How does a social entrepreneur differ from an entrepreneur operating a technology business or in a traditional industry? Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of the impact s/he has on society.
There is no standard-issue entrepreneur, but there is a consensus on what entrepreneurs do. Through the practical exploitation of new ideas, they establish new ventures to deliver goods and services not currently supplied by existing markets. As evedent from the Avasara & Vandana story, social entrepreneurs share the same characteristics as all entrepreneurs namely, they are innovative, resourceful, practical, and opportunistic.
Avasara foundation is currently working on three main activities:
Residential Schools: The foundation is working on establishing residential schools in order to get to students to engage for a set amount of time on a daily basis. These schools will help children learn from each other as well as from the rich diversity of our country.
Scholarship Program: This active program is aimed at providing financial aid to girls around Mumbai who come from a financially low background and are at the risk of dropping out of school for the same reason.
After School Program: This intensive program was established in order to help 9th standard students secure a place with the American school in BKC. These kids, known as ‘the Avasara leadership fellows’, are educated as per current Indian studies and long term entrepreneurial thinking.
As a researcher, Roopa became committed towards understanding the entire space before starting her venture. In the process, she gathered a few facts which would go on to become the founding base of the Avasara foundation.
Throughout the research, one fact kept popping up from time to time - the fact that there’s a lot of investment in education at the primary level. It was seen that a lot of students were driven till the 8th standard and then the drive just dropped off the board because of lack of opportunities.
Hence, the idea of bringing together such driven kids and helping them learn from each other as well as the rich diversity of our country became the building blocks of the foundation. The primary idea of the foundation was to focus on opportunities and hence, the name ‘Avasara’.
As a start-up entrepreneurial organization, the Avasara foundation had to keep flexibility in mind and tap into existing programs such as scholarship and after school programs. With a mission focused approach, the foundation focused on training students in order to bring about an effective change in their lives as well as in the lives of those around them.
Though not from an entrepreneurial background, Mr. A.N. Roy had always been the one to take initiatives in order to bring about a change in the lives of people. His noble intent was seen in his ‘Slum Police Panchayat’ initiative where he initiated a participative policing scheme in order improve the living conditions and security of the urban poor who dwell in slums. Currently, Mr. Roy and his daughter are helping the wives farmers who are committing suicide due to lack of finances and excess of debt. The Vandana foundation plans to meet this purpose by helping the wives of the deceased farmers set up a micro enterprise in order to become financially self-sustaining. The foundation has established its presence in two districts at present, namely ‘Yavatmal’, which has a record of the highest number of suicides in one single district and ‘Wardha’, with which the ex-commissioner has a close association.
The Vandana foundation tactfully approached this problem by first providing a basic stipend to the most vulnerable families in those villages. However, the challenge was to stop the stipend and set these women up with small business in a period of 12 months. Two years into the journey, the Vandana foundation has helped over 200 families become self-sustaining by helping them set up small-scale businesses such as bangle stores, stitching service center, etc.
Having tasted success in this venture, the foundation has now moved on to support education. It was seen that education was one of the first things to suffer in times of financial distress and Mr. Roy wanted to do something about it. He started by setting up post school courses in slums which focused on preparing children for the competitive world outside. If this succeeds, Mr. Roy will go on to set up a primary healthcare centers in slums where the underprivileged will have access to an MBBS doctor for general health consultations.