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Web Exclusive | Recognizing the social entreprenuers

Web Exclusive | Recognizing the social entreprenuers

The Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship have announced the finalists of the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) Award 2010.

(The promoters of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, and promoters of Jubilant Organosys Ltd are closely related. The companies have no promoter cross-holdings.)

The finalists are Aajeevika Bureau (founded by Rajeev Khandelwal and Krishnavtar Sharma), AISECT (founded by Santosh Chaubey), LifeSpring Hospitals Pvt Ltd (founded by Anant Kumar) and Vaatsalya Healthcare Solution Pvt Ltd (founded by Ashwin Naik).


Social entrepreneurs: Rajiv Khandelwal, Krishnavtar Sharma

Field(s): Migration, Employment

Established in 2005, Aajeevika Bureau works with rural migrant labourers to ease their living conditions in big cities. “The major problem migrant workers face is a lack of identity. They have no documentation to prove where they live, so they can’t get a sim card, a house to live, a bank account…and they are subject to police harassment", said Rajiv Khandelwal, Co-founder of Aajeevika Bureau.

Co-founded by Khandelwal in collaboration with Krishnavtar Sharma, Aajeevika Bureau is headquartered in Udaipur, with offices in Ahmadabad, Jaipur and seven blocks of Southern Rajasthan, where, every year, an estimated 800,000 rural workers migrate seasonally to Gujarat and Karnataka.

Click hereto listen to a podcast with Rajiv Khandelwal, Co-founder, Aajheevika Bureau

A large part of Aajeevika Bureau’s work deals with the registration of workers and giving them an identity. This is aimed at filling a huge gap in data and information on the numbers, location and spread of seasonal migrants. Registration also forms the basis of the bureau’s other services.

In addition to this, the organization develops financial products, ’skill training programs and partnerships with local governments and businesses to help rural seasonal migrants succeed in difficult economies. Aajeevika’s solutions are designed to support seasonal rural migrants both at the source (i.e. resource-poor rural economies) and the destination (i.e. exclusionary urban markets) of their migration cycles.

Aajeevika estimates that more than 50000 ultra-poor seasonal migrants have directly accessed the bureau’s services over the last five years. Additionally, Aajeevika’s model has been adapted and replicated by more than 30 civil society organizations in Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

In a first-of-its-kind move, Aajeevika has signed a MOU with the National Unique Identity Authority of India to ensure inclusion of the 100-million strong, though invisible, seasonal migrant labourers in the country’s ambitious AADHAR project. ‘Potentially AADHAR is very powerful – especially for migrant workers, in terms of trying to establish a clear, verifiable, undisputed identity. But there are still some concerns on how for those who drift, whose locations are not fixed will access AADHAR. We are in talks about how this can be done best", said Khandelwal.


Social entrepreneur: Santosh Kumar Choubey

Field(s): Rural Technical Education and Vocational Training, Livelihoods and Enterprise Creation

AISECT has pioneered ICT-based education in rural India that has opened up entrepreneurship and new employment opportunities for more than 1 million rural youth in their local eco-systems.

Founded by Santosh Kumar Choubey, AISECT has emerged, over 25 years as a profitable rural education franchise model with 8000 education centers in 27 states and 3 union territories. The network of AISECT franchisees - a chain of rural education entrepreneurs - cumulatively employs 32,000 rural knowledge workers in their centers from their local communities.

“I was initially involved with science and technology services and realized that although IT was a very powerful tool and an IT revolution was going on, there was a danger that it might bypass all of rural India" said Choubey.

Click hereto listen to a podcast with Santosh Kumar Choubey, founder, AISECT

AISECT centers operate in blocks, panchayats, and districts to provide IT education and IT based services to the masses. 100,000 students graduate from AISECT centers every year with training in any of the 70 courses available. 50% from among them come from the most backward districts of India, availing scholarships of up to 50% of their course fee. All curriculum and teaching-learning material developed by AISECT are in regional languages. More than 80% of the AISECT graduates are then placed by AISECT centre owners in best-fit local jobs. 40% among the AISECT students go on to become AISECT franchisees and open their own centers.

