Some wellknown Indians became aware of the potential of Social Entrepreneurship quite early. Two of them were the Social Entrepreneurs Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and Thulasiraj D Ravilla who established the Aravind Eye Hospital in 1976. Since then, they have treated more than 2.4 million patients, often free of charge. Many others have also contributed to the comparatively high levels of Social Entrepreneurship which have been reached in India.
As the Swiss Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and of the Schwab Foundation, pointed out in an interview with the Hindustan Times: “India has some of the most advanced and innovative social entrepreneurs. We believe and already see that many of the models developed in India, for instance rainwater harvesting for schools pioneered by Barefoot College, are exported around the world.” Thus, India is a key country in developing social entrepreneurs. Several institutions help people to become involved with Social Entrepreneurship, such as UnLtd India and the National Social Entrepreneurship Forum (NSEF).
Furthermore, the Schwab Foundation and its Indian counterpart, the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, give the Social Entrepreneurship Award to prominent visionary Indian social entrepreneurs. In 2009, the winners of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award included Brij Kothari of “Planet Read and Bookbox” who found to combat illiteracy, Padmanabha Rao and Rama Rao of “River” which focused on the primary education of children and Rajendra Joshi of “Saath” who created inclusive societies by empowering India’s urban and rural poor. The next winner will be announced in a ceremony coinciding with the India Economic Summit in November 2010.
Another important organisation that is linked to India is Ashoka, which is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. Since 1981, they have elected over 2.000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries. India is home to Ashoka's first Fellow and for the past 25 years, India has served as a testing ground for most of Ashoka's international Fellowship building programs and other key initiatives. Since 2003, Ashoka and the American India Foundation (AIF) have partnered to co-invest in social entrepreneurs in India. This partnership has enabled Ashoka to increase the number of Fellows elected in India to 250.
AIF is a leading international development organisation charged with the mission of accelerating social and economic change in India. Since 2001, it has raised over 30 million US-Dollars and awarded grants to education, livelihood, and public health projects in India with an emphasis on elementary education, women’s empowerment and HIV/AIDS.