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Mission: People, not just profit

Chiranjeevi Kulkarni Nov 8, 2015, DHNS 2:18 IST
Bengaluru's vibrant Startup ecosytem
When Schwab Foundation on November 3 honoured Daily Dump, a start-up that aims to solve India’s garbage problem by helping urban households to compost organic waste, it was revealed that there were about 150 contestants for the “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” award.

The number is revealing. Of the 18,000 start-ups with $75 billion market, there are hardly a few organisations that seek to explore new sectors and only a handful of them set out with a social mission. Entrepreneurs are yet to understand that social cause and profit need not be inimical to each other and the few who have realised it are yet to crack the code that makes the two elements synergistic.

Almost every start-up declares that it wants to “disrupt” the traditional market, whichever market it is. Its survival is dependent on the strength of the disruption it causes vertically and horizontally. Most of the entrepreneurs imitate success stories instead of venturing into unexplored sectors even when it is not capital intensive.

For sustainable products
A Soliga community in B R Hills, Chamarajananagar district, makes furniture without cutting a single tree, out of lantana stem. The product is not only eco-friendly but also boosts forest growth by clearing the invasive lantana shrub. However, there was virtually no market for the furniture and other eco-friendly products.

This prodded Pramod Siddagangaiah, who worked as a research assistant at IISc before he started a biogas plant, to launch India’s first online shop dedicated exclusively to sustainable products, livegreenindia.com. “Livegreen became a reality because I wanted to do something unique at a time when there is mushrooming of e-commerce start-ups. All of them sell products that have brand image. Livegreen focuses on value-based, eco-friendly products while providing a platform for Soligas,” Pramod explained.

Interestingly, Livegreen uses the India Post for home-delivery. Here is a model that seeks to boost a traditional network: The postal department, which has almost fallen into disuse with the growing reach of the Internet, may as well see a revival if more start-ups utilise its facilities.

ICU at home
Even in the profit-driven ventures, those that focus on essentials are hard to find. In healthcare, not many have gone beyond telemedicine and health technology. The challenges and risks posed by the sector have kept almost every entrepreneur at bay.

Dr Gaurav Tukral, after 15 years experience in healthcare delivery in clinical and administrative positions in well-known hospitals, including Fortis, sought to fill this gap. When he pitched the idea of home-delivering various healthcare services, one of the first persons to support him was Dr Anand Burman, Chairman of Dabur Group. The result was healthcareathomeindia.com where a patient can simply log on and seek the service he/she needs.

“A start-up delivering healthcare services ranging from administrating an injection to chemotherapy was an idea that was triggered by patients’ demand. Many patients are forced to stay in the intensive care units (ICU) though all they require is one or two essential services like dialysis. Hence, they end up paying a hefty amount of money. What Health Care at Home India does in such cases is to set up an ICU at home, which reduces the cost by 30 per cent,” Dr Tukral said.

Passion for mission
Livegreen's Pramod emphasised that one need not be an engineer to start an online or offline start-up. “You need a mission. You don't have to be a techie. You will get hundreds of people who can assist in making a website or app.”

Mahesh Vorkady, CEO of Talkative Parents, a networking app that establishes a platform for parents of children in a particular class to come together, agrees with Pramod but adds, “You need logic and you should know what you are doing.”

Mahesh, a businessman and BCom graduate, set out to connect parents who have become too busy to keep track of their children with an app. “‘Talkative Parents’ not only connects parents of a particular section/class with each other, it also keeps them in touch with the school,” he said.

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