As an extension of its goal of developing knowledge capital among rural youth and creating high quality rural education infrastructure, the AISECT team has set up a private university in Bilaspur (the first in the country to be set up in a backward tribal district of Madhya Pradesh). It will soon launch the country’s first rural employment portal service.


Social entrepreneur: Anant Kumar

Field: Health

LifeSpring Hospitals is a chain of small, low-cost maternity hospitals that provides quality, affordable healthcare services to women from low-income groups in Indian cities.

Set up in 2005 by Anant Kumar and incubated by Hindustan Lifecare Limited (HLL) and the Acumen Fund, LifeSpring is today a group of nine hospitals in Andhra Pradesh, six of which are in Hyderabad and three in smaller cities along the coastal belt of the state. Each hospital has 20-30 beds and is located within easy reach of its customers, i.e. women from low-income families that earn between 3000 - 7000 per month.

“Founding Lifespring hospitals was actually an interesting career change for me", said Anant Kumar. "I started my career in the contraceptive business… before getting into the maternity business; I actually tried to stop babies coming into this world!"

Click hereto listen to a podcast with Anant Kumar, founder, Lifespring Hospitals

Part of Kumar’s job while working at HLL Lifecare Ltd. – the world’s largest manufacturer of condoms – was visiting hospitals to promote his product. It was during this time that the idea for Lifespring hospitals was born. “When I visited government hospitals I could see that they were over crowded; there were long queues and sometimes the doctors were not even available. And although private hospitals were clean and had better care, they were really really expensive. So I thought why not an alternative, that gives private hospital quality of care at a price affordable to lower income women?", said Kumar.

The tariff for LifeSpring’s services are stringently maintained at a half or third of the prevailing rates in private hospitals. According to Kumar, a delivery at Lifespring would cost around 4000 rupees – which includes the cost of stay, medicines and doctors. The company has however achieved profitability despite its low tariff structure by focusing sharply on efficient resource utilization, and a high throughput, both of which keep unit costs low. Yet Kumar says that in the very beginning getting investors to back his project was difficult, simply because there was absolutely no precedent to what he was proposing – it was the first business model of its kind.

Anant and his team plan to launch 200 hospitals, covering 30 cities and towns by 2015.


Social entrepreneur: Ashwin Naik

Field: Health

Vaatsalya Healthcare Solutions Private Limited is a chain of low-cost, no frills hospitals that provide primary and secondary healthcare services which are accessible and affordable to middle and low-income families in Tier III and Tier IV towns in India. Vaatsalya focuses on the semi-urban and rural population that has limited access to good quality healthcare services.

Established by Dr Aswin Naik and Dr Veerendra Hiramat, Vaatsalya is a network of 10 hospitals, each with about 60-70 beds, eight of which are in Karnataka and two in Andhra Pradesh. The hospitals are equipped with operations theatres, maternity services, neonatal and adult ICUs, pharmacy and diagnostics. They cater to four basic specializations: gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery and general medicine.

According to Dr. Naik, the idea of Vaatsalaya was born out of both personal and professional reasons. Professionally both he, and his partner were doctors and could see a need for high quality healthcare in smaller towns. On the personal front, they both hailed from small towns in Karnataka and knew first hand, the repercussions of not having access to first class, high quality healthcare.

Click hereto listen to a podcast with Ashwin Naik, co-founder, Vaatsalaya

Every Vaatsalya hospital is built around the service ethos and entrepreneurship of committed local doctors from rural or semi-urban backgrounds. The network serves 300,000 customers every year, most of whom do not have insurance, and who come from families with monthly incomes of 5000 to 15000 (USD 100-300). The services fees are at 15-20% of what an average urban hospital would charge its patients.

Dr. Naik says that initially getting investors was difficult, but they circumvented the problem by avoiding funding agencies early on, concentrating instead on professionals who are based in US and Europe and getting them on board as angel investors.

The Vaatsalya hospitals have been recently empanelled by the government of Karnataka for neonatal critical care services in select districts of the state. The company is currently working on the design of a micro-health insurance product that would allow it to extend its services to the bottom 30% of the population. Vaatsalya plans to expand to more than 40 locations in southern India in the next three years.

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