Why this Conference Theme?

Isn't India a land of paradoxes?

  • we have world's 2nd largest number of billionnaire, and, even by government estimates, more than 800mn people live on a per capita income of less than Rs 20/-.

  • we have 2nd or 3rd largest technically qualified manpower, and also more than 65% of workforce with less than primary school education.

  • we are world's 2nd largest producers of vegetables and fruits, 2nd largest exporter of rice, largest producer of milk, etc., and yet 1/3rd of country's population goes to bed hungry everyday.

  • Indian pharmaceutical industry ranks 4th in the world in terms of volumes (and 13th in terms of value), and yet, 1.5mn infants die from diarrhoea every year.

  • about 285-290mn Indians live in urban India. Of these, 21% live in slums, and 60% work in unorganised sector without any social security.
    etc., etc....

    This was the backdrop, in which some of us - the SIGMA team and some of the profs - started discussing the theme for the Social Entrepreneurship Conference.

    Clearly, the developmental issue is not about lack of resources, but about lack of access to resources for those who are marginalised in the current development paradigm. If social entrepreneurship is about fostering sustainable social development, then it has to be about innovating and implementing models which provide this access to existing resources... and therefore, it seemed appropriate to design a conference on the theme:

    ...or more specifically:
  • Access to Credit & Financial Services
  • Access to Education
  • Access to Healthcare & Hygiene
  • Access to Livelihood Opportunities
  • Access to Market, and
  • Rural Access to Societal Resources

    What we also realised was that the solutions to these "access issues" already exist - solutions which are founded on innovative approaches, have been implemented, have effectively helped solving the problem, and are scalable and replicable...

    ...which is another paradox of modern India: viz., these achievements and acts of entrepreneurship rarely become a part of mainstream public awareness. After all, how many people know about:

  • a venture which collects, sorts and reaches 20,000kg of wearable clothes to villages across 20 states of the country every month,

  • a venture which helps 250,000 people in the rural/tribal areas to develop their own health and sanitation facilities, livelihood options, etc.,

  • initiatives which provide skill development training, legal aid, etc., to thousands of migrant labor, and education to their children,

  • a bank and and a business-school entirely owned and profitably operated by rural illiterate women,

  • an innovative initative which provides doorstep banking service to more than 1lac un-bankable daily-earners.

  • an educational venture which targets 3.5lac primary school slow-learners to bring them into the mainstream,

    The purpose of the Conference, we decided, should also be to celebrate and highlight such social ventures and the entrepreneurs who took the initiative to create these benchmarks.
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