Indian social entrepreneurs go global

Young social entrepreneurs from India are now making their mark globally. As many as five Indians figure in the list of 23 entrepreneurs selected for the global social benefit incubator (GSBI) enterprise-building programme at Santa Clara University, US. Most entrepreneurs are targeting customers at the base of the pyramid.

While a few entrepreneurs are harnessing renewables, others are making affordable devices for underserved markets. Rajnish Jain of Avani India supplies cooking gas extracted from pine needles to people in Uttarakhand at the same cost as subsidised LPG while Somnath Pyne of the Force for Rural Empowerment and Economic Development helps people cultivate Jatropha in areas adjacent to railway lines. Vivek Gupta of Saran Renewable Energy generates electricity from dhaincha, a plant grown in waterlogged land, with the help of a biomass gasification system.

While Anita Moura of Solar Ear employs physically-challenged people to make solar powered hearing aids, Devendra Shukla of Jaipur Rugs Foundation serves around 40,000 artisans in tribal areas by offering them integrated supply chain management services, including market linkages.

It is not Indians alone, even people from other countries are looking at Indian markets. Sam White of Massachusetts-based Promethean Power Systems makes solar-powered refrigeration systems for preserving perishable food items like vegetables and milk for use by farmers in India.

GSBI is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs take their innovative business models to the next level through mentoring and linking them with markets and venture capitalists. The programme is known for its successful incubated initiatives like Kiva.org, a popular micro-lending online hub, and Vision Spring, which trains entrepreneurs to check up rural populations and sell glasses at a cost of $2.50-$4.

The GSBI recognition is another feather in the cap of young Indian social and cleantech entrepreneurs who have made waves in the recent past. Recently, MIT's Technology Review India recognised Achira Labs' Dhananjaya Dendukuri as the humanitarian of the year for devising a way to load load samples of blood and other body fluids on to a plastic microfluidic chip in order to enable low-cost testing.

The list recognises Manoj Kumar Mandelia for wastewater management, Aravind A Narayan for recovering oil for reuse and Rikin B Gandhi for using participatory videos to help farmers engage in better farmer practices.

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