India has seen a rapid expansion of social enterprise activity in the past decade which has been supported by the growth in the availability of social investment and in the number of support organisations and social enterprise training programmes.
To date, however, this has occurred with little formal government support.
This short study seeks to map the existing policy environment and understand the role that state and local governments could play to support the growth of this sector in India.
It identifies policies that have relevance for social enterprise at national and state levels and outlines practical steps and priority areas for engagement by the sector with government.
It considers the broader environment that affects social enterprise, notably policies on NGOs and civil society, regulations on microfinance and financial inclusion, and support provisions for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
It also takes in sector level policies in areas such as health, sanitation and education as well as existing schemes that have direct or indirect implications for social enterprises such as agriculture finance and housing loans.
It then draws on stakeholder interviews and on the experience of government support to social enterprise in the UK and other countries to formulate priorities for government engagement in India.
These include a specific legal status and definition for social enterprise; finance and access to investment; social enterprise education and skills provision; as well as awareness raising activities.
The report argues that governments can play a vital enabling role but recommends that the sector seek to have social enterprise activity included within existing legislation rather than push for new, social enterprise-specific legislation.
The study was conducted for the British Council by a consortium of researchers from Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Social Enterprise UK as well as by Dinesh Awasthi (formerly with Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Ahmedabad). It is based on surveys of existing national and state policy in India and interviews with stakeholders from government, private sector, and growing social investment community as well as with social enterprise networks and advocacy groups.