In an exclusive interview, Prof. P.K. Biswas shares his views on Social Entrepreneurship in India

March 01, 2017, Chennai

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“Social Entrepreneurship is not doing something new because you are motivated; you also need a certain set of skills.” 

Prof. P.K. Biswas is the Director of Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR). He has done his Masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and was Ph.

D Fellow at Institute for Social & Economic change, Bengaluru.

He has over three decades of experience in Research, Teaching, Training and Consulting in the field of development and General management. He has worked in multi-cultural situations and multi-dimensional situations having collaboration with community based organizations, civil societies, industries, government and international organizations. 

He began his academic journey with Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad in 1983. He worked with Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal (An Autonomous institute of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Govt. of India) since its inception in 1984. In August 2013, Prof. P.K. Biswas assumed the role of Director, Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management (LBSIM), Delhi before joining IFMR in in September 2014. 

In an exclusive interview, Prof. P.K. Biswas shares with Marie Banu his views on Social Entrepreneurship in India.

What made you interested in Social Entrepreneurship?

My heart had always concern for social issues. I was always concerned about Community Empowerment. When I worked at IIFM, we worked on Natural Resource Management, which impacts everyone’s life in our country—whether rich or poor; whether rural or urban. That’s how I got involved in people-centric development issues and that led me to Social Entrepreneurship because I feel that everybody should get involved in solving social problems. 

I was always in the field of management education, although I hold a doctorate in Sociology. I brought in application of social issues in management education. That’s the time when I noticed that there has been a lot of good work done in the space of social entrepreneurship. Many of my own students of IIFM have done outstanding work, and most of them are Asoka Fellows.  I then thought: “why not a full-fledged course on social entrepreneurship?” Although it is popular in the west, in India it is a recent phenomenon. 

Thus, I launched the Social Entrepreneurship course at IIFM in 2006-07, as well as at LBSIM, & now at IFMR. I believe that management graduates are well equipped to handle this situation. Social Entrepreneurship is not doing something new because you are motivated; you also need a certain set of skills. A social entrepreneur should necessarily have communication ability, marketing, finance, and resource mobilization skills. There are a lot of risks in this area, and one should be prepared to face that. 

About including SE in the college curriculum. Your thoughts?

I believe that Social entrepreneurship should be introduced in all engineering and management colleges because the youth today have the requisite skillset and can be honed towards social issues. If you go by our curriculum today, there is not much focus on social issues.  

I am taking up an initiative to sensitise these educational institutions about the social issues prevalent in India. For instance, you are producing a number of graduates each year. What is the purpose of producing graduates when they cannot solve the problems in their own country? I have the highest regard for people who try and find solutions for solving social problems.

About the need for social entrepreneurs to focus on livelihood?

Livelihood is critical to anybody. We have a large number of people living below the poverty line. There is a misnomer that if there is good economic growth, then development takes place automatically. But, this is not happening! Do you think poverty in India has reduced even after achieving 7.1% GDP?  

On the one hand we are adding billionaires to the Forbes’ List, and on the other, Central India, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and a few parts of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra  have a high rate of poverty. The missing link is access, entitlement, and rights—which are also reasons for poverty. Normally, we look only at income as indicator. But, this is not correct.

People should have the ability and opportunity to make a choice, which they don’t have. They must have political freedom, right to vote, and must be in a position to exercise their franchise. Sustainable livelihood is therefore important to ensure education, health and employment opportunities. 

Social Entrepreneurs should therefore give importance to livelihood. They should make money and plough back the money to create employment opportunities. 

Any notable Student of yours about whom you would like to share? 

Vineet Rai of Aviskar Venture Capital is a social venture capitalist. He is raising a lot of funds for Micro Finance Institutions. Micro credit is a big issue in India, unlike Bangladesh. A lot of people are deprived as banks demand for collateral. MFIs therefore help to bridge the gap. 

Paul Basil is the CEO of Villgro mobilises funds to support entrepreneurs, mostly in rural areas, who do not have access to funds otherwise. 

Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya, Co-Founder, CEO and Director of Ekgaon Technology brought in technology interface to help the development process. He is also an Asoka Fellow. 

Amit Jain is doing extremely well by providing health education through internet. He also provides safe drinking water. 

Many of my students are involved in interesting work; a lot of them are working in the energy sector and skill building as well. 

They were instrumental in inspiring me to launch a professional course on social entrepreneurship at  IIFM, LBSIM & IFMR. 

What do you think are the challenges in the Social Entrepreneurship space? 

I would say that motivating youngsters to focus towards the social sector and its development is the biggest challenge. Second, is funding. One should be prepared to face failures while experimenting. There is always an element of risk in entrepreneurship; some may succeed and some may not. So, you should be able to provide that ecosystem. 

Marie Banu

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