Technology proves game changer in social innovation

Three of the five finalists for this year’s India Social Entrepreneur of the Year are technology-driven


Neichute Doulo of Entrepreneurs Associate from Kohima receiving the award. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Neichute Doulo of Entrepreneurs Associate from Kohima receiving the award. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: Technology is a great disruptor. It has had an impact on everything—from communication, government services delivery and media to the reach and impact of social development organizations—be they for profit or not-for-profit.

Perhaps that is why technology is a key theme in the 2016 India Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) award, given by the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation* in association with the Schwab Foundation.

Of the five finalists for this year’s award, three are purely technology-driven.

The annual awards are dedicated to promoting social innovation and providing winners an opportunity to expand their reach.

The winners were scheduled to be announced on 6 October (Thursday) by the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the Jubilant group and Schwab foundation—a Switzerland based not-for-profit and a sister concern of the World Economic Forum.

The social enterprise model, wherein the social impact is as important as the financial viability of the entity providing solutions and services to address problems like lack of access to healthcare, low literacy levels or malnutrition is becoming more favoured than the not-for-profit model because it comes with in-built sustainability, experts say.

“Social enterprise implies social impact, scalability and financial viability—though currently certain sectors or segments of society cannot be reached under this model—it is proving to be an effective means of delivering impact on the ground and making social development self-sustainable,” said Anil Sinha, South Asia head of the Global Impact Investing Network—a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing.

This view is echoed even by those working in the social development sector such as Shanti Raghavan, co-founder and managing trustee of EnAble India, set up in 1999 to empower people with disabilities.

Among the finalists of SEOY 2016, this not-for-profit is a hybrid; it operates a for-profit arm—EnAble India Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Raghavan said that EnAble’s for-profit arm also helps sustain the not-for-profit work and gives it the flexibility to think of long-term solutions to integrating the disabled into the mainstream.

“Over the years, we have noted that more skin in the game helps– implying if those availing of our services pay for them they use them better,” Raghavan said.

ZMQ Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a pure social enterprise set up in 1998, said the for-profit aspect of it business has helped it reach more people in need.

ZMQ makes mobile games and builds software solutions for other firms while also providing knowledge services like parental care to rural women via mobiles.

“We are creating a ripple effect in communities by providing information and knowledge via technology at the door-step of the people in need—traditionally known as the beneficiaries,” said Subhi Quraishi, co-founder and chief executive officer of ZMQ Technologies.

The five finalists for SEOY were chosen from among some 100 applicants.

They were chosen after a five-stage process that included on-site visits, background research, reference checks and multiple rounds of discussions, said Vivek Prakash, associate vice-president, Jubilant Bhartia Foundation.

The finalists are Shanti Raghavan and Dipesh Sutariya of EnAble India from Bengaluru; Neichute Doulo of Entrepreneurs Associate from Kohima; Vikas Shah of WaterHealth India Pvt. Ltd from Hyderabad; Mrinalini Kher of Yuva Parivartan/Kherwadi Social Welfare Association (KSWA) from Mumbai; and Hilmi Quraishi and Subhi Quraishi of ZMQ from New Delhi.

The winner will be chosen by a jury and named at an awards ceremony in New Delhi.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari will be the chief guest at the ceremony where he will present the award to the winner.

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