Free Press Journal

Social Entrepreneurship: Working Towards Greater Inclusiveness- Review


Title of the book: Social Entrepreneurship: Working Towards Greater Inclusiveness

Author: Ram Krishna Reddy Kummitha

Publisher: Sage

Pages: 255

Price: Rs. 765/-


Social Entrepreneurship is the combination of social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation and determination commonly associated with, for instance, the high-tech pioneers of Silicon Valley.

Mahatma Gandhi founded the Charakha Sangh in 1925 and around 50,000 charkhas or spinning wheels started rotating in homes of the underprivileged. It provided jobs to 50,000 workers spread across 1500 villages. Besides them, weavers, people employed in printing, processing and colouring of the cloth also got the work. Blacksmiths in villages got engaged in the production of spinning wheels and tailors too got the work. In the next five years, Khadi production was doubled and around 1 lakh people got engaged in hand spinning. Gandhi provided jobs and work to with so many people with very little investment. He used to say jokingly that I would be the biggest capitalist in this country, noted D. G. Tendulkar in the official biography of the Father of the Nation. Curiously, no proponent of Social Entrepreneurship refers to Mahatma Gandhi and his mission of Khadi & Village Industries. The scholars and academia are busy researching and evaluating the models of Social Entrepreneurship, which according to them was invented in late 20th century or beginning of 21st century, thanks to financial capitalism. Therefore perhaps, no scholar or academician refers to Gandhiji as the first proponent of Social Entrepreneurship. This book too is no exception.

Still, people with social mission and business perspective must read this well-researched book. The book is based on in-depth case studies that highlight the efforts of selected third sector organizations and brings to light the emergence of social entrepreneurship in India. The cases focus on roles of locally established methods and community participation in carrying out the sustainable social transformation.

Social exclusion and inclusion in social context are manifested by social action, is the point of departure of this book. It goes in deep to understand how exclusions, which exist in a variety of social backgrounds, are being addressed using innovative attempts by selected interventions. The discussions sets to project that it is just about time and space that decides inclusion and exclusion where human interventions are capable of making shift.

As we all know, Gandhiji was developing an antithesis of the centralized system of production, distribution and consumption. Accordingly, he developed the decentralized model of social entrepreneurship. He was not against the science or technology, neither had he opposed the capitalists or basic and key industries. Centralized and decentralized system of production, distribution and consumption can co-exist was his belief and he tried his best to practise it. Social Entrepreneurship as perceived and developed by the high-tech pioneers of Silicon Valley is rooted in the centralized system. It is quite evident from a case study of Goonj, an issue-based social enterprise located in New Delhi that operates a ‘cloth bank’. The mission is to provide clothes to millions of poor and needy. It collects the used clothing from the well-off people and distribute the same to the target customers not free but in the form of some work that contributes to the community development. I do appreciate the passion, commitment, transparency and professionalism of Goonj but one must understand this project vis-à-vis the Khadi. However, the author does not.

Most of the social entrepreneurship projects in India and the Third World, yes The Third World are basically anchoring on Corporate Social Responsibility Funding or bursary. Gandhiji’s Khadi was quite costly and no poor could effort to buy it. It was a luxury for them, the target customer of Khadi was the middle class and rich people. Therefore it was made mandatory for Congress members to wear Khadi. Gandhiji was addressing to aspirations of the masses and Khadi was not just social enterprise but also a political statement. The political agenda of the Silicon Valley inspired social enterprises is to promote centralized system of production, distribution and consumption. Hence they address to the aspirations of the community and not of the masses. Ram Krishna Reddy Kummith has missed this critical point.