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The New Face Of Social Enterprise [in India] (Part I)

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Arun Sharma: 

This is part I of III of our series on Social Enterprises in India and Pakistan.

In an earlier post (Emergence and Growth of Social Entrepreneurship in India), I highlighted the way in which the social enterprises evolved over time in India and the world. This evolution was majorly driven by the causes of social justice, poverty, female upliftment and illiteracy which were also used as measures of political success by the critics of the governments. But over time, with the empowerment and awareness among the Indian citizens, the social enterprise grew in size, scale and scope. As a part of the Tata Jagriti Yatra 2008, I got a unique opportunity to visit and witness the work done by some of the social entrepreneurs who are working on some unorthodox social issues in different parts of India.


Founded by Anshu Gupta, a student of journalism, this Delhi-based NGO has targeted a very niche area to work and impact the society — clothing. As pointed out by Anshu in his session at SMU, Singapore, clothing is one of the three basic needs of mankind and still no policymaker in the world gives any importance to it. He was moved by the story of a rickshaw puller in Delhi who used to carry stray dead-bodies to the police station only to be given 2 yards of clothes and Rs 20 in return. And this rickshaw puller told Anshu that his “business” grew so much in winters that he had to keep some dead bodies at home for the night to deliver them in the morning. Such was the impact that Anshu started to champion the issue. But he also realised that for a poor person, his dignity is everything and he decided to combine the two.

So, Anshu, along with his friend started this program of “Cloth for Work” where they went to villages and urged the villagers to “earn” their clothes for building up schools, roads, wells etc for their own village. Goonj collects “waste” clothes from cities across India through various campaigns like “Joy of Giving” and then segregated into various categories according to the usage. In times of need, these clothes are sent to places like Tamil Nadu at time of Tsunami, Bihar in times of floods and Kashmir in time of earthquake. In peace times, these clothes are used for promoting the infrastructure build up among the urban poor and the downtrodden villages of UP, Orissa, Bihar and other similar parts of India.

Besides clothes, it also teaches the poor women about the importance of the hygiene of sanitary pads and how to make them at home. This initiative is targeted to reduce the incidents of pregnancy problems and basic hygienic problems leading to death of women in some extreme cases. (Visit

Naandi Foundation:

With Dr K Anji Reddy of Dr Reddy’s and Anand Mahindra of Mahindra & Mahindra on its Board of Trustees, Naandi Foundation is growing fast as a social sector organization. On meeting Manoj Kumar, the CEO, in Hyderabad, we immediately realized that he did not want Naandi Foundation to be called an NGO because of the simple reason that he did not want his organization to be looked with sympathy.

Founded in 1998, this organization has a three-point agenda of Child Rights, Safe Drinking Water and Sustainable Livelihoods. In the words of Manoj Kumar, “Naandi Foundation doesn’t believe in doing anything small because it’s wastage of resources.” With operations spanned over nine states (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh), Naandi Foundation provides midday meal to lakhs of students everyday that have high nutritional value and are prepared with benchmark levels of hygiene. It is also involved in Organic Farming and Lift irrigation or coffee through which it provides livelihood for small and marginal farmers who otherwise could not sell their product in the international market.

On the Child Rights front, Naandi Foundation runs the programs like Early Childhood Care and Education, Schoolchild Healthcare Plan and Nanhi Kali covering thousands of schools in various states. With its clear focus on and proven success in creating a sustainable and scalable social enterprise, I believe that it can be a role model for other social entrepreneurs in coming times. (Visit:

Aravind Eye Care:

An eye surgeon, retired from his government service, had the dream of eradicating the “needless blindness” from the world and decided to give up all his resources to the cause to establish a unique eye care facility by the name of Aravind Eye Care in 1976. The surgeon, fondly known as Dr. V dreamt of create a McDonald’s of eye care where everyone involved in the process, does only the part of it, enabling the system to increase the efficiency. Dr. V had the vision of creating an organization that will treat the needy with equal expertise and precision irrespective of whether he or she can afford the surgery or not. Those who can’t afford the treatment need not pay for it and those who can, compensate more than the free component.

The uniqueness about Aravind Eye Care lies in this uniqueness of its Operational and Financial models which are very unorthodox. Today, Aravind Eye Care is the largest eye care facility in the world in terms of the number of surgeries and the number of patients treated. With the principals and values enforced by Dr. V himself till date, this eye care facility has grown from an 11 bed hospital to a facility that treats 1.4 million patients in a year. It is associated with many international groups like Clinton Global Initiative, World Health Organisation and Seva Foundation. In the last financial year itself, the AEC conducted more than 3 million surgeries, half of which were free of cost. This was in addition to around 373,000 free OPD patients and 2.75 million check-ups through camps for the entire year. This makes AEC a unique epitome of sustainable and scalable social organization whose fundamentals can be emulated by other social entrepreneurs in their future endeavors. (Visit:

Keep up with the next part of this article coming soon.

Drop in a comment below or mail us at, you can also tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz.

The writer is the Singapore correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz. He is also a social enterprise enthusiast and analyst.


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  1. Jasmine Sunshine

    Seva Foundation, mentioned at the end of the article, is such an amazing group!

    They are world renown for the social enterprise work they support in India in the field of prevention of blindness. Seva has helped restore sight to over 2 million blind people!

    Check them out at

    And I love their Gifts of Service. Great to show everyone on your list that you too are a social entrepreneur!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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