Convergence – Engagement between Companies and Social Enterprises

Samhita was the knowledge partner for “Business Catalist – Catalytic Initiative for Social Transformation” that was organized by Outlook India and Intellecap on November 10, 2014. This collaboration was supported by the Impact Economy Innovations Fund (IEIF) Grant aimed at building stronger infrastructure for the fast growing impact investing industry in India.

Business Catalist imparted an understanding of the various models of partnership. The event also elaborated on and provided opportunities for company-social enterprise collaboration and shared learnings and insights gained from experience in facilitating strategic partnerships between social enterprises and companies. The event saw an eclectic mix of stalwarts, experts and key personnel from companies, social enterprises and impact investors.

At the outset, the underlying theme for the event was stated as identifying and expanding opportunities for company-social enterprise collaboration as well as addressing challenges associated with such partnerships. In order to further extend the theme, an interesting quote of Warren Buffet was shared, “It is hard to serve two masters” – an analogy drawn to the dilemma faced by social enterprises between the dual objectives of profitability and social objective.

A significant aspect of the event was keynote address by two leading personalities. The first keynote address was delivered by Mr. Ajay Piramal, Chairman of Piramal Group. Mr. Piramal delved deeper into the challenges faced by social enterprises by emphasizing that to be an entrepreneur is difficult and to be a social entrepreneur is even more difficult. According to him, the biggest challenge facing a social entrepreneur is often that the end consumer of his enterprise is not the one person who pays for it indicating that social enterprises have to satisfy 2 types of consumers. Providing some solutions to these challenges faced by social entrepreneurs, Mr. Piramal indicated that social entrepreneurs should incorporate technology and customize their solutions as well as seek government funding if they wish to scale up and create a significant impact. In his concluding comments, Mr. Piramal gave very useful advice to social enterprises by stating the 3 qualities of a successful social entrepreneur – “Passion, Innovation and Compassion”.

While Mr. Piramal’s address focused on one key player of collaboration i.e. social enterprises, the second keynote address delivered by Mr. D Shivakumar, Chairman and CEO for India region, Pepsico, focused on the other key player i.e. corporates. Mr. Shivakumar began the address by decoding the phrase “moving beyond CSR”. He provided his unique perspective on some of the commonly used terms with respect to Corporate Social Responsibility by encouraging the usage of the term “contribute” instead of “giving back” by corporates. He advised companies to include “perception management” instead of “external engagement” in their strategy. In Mr. Shivakumar’s opinion, an organization’s focus should be on earning the trust of consumers and becoming more responsive to what consumers say. Supporting this opinion, Mr. Shivakumar quoted a study stating that in terms of trust rankings, in India, businesses rank highest followed by NGOs and Media, while Government ranks the lowest. His final piece of advice to corporates was to build and maintain this trust by becoming predictable as well as anticipating and accepting change.

Both the speakers through their keynote address were able to actively engage the audience and provide some very useful points of consideration which would hopefully contribute to fostering greater collaboration between companies and social enterprises.

Samhita prepared a white paper that documents a broad picture about the ecosystem between companies and social enterprises, different types of engagements and the challenges faced while fostering partnerships.

Click here to read the white paper.