It was a hot Friday afternoon as I took the Katraj exit from the Mumbai Bangalore Highway. The day was February 17th, 2017. It all started with an email from a local city-based portal informing me about an event on Social Entrepreneurship. Not used to seeing any events related to this genre in the city, this one picked my interest. Social Entrepreneurship Challenge – 2017 at Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune.
So, back to the highway and my trail of thoughts. Since this was happening in my city, and one of those first ones ( I‘m sure), I didn’t want to miss a chance to check it out. I have been talking, exploring and learning so many things about Social Entrepreneurship over the last couple of years, that seeing something of this kind take place in a university, roused my curiosity. In one of the articles on our blog, we had discussed the lack of interest in students towards social entrepreneurship and hence in this context it was particularly important to visit this event.
A finalist at SEC-2017
Upon reaching the campus, I parked my bike and went around looking for the engineering college. A strong sense of nostalgia hit me as I walked past tents lined with event posters, students strutting about the campus in formal attire and college uniforms. Yes, it was THAT time of the year. The college fest – Bhartiyam. I soon found Jay, my guide for the day, who lead me through a shoal of students gearing up for the evening session of the festival, into the cool lobby of the engineering college building. As we made our way up, Jay brought me to speed with what was the Challenge all about.
As I went about clicking some pictures and soaking in the tempo of the event, I caught up with Shashank Shekhar, an entrepreneur and a member of the organizing committee who told me WHAT made them come up with this challenge.
“Everybody does tech, mobile applications based business ideas, but when it comes to Social Problems, there is a hesitation. There are quite a lot of socio-economic problems around us like lack of hygiene and sanitation, social issues in the society, a lacuna in a skill-based education system, all of which needs to be addressed. Through this competition, our aim is to get students to think in this direction first and apply their minds to how they can be solved.”
Organizing Team of SEC-2017 with the Judges
The SEC-2017 Challenge
Social entrepreneurship as a concept of business has millennial generation as the forerunners. When you have an event that challenges students to come together and address socio-economic problems by creating a profit with a purpose business plans, that place is no less than a gold mine.
The Social Entrepreneurship Challenge 2017 is an initiative by the Entrepreneurship Cell of Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Engineering, Pune. The competition shortlisted 70 students who came together on a single platform to learn, plan and pitch their ideas about probable impact enterprises. The event was sliced into 3 phases – learning, executing and pitching. The participants underwent grooming sessions on the concept of the challenge and the social issues that were in focus – Sanitation, Women empowerment, Access to clean drinking water, Tackling e-waste, Pollution, Improved transportation, and Healthcare.
Akshay Karhade, an entrepreneur himself and the Head of Entrepreneurship Development Cell at Bharati Vidyapeeth never faced any resistance from the university management whenever he planned any initiative to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship and push the students to explore it as a career option. But when he went to colleges around the city, explaining the students about the concept of the event, he faced an undercurrent of hesitation.
Shashank (L) and Akshay getting candid about the response they received from students
“Students these days only think about the set route of career – final exams, project and then placement. They still don’t want to think outside the walls of the beaten path. Our society is rife with problems for which young minds need to come together and find solutions. I expected 150 students to participate, but looking at the response, I was happy to even settle for 70 students. Even if one team out of this comes up with a winning social good business plan, I would call this event a success.”
Speaking to one of the mentors at the event, Prashant Shah, an architect, and owner of R Cube Charity Store in Pune said,
“Barring one or two, rest all of the participants have a very thought out business plan right from the idea to the financials in place. It is very heartwarming to see them thinking in that direction with ideas that even seasoned entrepreneurs may not think about.”
Mentor Prashant Shah (R) guiding the participants on Day 2
The effervescence and burning passion in students to take the world head-on and create disruption is a treasure trove that needs to be tapped and explored. The impact entrepreneurs that we see today are majorly young, well-studied and ready to apply their skills and minds to solve socio-economic issues. Gone are the days when we needed money making business houses to take a country on the highest pedestal in the world. The days of counting GDP in money is slowing phasing out, making way for GDP regarding Development and Social Structure. Events like SEC-2017 are necessary steps to sow the seeds of Purpose-drive Businesses and drive impact all round.
Images courtesy: EDC BVUCOEP Facebook Page and Nidhi Bennur