, Strategic Partnerships and Marketing Manager, National Social Entrepreneurship Forum (NSEF), puts it: A sociopreneur “is an individual with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems with a strong non-negotiable focus to solving it and chooses an entrepreneurial approach to solve them by using entrepreneurial systems and processes …People, governments, corporations and funding agencies worldwide have realised that this is a way to achieve sustainable development and have started encouraging social entrepreneurs and innovators in several ways”. He also credits it with having already generated an incredible three trillion dollars or more of turnover globally!


He expects it to be the next big thing to influence India as the country struggles to redress the inequalities of a skewed GDP growth, working to the detriment of inclusive growth, and meet challenges in areas ranging from education and energy efficiency to infrastructural development and climate change.

His comments on the beneficial effects of sociopreneurship are of absorbing interest: Earlier, he says, organisations solving social problems were often assumed to be idealistic, philanthropic and lacking business acumen or the ability to be entrepreneurial.

“However, as the social sector has been coming in touch with the private sector, both have begun to realise that just one approach either pure philanthropic or pure capitalist is inadequate to build sustainable institutions. Gradually both are moving towards a more blended solution where organisations are responsive to opportunities and entrepreneurial while pursuing social goals”.

Without one describing them as such, there have been examples of sociopreneurship in India. The earliest was the Bhoodan Movement of Vinobha Bhave where he showed the way of equitable redistribution of nature’s asset with his Bhoodan Movement.

The next is the Self-Employed Women’s Association founded by Dr Ela Bhatt. The third is the Grameen Bank of Mohammed Yunus. Finally, the Self-Help Groups too qualify to be regarded as sociopreneurs. Sastra University’s commendable undertaking to make the educated employable by a series of orientation programmes falls within the same category.

There is an imperative need to boost such trends by the private and public sectors joining hands and setting up a sizeable Sociopreneurship Promotion Fund as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Published on June 19, 2012
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