“In future all businesses will have to be social businesses,” these words by Manisha Gutman, founder eCoexist struck me as truly prophetic and moved me to read and write about social enterprise creation. Talking to my students on her tight rope walk between dreams and reality in establishing a social enterprise, Manisha very simply encapsulated a great truth in a single line.
Social enterprises are the need of the hour in countries like India; this however is easier said than done. How does a social enterprise find products that sell and are truly marketable while working to create social good?
Here are 4 winning ideas I came across…
Most times aspiring entrepreneurs tend to think big and complex. This proves to be their downfall. Start small I would say. Think of products that people commonly use and are looking for rather than aspiring to do something very complicated.
Neev, a social enterprise engaged in the production of herbal handmade soaps is a sterling example of a simple product that has worked to turn around the lives of women’s groups in Jharkhand. Their natural soaps (not to forget fresh, fragrant and good for the skin) have found takers and won the hearts of people who are looking for quality skin care products.
Handicrafts and Apparel
Almost every city, region, state and country has its own indigenous crafts and artisans who work to painstakingly produce products that can be deemed as collectibles and one of a kind. Handicrafts and apparel is a big market with plenty of room for variety. Taking your products to the international level calls for some level of awareness, an eye for fashion and detail and marketing finesse.
HandsofIndia and Matsya, two ventures that are working with artisans across India to create high quality handicrafts and apparel come to mind as excellent examples of for profit ventures that are reinventing Indian crafts.
Food with a Difference
People always need food and medicine and the market for food products will probably never be too crowded. As long as we live to eat and not the other way round at least!
Seriously, the trend for food that is different, healthy, natural and wholesome is growing. Single flora honey by Under the Mango Tree is an example of a natural product that is now sitting pretty on the shelves of many up market stores, bakeries and even made it to Masterchef India.
As a teacher of business and management I often invite speakers to share their experiences about running a business and over a year ago I invited Manisha Gutman, the lady behind eCoexist, a Pune based green business. Manisha highlighted the importance of opting for products that are marketable as social enterprises need a strong product line to turn profitable quickly and with ease.
Manisha is credited with many winning ideas but two ideas impress me very much, Rang Dulaar, a range of natural holi colors made by women’s groups in rural India and packaged by women prisoners and her eco-friendly Ganesha idols. Both products help make Indian festivities green, good and enjoyable not to forget colorful!
The reason I chose to write about these ventures in particular is that a good product is at the core of any successful business. This should be the guiding principle for every social entrepreneur. However, a good product need not be complex it just has to be simple, realistic and different to stand out in a crowd!