What is Social Entrepreneurship ?

Read to know how social entrepreneurship can be a profitable business as well.

The term social entrepreneurship, as the title says, refers to doing business that benefits mankind. This entrepreneur aims to solve the rampant problems of the environment and community prevailing for years through its innovative solutions and often known as social innovators. Any enterprise other than social enterprise identifies gaps for profit-maximisation that is their primary goal but in social entrepreneurship, the gaps are identified to fulfill a basic need for a community. They identify the problems to become the harbingers for simplifying the lives of people. 

Why India Needs Social Entrepreneurs? 

India is a populous country of 1.3 Billion. Though we are on a growth projectile, India is reeling under several social and environmental problems such as access to proper female healthcare, basic education, pollution, unemployment, poverty, inadequate food supply, and access to clean drinking water. We need a revolution from change-makers and thinkers from various walks of life in building and implementing effective, innovative, and sustainable solutions to such social and environmental challenges. The solutions from social entrepreneurs include services and products that can be for-profit or non – profit initiatives. Although in social entrepreneurship generating profits is not the main goal but that does not certainly indicate that social enterprises cannot be profitable, they invest a significant chunk of their revenues or profits into their social mission, rather than funding payouts to shareholders.


Though India is on a growth projectile, it is reeling under several social and environmental problems such as access to proper female healthcare, basic education, pollution, unemployment, poverty, inadequate food supply, and access to clean drinking water.

Social Entrepreneurship in India 

Ankit Agarwal, founder of Phool. co once sat nearby the mighty Ganges and happened to glance upon the humongous heaps of flowers that formed large stretches on the water that were released into the river. Thorough research made him realise that approximately 8.4-tonne flowers were grown using insecticides and pesticides that made their entry into the Ganges daily, thus polluting the river and posing threat to aquatic life. Phool. co plunged into social entrepreneurship with its flowercycling technology by offering sustainable solutions to the temple waste problem. It utilises the used temple flowers into therapeutic handmade incense sticks and incense cones specially handcrafted by women belonging to poorer sections of society, providing them with a better livelihood. 

It is indeed surprising but our wardrobe choices contribute to carbon footprint as well. According to a study by The World Bank, the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions. 87 percent of the clothes that we throw away for trendy clothes land up in an incinerator or a landfill. Clothes made of synthetic fabrics such as rayon, polyester create toxic compounds in the air when burnt. To tackle this menace, Delhi-based Kriti Lula found Doodlage a fashion and lifestyle label that sells upcycled products. They collect textile leftovers from large fabric manufacturers to create fashion products. Doodlage engages many local artisans in designing apparel thus giving them a livelihood during uncertain times. Doodlage’s initiative received applause when it made its way to the prestigious Lakme Fashion Week 2019. 

Rural India has long been eluded from proper facilities of lighting and electricity. Bridging this gap of inadequate power, Harish Hande’s SELCO decided to provide renewable solar energy solutions for the rural population. SELCO’s solar panels consist of a battery and a charge regulator that can low-wattage appliances such as lights, fans, television sets, mobile chargers, and radios. The solar panel’s batteries get charged during the day and store the energy – which enables the system to keep functioning for about 12 hours without being recharged. Currently, SELCO has more than 450000 users offering its solar-powered home lighting and energy centres to more than 1800 villages and has more than 120 partners. 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Vs Social Entrepreneurship 

Social entrepreneurship focuses more on pressing problems in society than the CSR initiatives taken up by corporates that are generally centered around local communities and are not aligned with development indicators. Therefore, to address greater challenges and support sustainable business models, big corporates can collaborate with social entrepreneurs since they have difficulty in receiving funds, resources, and infrastructures. Thus corporates, by leveraging a social entrepreneur’s idea, can develop solutions penetrating deeper into the underprivileged society with its CSR purpose being fulfilled. 

What is in it for wannabe entrepreneurs? 

Social entrepreneurship remains guarded by a misnomer that is equivalent to starting an NGO or a charitable foundation. A social entrepreneur looks beyond profit and aims to transform society by bringing in disruptions to solve problems faced by people by gathering talent and funding to solve the issue sustainably. For funding social entrepreneurs face hurdles since conventional sources of funding such as banks and financial institutions are not available and largely depend on CSR funds. Therefore, investors need to understand what the social enterprise will be creating value for society. Since 70 percent of India’s population resides in rural India, developing solutions for them will prove to be profitable as that of any normal startup. 

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.



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