Social Entrepreneurs in 21st Century

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. Earlier entrepreneurship was confined to wealthy few but with the start of digital age entrepreneurship has become more of a vocation than a lifestyle choice. There are different kinds of entrepreneurs some are those who bring radical change in the conventional business that we see around us and some are those who through their effort bring changes in the society they are called social entrepreneurs. They are the people who start business with an aim of solving social problems rather than building huge conglomerate to maximize profits. They work on a grass root level of the problem and come out with innovative solutions that can be used by the society. They integrate latest technology to develop products or services and make it affordable so that people with low income can easily afford them. Young people in developing countries like India are becoming more aware of social causes and how some of the pressing problems can be solved through social enterprises. With government of India bringing some favorable policies for social start-ups in its annual budget 2016 the social start-ups will further grow and flourish. In recent years many international trusts, billionaires have come forward to provide seed funds and mentorship to social enterprises who are engaged in building products and services that can change lives of rural populations. 

Some of the most important issues that social Entrepreneurs can address globally to bring about real transformation are mentioned below.

1. Food scarcity

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the world population are undernourished in 2014-2016.  Though globally food produced every year is sufficient to feed everyone yet there is food scarcity at city, state, national and global level. There are many reasons for food scarcity like drought, extreme weather, uneven distribution of food, wastage of food due to lack of proper storage facilities etc. Social entrepreneurs and innovators across the world are working on solutions to face the issue head-on. They are taking help of latest technologies to accurately predict weather condition so that farmers can sow seeds at right time and also can protect their crops from extreme weather. They are also developing new water harvesting method to provide water in drought-stricken areas. A social start-up in India has developed solar conduction dryer that allows framer to dry fruits and vegetables and preserve it for longer duration. These are some of the ways social entrepreneurs can help solve reduce global food scarcity problem.

2. Healthcare

In a 2015 report "Tracking universal health coverage" released by World Health Organization and The World Bank estimate that 400 million people globally do not have access to even basic healthcare services. Most of the people are from developing countries residing in rural areas. Essential healthcare services like child immunization, antiretroviral therapy, tuberculosis treatment, access to proper sanitation and antenatal care are not in the reach of poor people. Social entrepreneurs can help in offering basic healthcare services by using technology. From building auto-disabled syringe, providing nutritious meals, free medicine and better sanitation social enterprises are coming up with cost effective innovative solutions. Aravind Eye Hospital and Narayana Health are great example of social enterprise where poor patients can afford world class medical facilities at a very nominal cost.

3. Education

According to UNESCO at present there are 775 million adults and 122 million youth who are not literate. They lack basic education skills. Social entrepreneurs are making inroads in the education sector through their innovative approach. Many entrepreneurs are using technology to reach masses and empower them with necessary education skills. Some of them are forming a team of highly enthusiastic people who are passionate about education. Teach for India is one such initiatives that has helped scores of Indian children by imparting education. Some of the social enterprise in education sector is taking help of technology by providing mobile devices like tablet and laptop embedded with course content that can be accessed by people even without internet. Some are starting labs where children can have fun learning new things they can keep themselves engaged by practically doing things they see and read in books. Today social entrepreneurs are defying all odds to reach students and adults to educate them.

4. Financial services

One of the most fundamental issues of the developing economy is availability of finance and financial services in the rural areas. There are no proper banks or financial institutions that can help poor people with loans. Some of the reasons why these people cannot procure loan include lack of collateral, lack of necessary documents and lack of money to open bank account. Social entrepreneurs are solving this problem by starting Microfinance companies and reaching to poor. These companies provide basic loans and insurance to farmers, poor women, artisans at a very low interest rate and give them flexible payment option. This Microfinance scheme has given lease of life to many small time entrepreneurs in rural areas by helping their business, and creating job opportunities for local population. Technology has helped entrepreneurs to reduce cost, improve efficiency and reach more people with their services. 

The way forward

Today's social entrepreneurs are highly motivated and are ready to go that extra mile to come up with innovative solutions for the betterment of society. The technology will remain an indispensable part of future social enterprises. Timely funding, mentorship and favorable policies will help the social enterprise of the future to grow and flourish.