Promoting Entrepreneurship through CSR


India, is the first country in the world to make CSR mandatory, following an amendment to The Companies Act, 2013. However, many companies simply do not have the bandwidth to undertake consistent CSR implementation. These companies can implement their CSR initiatives using NGOs as implementation partners. NGOs in India have the advantage of being location specific, flexible and have good understanding of communities so are well suited to provide streamlined, customised solutions to the corporates.

Some companies have viewed CSR as a passing fad, while others look at it as a creative opportunity to fundamentally strengthen their businesses while contributing to society at the same time. In this run, each and every company has found its own niche. With the increasing impetus laid by the government on Skill India, Start-up India, Make in India and Digital India, more and more companies are investing their CSR money on entrepreneurship and capacity building initiatives.

If we look at the entrepreneurship ecosystem in India, while the large and medium enterprise ecosystem is well established, the demand for micro and small enterprises still remains unmet. Therefore, there is a dire need to create a continuous loop of information and support solutions to enable these micro and small entrepreneurs thrive in the enterprise development ecosystem.

Looking at the need, coupled with the impetus laid by the government, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation as part of it CSR, has joined hands with the Development Alternatives Group for a two year pilot to promote entrepreneurship by building knowledge of youth and women and directly providing technical, financial, marketing and capacity building support to set up 375 enterprises with them.

In the pursuit of this, the project has two specific objectives. The first is to demonstrate the setting up of 75 new enterprises across poorer districts of Delhi NCR, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The second objective is focused on scaling up enterprise development through setting up a digital market place and a financing platform to provide enterprise solutions for 300 additional entrepreneurs.

In order to ensure sustainability, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be nurtured to hold the digital market place and the financing platform together towards the end of the project. This entity will continue to provide technical support, financial access and marketing solutions (through a network of banks, technical organisations and micro credit institutions) to additional micro enterprises even after the project duration thereby facilitating entrepreneurship development at scale.

Initiated in January 2018, the project so far has conducted need assessment surveys and conducted information sessions with over 2000 individuals in an attempt to understand -

How do women and youth perceive opportunities and take decisions on establishing a micro enterprise?

How challenges differ for those already running a business as opposed to those who are on the verge of setting up businesses?

What are the capacity building needs of youth and women?

What are the aspirations of young women and men in the current digital technology age?

As part of the need assessment and infotainment sessions, it was found that on an average, only 5 out of 50 individuals thought about starting their own enterprise. The reason majorly being the lack of information followed by barriers faced on front of market and finance. This highlights the need to minimise barriers through systemic changes that enable entrepreneurship at scale.

Looking specifically at motivating factors for women, it was found that the independence derived from entrepreneurship is the most important trigger for women to set-up an enterprise.

Nearly 45% individuals reported that greater access to information and capacity building training will make the transition to entrepreneurship easier. 6 out of 10 youth said that they did not receive any career counselling and 54% did not understand the MSME space very clearly. Therefore, customised skill building initiatives to equip them to start their own enterprises is the need of the hour.

Therefore, as part of the project, customised solutions have been developed to meet the needs of different individuals. These include formulation of interactive games and custom modules for bridging knowledge gap, providing financial literacy and developing entrepreneurial skills.

Moving forward, the project plans to invest its resources in a two-fold approach that aims, in a complimentary manner, to create a nurturing ecosystem and bring about innovation in processes. Also, in light of the growing demand for digitisation and online platforms, the programme is building a digital platform where people can access information, get online trainings and avail technology, finance and market related information.

Ankita Pant


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