SSE India fellow Dr. Mukesh Panwar launched a social enterprise called Smile Express that provides mobile dental services to underprivileged populations – here at a low-income government school in Jaipur ©

Courtesy of SSE India

On 15 December, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State - Prime Minister's Office, Government of India, and St. John Gould, Director, UK Trade and Investment, British High Commission, presided at a ceremony in New Delhi to celebrate growing UK-India collaboration to support social enterprises.  

Held as part of UK Prime Minster Theresa May’s state visit to India, the event showcased the first graduating class of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) India, which supports social entrepreneurs to start, grow, and sustain organisations that improve people's lives and benefit communities. 

The SSE was founded in the UK in 1997 and it has become a global network with 12 locations in the UK, Canada and India. The British Council and PwC partnered to support SSE India by helping to assemble its first cohort and support the delivery of the programme. 

The event also featured the launch of a British Council report called Social value economy: a survey of the social enterprise landscape in India, which finds that social enterprise is a growing and dynamic sector of the Indian economy that is creating jobs for disadvantaged groups, empowering women, and addressing social exclusion across the country.

Dr. Singh, Minister of State - Prime Minister's Office, Government of India, said, “It is the spirit of entrepreneurial people brimming with passion to bring social change that innovations and new solutions to address some of the fundamental challenges of our country.”


SSE India 

The School for Social Entrepreneurs offers programmes that support aspiring social entrepreneurs to hone their business and entrepreneurial skills, enhance their resourcefulness and build collaborative networks so that they can establish thriving social enterprises that deliver significant social impact. 

In its first year, SSE India worked with 16 fellowship participants coming from diverse backgrounds who have powerful ideas to address inequalities and social exclusion. The SSE helped them to turn their ideas into real social outcomes, in the form of sustainable solutions to poverty and disadvantaged communities.

The members of the first cohort developed projects in a range of areas including healthcare, livelihood generation, clean energy, skills development, water and sanitation. These projects support a range of disadvantaged populations in India including farmers, child labourers, migrants and women from historically disadvantaged castes and ethnic groups. 

Among the projects developed by the SSE India fellows are the Navya Tarang Foundation, which focuses on primary healthcare for the urban poor in Chandigarh; the Gramshree Development Services, which provides innovative marketing solutions to promote organic produce grown by ‘tribal’ farmers; and Smile Express, which works on the issues of oral health and tobacco cessation in Rajasthan through a mobile dental hospital.

To find out more about these social enterprise projects, download the SSE India booklet

Miraculous Millets, a social enterprise created by SSE India fellow  Archana Relan, helps small and marginal farmers, such as the ones above in Madhya Pradesh, to improve their economic and food security by growing indigenous strains of millet that are short-duration, low water intensive, nutrition-rich and pest-free ©

Courtesy of SSE India

Key findings of the Survey of the social enterprise landscape in India

A growing, youthful sector: Social enterprise is growing in India, with nearly half of all social enterprises being five years old or younger.  And 27% of social enterprises are led by individuals younger than 35.   

Supporting the most vulnerable: In all, 70% of social enterprises are working with individuals from socially and economically disadvantaged communities, 31% are working with differently-able individuals, and 46% are working with children.

Empowering women: Social enterprise is a welcoming and diverse sector that stands out for its comparatively high rate of women leaders in a country with low rates of female entrepreneurship. The survey finds that 24% of social enterprises in India are led by women, whereas only 8.9% of mainstream enterprises and private businesses are managed by women

Sector focus of social enterprises: 53% of the surveyed social enterprises are engaged in skill development activities; 30% in education; 28% in agriculture, fisheries, and dairy; 26% in financial services; 26% in energy and clean technology; 22% in healthcare; 17% in non-farm livelihood; 16% in food and nutrition; and 14% in water and sanitation. Only 5% of the surveyed social enterprises are active in the affordable housing space. 

Average annual turnover: The average annual turnover of those classified as social enterprises was INR 7.8 million (GBP 80,000) 

Engaged in business: 80% of the social enterprises earn more than half of their incomes from trading activity (e.g.  buying, selling, or exchanging goods or services). Moreover 43% of the social enterprises reported a profit/surplus, with another 22% breaking even.

Challenges and growth constraints: The report shows that access to finance is the largest barrier identified by social enterprises. Anther common challenge is finding qualified staff. Over 50% of the social enterprises feel that there is a shortage of adequate managerial and technical personnel in the social enterprise sector. By comparison, less than 10% of mainstream businesses in India face this constraint.

Commissioned by the British Council, the survey was led by Ennovent with support from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), ODI, UnLtd and Social Enterprise UK. It provides quantitative information about the operations, turnover, beneficiaries, staff and impact of the social enterprise sector in India. 

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