Interview with Mr. Gaurav Makkar

VP: What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
Gaurav Makkar: In recent times there is a lot of debate going around what does ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ actually means.   To me social entrepreneurship means solving a social problem through entrepreneurial means in an innovative and self sustainable way.

VP: What is NSEF and its purpose of existence?
Gaurav Makkar: National Social Entrepreneurship Forum (NSEF) is a not for profit organization that promotes social entrepreneurship among the students of major universities across India by inspiring, educating and supporting the next generation of social entrepreneurs and by creating environments where they can succeed.
NSEF’s single minded mission is to produce young and successful social entrepreneurs who are equipped to tackle today’s social problems in an innovative and sustainable manner. We at NSEF believe that in case of India, line to differentiate between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship is blurred more than any other part of the world.  Majority of Indian population lives in villages.  A lot needs to be done to provide basic infrastructure like water, electricity, energy, education etc. to the people to expect the kind of productivity levels, which will ensure continuation of current GDP rate. Besides putting fundamental investments for this infrastructure we need to build a youth social enterprise movement in India to engage more young people to provide perennial solutions to these problems. NSEF through its tailor made programs creates awareness about social entrepreneurship, then equips young people with the talent and resources needed to innovate and build organizations and finally support these ventures to ensure that they become successful models for tomorrow.

VP: What is the biggest challenge you face while motivating people to enter the social entrepreneurship bandwagon?

Gaurav Makkar:  Change in mindset is one of the biggest challenges we have faced till now. People cannot be forced to join the sector as it is not as rewarding as the corporate sector. Ultimately it’s a matter of personal choice which people have.

VP: Tell us about NSEF’s existent programs?
Gaurav Makkar: We are currently running 5 flagship programs in more than 30 academic institutes across India:

NSEF Idea Conferences – A platform to inspire students about social innovations and a launch pad for their social entrepreneurial ideas.

NSEF Authors of Change Program – A solutions delivery program for more than 50 key challenges of social organizations per year by connecting them to best student talent of the country through internships. The internships are a highly entrepreneurial experience challenging students to come up with innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the development sector.

Workshops – To build capacity of students/social entrepreneurs to enable them to face various issues from taking their idea to reality. It  covers various topics ranging from Opportunity capture at BOP, how to get started and raise resources, how to find the right scale, issues of organizational governance and network building, legal aspects, technology transfers and strategic partnerships.
NSEF Fellowship – An award for students who start their own social ventures after college. We help and support them through our network for mentorship and raising funds.

SECircle – An online network & ecosystem of university social clubs & to facilitate collaboration & networking in the social space. – it’s still under development.

VP: Can you please tell us more about NSEF Idea Conference. How it acts as a launch pad for social innovation and ideas?
Gaurav Makkar: The NSEF Idea Conference is a platform for young people to gain exposure about various social innovations, different facets of social entrepreneurship in India and a place to pitch ideas on social issues and solutions. The Idea conference has a multitude of activities which serves multiple purposes:
a. Spread ideas about the innovations and existing models that are acting as change agents in the society.
b. Trigger ideas in young people which can lead to social enterprises.
c. Inspire passionate students and young people by bringing them face to face with social entrepreneurs who will share their real life experiences and challenges in social enterprises.
d. Nurture the next generation of innovators to solve problems at the bottom of pyramid and ultimately create the next cohort of leaders who will lead the movement in the development sector.
e. Act as a networking platform to help connect people who share common passions and interest in the developing sector.

The platform invites attendees from a vast domain including students, working professionals and people from development sector. It acts as an open forum for sharing and pitching ideas and experiences in the development sector and also helps people learn, execute and materialize their ideas for changing the world.

Every idea conference has a theme (sometimes multiple themes) which spans topics relevant to the development sector. Some of the topics include Education, Healthcare, Livelihood, Microfinance, and Technology to solve problems at BoP. Social entrepreneurs come face to face with the students and share not only their stories of successes and struggles but also insights on various topics like raising capital, scaling the enterprise, testing ideas at grassroots and marketing etc . It is followed by idea pitching session, where best ideas judged by these social entrepreneurs are provided mentoring, network support, prize money and seed funding/grant support by NSEF and its partners. This year NSEF plans to conduct Idea Conferences in around 40 universities across India.

VP: In which areas you have seen most interesting ideas coming from students?

Gaurav Makkar: We have seen quite a few interesting ideas in especially in Education and environment sector. Besides this other area in which we have found most interest among students in is technology enablement for rural and disabled people.

VP:  What is in the future for social entrepreneurship in India?

Gaurav Makkar:  We are still in the early stages of the evolution of social business models. We have only a few proven scalable business models like microfinance as creating a scalable business model is different and difficult as compared to conventional business model because they serve people at the bottom of the pyramid.

A number of social enterprises have sprung up in last 5-10 years everywhere in the world, many founded by young people or graduates fresh out of college. In recent trend I have come across many skilled people who have left their high paying jobs to join these passionate entrepreneurs in developing low-cost innovative solutions for people at the other end of the spectrum. Also, many platforms have sprung to help these innovators showcase their innovations and solutions to the rest of the world for them to replicate the solutions in their local regions. So, overall I am very much optimistic about the future of social entrepreneurship not only in India but across the world.

Pradeep Sekhar