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Thursday, April 01, 2010

NSEF: A Net Impact for India?

By Rishabh Kaul

Prof Himanshu Parikh speaking to students at BITS Goa.

It's ironic that while India houses possibly the highest number of social entrepreneurs in the world, social entrepreneurship itself forms a deplorable mention in the course curriculum in most colleges in India.

Curriculum aside, very few colleges in India have societies dedicated to promoting social entrepreneurship and development through enterprise on campus and creating a class of socially responsible citizens who believe in market based approaches to alleviating poverty.

And this is why I greatly admire Net Impact Graduate/Undergraduate programs for they have taken up the challenge to do just that. But Net Impact's presence in India is negligible and has only one college chapter (at the Indian School of Business). The National Entrepreneurship Network has done a commendable job in establishing and connecting hundreds of E-Cells in campuses all over India, however there is little focus on social entrepreneurship as a separate domain.

And this is precisely what attracted me towards the National Social Entrepreneurship Network (NSEF). Set up sometime around last year by graduates from BITS Pilani, IITs and NYU, the forum aims to open centers of excellence throughout the nation and conduct workshops, speaker series, hold social business fairs and provide material to students to incline them towards the responsible business and developmental sector. It also plans to provide mentorship and seedfunding to those who have business ideas and help them start-up. Founder Rakesh Anugula feels that while there is a lot of talk going on about social entrepreneurship on campuses today, there needs to be a platform created to channelize this energy and further increase the scope of transformation amongst the Indian youth to commit themselves to this sector.

The forum itself plans to become self sustainable through membership fees from partner institutions and businesses.

This summer, through their internship program called the NSEF Author, they will select a bunch of highly entrepreneurial students from all over India and place them in some high impact companies in the developmental sector where they will work on a range of exciting projects from business development to strategy to web development. This should further increase the opportunities for college students to gain experience in this sector (E4SI is another such fellowship that offers internships in the responsible business sector).

NSEF has set up chapters at BITS Pilani and IIM Lucknow and plans to expand quickly in the near future.

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