‘Encouraging social enterprises highly imperative'

August 19, 2011 12:00 am | Updated 04:28 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:

We have the right talent, technology, and pool of inventive minds. Yet, finding innovative solutions for our social needs remains a challenge.

Pallavi Gupta, a Masters student in Management Information System at the London School of Economics, is exploring the reasons for this gap through her study ‘Social enterprises and government policies in Kerala.' Ms. Gupta, who is preparing the final report of her study, said that although social enterprises could play a major role in the development of the State, there was a need for a more conducive environment for such enterprises to thrive in Kerala.

“The Kerala economy has long been ruled by a public enterprise system. The State has social enterprises both in the private and the government sectors, like Kudumbasree. My study is basically to understand how the government could foster such enterprises to fulfil the needs of the society,” she said.

Social enterprise could be defined as an individual or a company that comes up with services, products, or processes that can solve some social problem. Their motivation would not be making money but evolving solutions to these problems, Ms. Gupta said.

When compared to other States in India, the government in Kerala was quite supportive of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises. It also had policies and schemes for such enterprises. But there seemed to be a lack of communication between the two sides because of which a mutual partnership seemed to go off track, she said.

“There are many socially-motivated institutions and individuals who have brilliant ideas. And there is a wide range of issues in Kerala, starting from pollution to traffic congestion, which could be addressed by these people with the support of the government,” said Ms. Gupta, who has selected Eram Scientific Solutions, the makers of ‘Delight' electronic toilets and ‘inE (In an Emergency)' security solutions, as the subject of her case study.

Ms. Gupta, who has already been offered a job in London by PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting, said it was her supervisor Shirin Madon who prompted her to choose Kerala as her field of study on social enterprises. The former software engineer has been interviewing social entrepreneurs and meeting government officials in the State for the past two months as part of her study.

Ms. Gupta, who also met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, has recommended the constitution of a State- level statutory body to encourage and provide a supporting mechanism to social enterprises.

“Encouraging research and development is also crucial for the development of social enterprises apart from policy-level decisions such as providing tax exemption, subsidies, and funds for such institutions,” she said.

She added that the government had to play a bigger role in changing people's attitude towards social enterprises, which were generally looked upon as unprofitable institutions. “They can do this by simply motivating people and talking about the relevance of social enterprises in public. The idea is to create a positive growth environment for them,” she said. Ms. Gupta will present her recommendations and hold discussions with the members of social enterprises at a knowledge exchange workshop on Friday.

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