India’s most prestigious Social Entrepreneurship Awards, Sankalp Awards, were instituted to discover and bring to the spotlight leading social innovations for wide scale impact. The Awards have been designed to go beyond to address key issues faced by entrepreneurs and the great thing is their recent expansion to hold separate awards for Africa.
It indeed is a matter of extreme pride that India’s Sankalp Forum has succeeded in sourcing over 450 sustainable enterprises, enabled 200 mentoring connections and facilitating over USD 120Mn of equity investments into more than 30 enterprises through their Sankalp Awards.
Now, the Sankalp Forum has expanded to Africa a few months ago to seek out and support high-impact enterprises that are able todeliver inclusive growth in the continent. Their team has been traveling back and forth from India to Africa to meet exciting enterprises, investors, funders and policy influencers. We bring on board the director and co-founder of this first global platform, Aparajita Agrawal.
She began with sharing her vision for Awards in Africa.
“We are leveraging our experiences from India to create an enabling ecosystem where businesses can thrive to deliver social& environmental gains. Sankalp Awards for Africa is another step in that direction. We’ve are overwhelmed by the response to our maiden edition. We have received over a 100 nominations from promising, impact-driven emerging SMEs, and we will replicate our ability to connect them to investors and mentors. In addition, we are also looking to open up business opportunities between India and Africa. Allow me to mention, that Sankalp Awards for Africa are completely different from our awards for India. Sankalp Awards, which recognize India’s best emerging enterprises, are in their 6th edition this year and we’ve taken our applications up by close to 40%.”
Aparajita feels that social entrepreneurship, as a term, is actually not very widely understood even today and it was actually a grey area when these awards were started in 2009.
“One of the mandates of the Sankalp Awards actually is to reach out to enterprises spread across cities and villages, and make them aware of the slew of benefits that is available thanks to donors, foundations, impact funds and enablers like us. We’ve reached out to enterprises in North East India, Low Income Indian States and even been covered in Tibet! But primarily what the Awards accomplish is the creation of a system that nurtures high-potential enterprises by mentoring them, offering capacity building and, crucially, connecting them to investors. Sankalp Awards are also unique in being supported by Intellecap, which has created an ecosystem that truly appreciates and supports how businesses targeting the base of the economic pyramid can grow.”
Aparajita shared that categories like Education, Health & Agriculture usually get a lot of participation, which maybe because these categories have been cultivated as impact categories for decades.
They fulfil very basic needs, and as sucheasily identify with ‘social enterprise’.
“Technology for Development enterprises typically see themselves either as technology firms or as firms that deliver a particular type of service/product, and as such tend to see themselves as a product/service focused enterprise instead of a tech firm. So yes, Technology for Development is a bit of a niche, but it is important that it is cultivated. After all, think of a company that manufactures a mobile app that can convert essential information into vernacular languages. The application for rural India is evident and varied. It could be used by the government to issue, say, a storm warning, or by an NGO to advertise a free eye camp. It is important for this company to find the right enabling environment to scale – and we hope to provide this via this category. The challenge isn’t as much popularity as it is alignment of association.”
Sankalp Forum has added two new categories of Awards this year – livelihoods (within the agriculture, food and livelihoods category) and financial inclusion. The Sankalp team aims to achieve more popularity for both these, especially since traditionally more non-profits and cooperatives have been noticed working in the field of livelihoods.
“Entrepreneurial ideas that work at the cusp of business and social impact open up a realm of possibilities for the marginalized. In some cases where business and government may fail to deliver expected outcomes, entrepreneurial ideas can really provide the answers. Most of these ideas have the advantage of working below the radar, with low expectations and usually lower costs, and often seem to have a strong pulse of what is needed on the ground. Those are often the key reasons why several of these go on to deliver great outcomes for the society.”
Aparajita proudly share that several of the past Sankalp Award enterprises have built scalable, sustainable and even profitable models while delivering low-cost, high quality solutions in both rural and urban areas in education, healthcare, and sanitation. Quite a few have amplified their reach and impact by partnering with the Government and corporations.
“And that often is the key - entrepreneurship needs to work alongsidebig businesses, non-profits and Governments. It is the latter that holds the key to solving social problems at scale. Social entrepreneurship has been able to bring together several seemingly disjointed actors from different realms of business, investments and development. It has offered a viable alternative to conventional development approaches, and the for-profit model has emerged as one that is able to deliver outcomes. The future of social entrepreneurship is gearing towards more global collaboration, international knowledge sharing and ultimately transparency in delivery.”
Halabol seconds Aparajita’s thoughts and believes that media should make more efforts to take cognizance of the potential and encourage great enterprise ideas. Sankalp Forum has done a lot by signing a landmark partnership with Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) of San Francisco to align the global North with the global South. It is time for media to bring to focus such awards and global platforms.
Halabol is an online platform for social activism that bring together citizens, NGO’s and businesses for social good.