Steps to becoming a successful social entrepreneur

Much is said about India’s vibrant start-up economy which is currently teeming with fintech and other businesses driving the economy. However, somewhat out of the limelight but yet in tandem, it is also the social entrepreneurship sector in India that has been steadily growing. From solar-powered water vending machines and wearable devices to track maternal health to clean energy initiatives, social entrepreneurs across India are delivering innovative and scalable solutions in different sectors. In fact, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), there are up to 400 social impact start-ups operating in India and the numbers are growing at a rate of around 20%.

As these social sector businesses continue to grow and join the trend of positive disruptions in the Indian ecosystem, it is important to understand what goes into creating a successful social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurship is not the most commonly taught subject in schools and colleges and most social entrepreneurs leverage their training in different technical and other fields to succeed in this space. However, there is a certain set of comparable and advantageous traits that are visible in some of the most prominent entrepreneurs working in the social sector.

Doing good is also good for business. for example Tesla showed the way

Technology has compressed the learning curve & deployment time.

Turning problems into opportunities

Our world today is characterized by a cohort of complex issues such as climate change, income inequality, gender discrimination and much more. Each of these problems requires unconventional thinking that can challenge the status quo and offer bold solutions. The biggest need for social entrepreneurship in a country like India with its massive number of people and diversity is the need for scale and customization. We need social entrepreneurs to build scalable solutions while ensuring that they respond to the individuality of the diverse socio-cultural and economic groups that need to be reached. Therefore, to bring about such change, the sector needs motivated and versatile individuals who are not discouraged by the magnitude of a problem and instead seek windows of opportunity to drive real change.

Take calculated risks

Risk taking is a default characteristic of entrepreneurship and most successful business leaders cannot stress enough the importance of taking risks in a competitive start-up economy. However, in the social entrepreneurship space, risk taking comes with an added layer of complexity, as failure could mean a setback for the true public good. Real people whose lives need improving are the ones who can be negatively affected if a social entrepreneurship venture fails. Therefore, taking risks is a bigger issue for a social entrepreneur, but it has to be done because real progress is always about risk and innovation.

Build a team culture

Although it may look like a sheet of a business manual, creating a team culture is also extremely important in the field of social entrepreneurship. The team culture in a social enterprise serves as a cohesive glue, binding employees together and helping them understand the larger goal they are working towards. And while this is important in all organizational structures, it is particularly necessary in the social sector, given the scale and volume of the challenges to be solved. Building a healthy team culture involves empowering a team and then giving them the freedom to take ownership of projects; it is important to note that responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. Additionally, to build a successful social sector team, it is important to try to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in each employee so that they can eventually become a mentor in their own right and contribute to the larger goals of a organization.


Social entrepreneurship is a long and arduous journey and the only way to achieve it successfully is to persevere. The ability to stay motivated and keep others optimistic, even in the face of hardship and setbacks, requires real skill and mental toughness. While some interpret failure as a temporary setback, others are deeply disturbed by it and find it hard to move past it. For social entrepreneurs, the best approach is one of cautious optimism, as it can help them reflect, reassess their goals, and eventually pick up and start again.

Build a network

As a social entrepreneur, developing networks of peers and potential investors is crucial to help solidify an organization’s presence. Establishing the right relationships can help secure a company’s future by attracting the right kind of investors, collaborators and other business alliances. Building networks with other fellow entrepreneurs can also help combat the feeling of isolation that is all too characteristic of any entrepreneur’s life. Building relationships is therefore vital for personal and organizational growth in the field of social entrepreneurship.

David Bornstein, in his book “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas”, said, “What business entrepreneurs are to economics, social entrepreneurs are to social change”. In a country like India which is full of paradoxes, where extreme poverty and extreme wealth coexist in tight quarters, this statement could not be more relevant. If we are to succeed in making inclusive development a reality for the millions of Indians who need help, social entrepreneurs, agents of real social change, will have to become a pervasive feature of our society.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


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