We had privileged access to some enormous corporations with impressive international profiles (and equally eye-watering revenues) such as TATA and Essar, as well as newer ventures who are growing rapidly by feeding the enormous appetite for digital content and television in India; a prime example being media company Viacom 18. But despite their impressive growth, huge revenues, glossy offices and vast production facilities, one visit still remains uppermost with me.
We spent a morning at the modest headquarters of UnltdIndia, which describes itself as a launch pad for social entrepreneurs. There we heard from co-founder Pooja Warier, who told us about her team’s work in supporting new models of social entrepreneurship in India. It was an inspiring, humbling, and for me, enlightening insight into how a sense of balance could be achieved in modern day business, particularly relevant in this country of contrasts.
Bryan Lee, an MBA graduate from Kellogg School of Management was also on hand to tell us more about his social enterprise venture. Bryan has used his skills to establish a new food brand called Krishi Star with business partner Arnav Saxena. Their aim is to create better livelihoods for farmers by enabling them to have greater ownership within the food value chain. Their initial focus has been to help tomato farmers in Maharashtra process their tomatoes into a puree product, and then link them to buyers within the restaurant sector in Mumbai.
Bryan explained how they have provided investment capital and operational and marketing expertise, which have helped create the links necessary to source economically sustainable processing plants, which are owned by the farmers themselves. This in turn increases and stabilises the farmer’s income.
In today’s challenging economic environment where reflection on what we all value seems appropriate, it’s perhaps the perfect time to explore new models of business that ensure society profits rather more than shareholders do. I feel this is relevant in India but equally so here in the UK.
For more information on social enterprise and UnltdIndai do visit the links below: