Social Enterprises and Business in India

Back in Mumbai and Zone Startups today. We got to spend the morning with some really interesting social enterprise startups.

The first sessions of the day was Naveen Krishna from SMV Wheels. SMV Wheels provides a deferred payment model for rickshaws in India which means that drivers can move from a leasing to an ownership model. While they pioneered the finance model they’ve also helped move the technology available from people power to electric rickshaws. This is a huge reduction on the physical strain on the driver and opens up the opportunity for non-traditional drivers to enter the market – in this case women. The stories of the women being able to enter the workforce in order to earn money and support their families was really powerful.

Naveen’s session really showed how the startup methodology could be applied to social programs, allowing them to test out new ways of working and if successful being able to scale them up and out to other locations.

In the next session Mary Ellen Matsui introduced ATMA, a completely different accelerator aimed at providing strategic solutions to help education NGOs scale. This was a really interesting session and again a novel approach using the startup methodology. The program isn’t a pitch ready accelerator, rather than aim to develop long term relationships, providing ongoing consulting, goal setting and a project based program aimed at delivering key outcomes to the NGO itself. Mary Ellen’s passion for her work was abundant, and it showed through the enthusiasm she spoke about those that had been through the program. One of the newest components of the program was to open up some of the resources to create the ATMA Network. The platform provides a range of resources to NGOs but also provides a way for providers to network, collaborate and work together.

After another amazing lunch provided by The Pantry, seriously if you’re after good food and coffee in Mumbai check them out, we had a couple of brief sessions with Matt from Business NSW and Susie from SSE. These were really helpful sessions about how the government can assist startups at home and in India and how we can leverage social media to help grow our startups.

We then had sessions with Aashish Gangrade from Tata Industries and Amit Mishra from Eight. Both speakers provided interesting perspectives on the Indian marketplace and provided real insight into how India works differently and how we need to change our perceptions of India itself. It’s such a diverse country that there isn’t just one India, India itself is a microcosm of different societies, traditions, languages and incomes. It’s a complex world and as an outsider one of the best options is to partner up, to take on local talent and partners to help guide you through the complexities. I also took out of the talks that Indian’s often focus only on their market – fair play its a massive one – but it limits a lot of the innovations so they rarely go global. Perhaps that’s something that Australians can bring to the table, we’re somewhat renowned for our ability to punch well above our weight on a global stage regardless of the industry or domain.

In the evening we headed to Thackers for a Gujarati thali feast. I really enjoyed this way of eating – small servings of a range of dishes and bountiful supplies of rice and a variety of breads. It means you never miss out or get menu jealousy! It was a great way to end the day and catchup with some of the other Aussie startups. We have such an amazing and diverse group of people on this trip!

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