Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship are fundamental pillars on which the vision of holistic social impact rests. We have already explored various cases and established a conclusion that “Social Entrepreneurship is the next step in the journey of Social Innovation”. But how do we define the transition from being an innovator to a social entrepreneur?
Who is an Innovator?
Innovation is nothing but solving a particular problem. An innovator creates a specific product or a service or an intervention in response to the problem, the benefits of which are experienced by its target audience.
Who is a Social Entrepreneur?
A Social entrepreneur essentially builds a business around a social innovation. Her key focus is to bring sustainability and profits together to ensure that all the stakeholders benefit from the same.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are two very different things, but both are essential to creating a difference, devise creative solutions to problems and ensure long-term sustainability. If an innovator decided to become a social entrepreneur, what would be the challenges she would face during this phase of transition?
In a recent hangout, Ex-president of Embrace Innovations, Rahul Panicker, shared some interesting and thought-provoking insights related to this conundrum.
Bridging the Product – Market Gap
As Rahul rightly said,
“Innovators can afford to sit in the 4 walls of a lab and create a product but an entrepreneur cannot”.
Innovation is about giving a form to ideas. It is about building a solution based on facts, figures and experimentation. Social entrepreneur, on the other hand, needs to penetrate the field and understand her target audience. For a product to succeed, it is necessary to empathize with your users. As Bhushan Trivedi, Founder of Picoenergy experienced it first hand while testing out his product, the Bottom of the pyramid (BOP) consumers don’t need free products, but good quality products.
Not all innovations and ideas succeed in the field, in the real world. Like Rahul said,
“There is no stupid customer, there are only stupid products.”
Building a team
In a recent short survey conducted by the Creatively Unsettled team, ‘leadership’ was voted as the most preferred quality needed while journeying from being an innovator to an entrepreneur. Unlike an innovator, a social entrepreneur, may not be working solo. You need a team, and you need to be a strong leader. And not just any team, but a band of like-minded individuals who share your passion and empathy, with the same intensity.
Nano Health, with their team of local health workers called Saathi, is successfully delivering healthcare services to the BOP community at their doorstep.
But, it doesn’t just stop here. Having a team builds pressure on you to keep performing and innovating and to act responsibly. Being an entrepreneur, you need to maintain the team morale high, because your team is what builds your culture and future success.
You may find this cliched. However, focused execution is difficult. Being in a startup phase, when the operations of your enterprise are still under your control, as an entrepreneur you are bound to feel that you can do a lot many things, other than your primary goal. Your passion towards the success of your venture may pull you in various directions, sometimes leaving the central aim, ignored.
While you are an entrepreneur, it is necessary that you concentrate all your efforts on the problem at hand, and have high emotional control to avoid being distracted. Many successful social entrepreneurs like Blake Mycoskie, Servane Mouazan, Ulrike Reinhardt are steadfastly focused on their purpose.
Being an innovator requires you to have bubbling ideas and a passion to bring them to life. However as soon as you cross the bridge to being an entrepreneur, one needs to take things with a pinch of salt, be a team player, take risks and make rational decisions.