Profit for Good

Thursday, May 28, 2009

By Sarah Murray

In water-scarce India, access to modern irrigation technology has long eluded the country’s 260m smallholder farmers. Now, small-scale manufacturing and a distribution system is bringing irrigation products to growing numbers of these farmers, generating water savings of 30-50 per cent, energy savings of 50 per cent and increased crop yields of up to 70 per cent.

The new system is not, however, funded by a multilateral development agency – it is being delivered by Global Easy Water Products, a for-profit company.

Like Hinduism’s many gods, India’s social entrepreneurs have a multitude of incarnations. But whether enterprises are businesses, non-profit organisations, local governments or hybrid organisations, their goal is the same – to apply market-driven approaches to the social and economic problems facing their country’s poorest people.

Entrepreneurs – such as Harish Hande, whose company Selco is taking solar-powered lighting into rural Indian homes, and Thulasiraj Ravilla, whose hybrid non-profit Aravind Eye Hospital treats patients for preventable blindness – have achieved international acclaim. Some are taking their ideas overseas.

Monitor Group, a US consultancy, recently studied more than 300 market-based initiatives involving companies, non-profits and state authorities.* It found India to be “a pacesetter among emerging markets” in social entrepreneurship.

Source: Financial Times (link opens in a new window)