IDEAS FOR CHANGE: Paul Basil, CEO of Villgro Innovation Foundations, interacting with students at the Young Innovator Programme at IIT Madras. Photo: M. Karunakaran
For these young innovators social entrepreneurship is a tool for change, to bring about a lasting impact in the lives of many.
The success of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh heralded the social entrepreneurship movement. That revolutionary micro-credit system kept poverty out of villages to some extent to catch the imagination of the world. The concept is gaining popularity and momentum in India as the younger generation is keen on the idea and inclusive model.
Social entrepreneurship has captured the attention of many inspired and service-minded youth and with the space for innovation growing by the day, youth are supported and encouraged to bring out their best and rejuvenate rural areas.
Success depends on the cost-effective models and innovative ideas combined with greater reach. Education Plus caught up with young innovators taking the first steps in social entrepreneurship. Passing out of the nation’s prestigious educational institutes, these youngsters are trying to reach out to the commoners.
Hemant Sahal, a biotechnology engineer, has used his technical expertise to come up with a simple strip to indicate the level of water pollution in villages, thousands of which have no access to safe drinking water. Initially, he demonstrated a simple water purification treatment process to be used in villages. And he was selected for the Ashoka Youth Venture. He decided to become a social entrepreneur and bring about a transformation in his own way. Improving on his innovation, he has come up with a water pollution indication strip. The strip when put inside water will indicate the level of pollution (heavy metals only).
Shreya Mishra and Neeraj Jain of IIT-Bombay teamed up with Saurav Poddar of IIT-Kanpur to come up with an innovative education model that has potential to address teacher shortage in primary schools. This core team selected 10 elite schools in Bhopal. Children from Class VII to IX of these city schools would visit 10 anganwadis and interact with and mentor the underprivileged children there. “This pilot project of ours was immensely successful. The department of women and child development provided support and encouragement to our initiative,” says Shreya Mishra. The children from the elite schools worked closely with the anganwadis they visited and came up with academic teaching solutions and teaching tools. A medical bank was also set up in the aanganwadis.
A. Suryanarayanan and Balakrishnan Ramnath of Hindustan College of Engineering, Coimbatore, worked together to innovate a portable water purifier. The objective is to provide employment opportunity to uneducated rural youth and enable them to become entrepreneurs. “Granular-activated Carbon is used by trekkers to treat water that is available to them. We have used this basic principle to design our product,” says Suryanarayana. The product purifies water in a three-step process. Water passes through GAC, and then filtered in micro fibre and finally undergoes a UV treatment process. The equipment can be fixed to any type of tap and water can be filled in bottles. “The market for our product is good. We are yet to make a prototype as we are awaiting funds. Portable water purifier is easily marketable too,” says Suryanarayana. The model can be assembled and marketed by unemployed youth and also they can bottle the water and sell it in cities.
Social entrepreneurship has proved to be an inspiring and telling experience for these young engineers. “Today as a young social entrepreneur, my perspective about social development has changed. Achieving behavioural change and empowering the rural people with a sense of responsibility will surely contribute to nation-building,” says Sahal.
The young social entrepreneurs were at the IIT-Madras to attend a capacity-building workshop organised by Villgro Innovations Foundations. “We concentrate in areas such as agriculture, water, energy and dairy. Our aim is to incubate innovations that could be translated to market-based models thus impacting thousands of lives,” says Siddharth Venkatraman of Villgro.
Identifying students with the right frame of mind and commitment to serve the nation, incubation, providing necessary skills, and other resources to take the innovations to market place are key to the success of social entrepreneurship movement in the country. Paul Basil, chief executive office of Villgro, says that when it comes to social entrepreneurship, the product development has to be affordable.
Sustained social change could be a reality when individuals respond and effectively contribute to bring about a social change. Young innovators are capable of ushering in this change. “If social entrepreneurs come together, they can grow into a national movement and address the most pressing issues of the nation,” says Shreya.