• Dr C Shambu Prasad

Incubating Social Enterprises: ISEED IRMA’s experience

The dynamism and vibrancy of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem today is often celebrated through recent achievements such as India becoming third in the number of incubators or the high value Walmart-Flipkart deal that is seen as a validation of India’s start-up story. Beyond these high profile achievements though are the silences on how inclusive is the start-up India story? This paper explores one such dimension on the insufficient focus on rural and social enterprises by incubators in India. There is a need to go beyond the dominant narrative that reduces entrepreneurship to only start-ups, incubation with technologies alone and the ‘rural’ as a sink for bottom of the pyramid markets. Entrepreneurship in India today needs a more inclusive turn beyond the metros and state capitals to nurture, mentor and build an ecosystem that provides opportunities and hope for India’s excluded millions. This might need changing the narrative on incubation processes, rethinking enterprises in rural areas and strengthening and investing in processes for co-incubation, collaboration and co-creation. The experiences of a new incubator, ISEED (Incubator for Social Enterprises and Entrepreneurs for Development) at IRMA is presented as one of the ways to re-frame the entrepreneurial discourse to enable conversations beyond grand challenges, start up summits and B plan competitions. The enthusiasm for startups, we suggest, needs to be tempered with going back to some of the basics of incubation that include experimentation, learning from failures and a more realistic assessment of what it takes.

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