Social Entrepreneurs

Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, India - 2012

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister concern organization of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation announced Anshu Gupta of Goonj as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year India 2012 in New Delhi on 6th November 2012. The award was conferred by Hon'ble Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit at a ceremony held at New Delhi. The award function was attended by the other finalists and eminent personalities from government, business, media and social sector.

The other two finalists for the most coveted award for the year were:

  • Sameer Sawarkar and Rajeev Kumar of Neurosynaptic Communications Pvt. Ltd. (NCPL)
  • VanitaViswanath of Udyogin

Award Ceremony

Profile of Winner


Social Entrepreneur: Anshu Gupta
Field: Clothing for Development

Based in New Delhi, Goonj had demonstrated that ‘cloth’ can be a powerful development resource for India’s last-mile communities. Goonj collects, sorts, repurposes and redistributes the excess and under-used resources of urban households to the rural and urban poor, where ‘material poverty’ is the deepest. The initiative targets village and slum communities to meet their needs of clothing and other basic necessities.

The agents of the initiative conduct self-organized local development and infrastructure building programmes. The efforts have led to more than 500 infrastructure projects such as setting up schools, concrete roads, bridges, wells, irrigation canals and toilets. The project has covered around 1500 villages and is constantly expanding its operations to cover a larger area.

Goonj’s ‘Cloth for Work’ approach takes into account two major market forces namely demand and supply. Whereas marginal communities under this initiative realises its capabilities to be the change they want in their lives and urban India on the other hand learns to contribute to aid the needs of the poor.

Every year, Goonj collects, reproduces and transports 1,000 tonnes of materials to ultra-poor communities in 21 states through a country-wide network of 250 grassroots NGOs, 200 engaged business houses, 200 schools and more than 500 volunteers. Its large-scale, ‘last-mile’ networks have made Goonj, the most efficient channel for large-scale disaster rehabilitation in the country. Goonj’s sanitary napkins programme, created by remnants of waste cloth, has opened up a new field of development intervention in female reproductive health, with more than two million sanitary napkins distributed to first-time rural women users.

Through its non-monetary and non-market model, Goonj is thus creating ‘cloth and material rich’ communities where the meager resources of poor families can be met in order to concentrate towards urgent needs (rather than for the purchase of cloth), village and slum infrastructure activities can be independent of finance/funding, and a virtuous cycle of dignity, empathy and interdependence are revved up between affluent and marginalized India.


Social Entrepreneur: VanitaViswanath
Field: Enterprise Development and Livelihoods

Udyogini caters to setting up of producer-owned, fair trade, rural value chains in agriculture and natural resources, by putting in charge, a new generation of tribal women entrepreneurs and female business development service providers.

Working in remote districts of five Indian states that are affected by poverty, extreme Naxalism and broken enterprise ecosystems Udyogini initiative has directly supported 25,000 women producers in differentiated value chains such as lac, vegetable production, sal, medicinal herbs and plants and incense-stick based value chains. All these areas show the potential for growth in shifting market conditions.

Udyogini has transformed once unnoticed women farmers and producers into entrepreneurs, technical experts, business development service providers, grassroots management trainers and value-added product manufacturers. Its various programmes such as enterprise management courses, high-touch incubation and business counselling, and access to finance and markets gave the much-needed boost to these potential professionals. The Udyogini initiative instilled much-needed confidence and skills to self-organize them into networks of trust and social capital to manage vital links and functions across their value chain. Under the initiative the trained people were skillfully able to carry on various tasks such as production and procurement of raw materials, commodity trading, local retail of value-added products, negotiations with city-based business groups and partnerships with government departments.

Out of a total trained womens80% were from tribal and ultra-poor communities, reporting 50-120% increase in family incomes, higher negotiating capacities, knowledge of and participation in distant urban markets and role model status in their communities. Two of the value chains revived, (i.e. value chains in lac and appliqué work) have matured, stimulating full-blown local business eco-systems.

Since its inception in 1992, more than 2000 organizations from India and other countries have been trained under Udyogini’s Grassroots Management Training (GMT) programmes. Besides,another 100,000 women entrepreneurs and business development service providers have been trained in their respective geographies.

Neurosynaptic Communications Pvt. Ltd. (NCPL)

Social Entrepreneurs: Sameer Sawarkar and Rajeev Kumar
Field: Technology for Primary Healthcare

NCPL is an initiative to mend the broken ecosystem of primary healthcare service delivery in rural India through its indigenous and award-winning technology innovation, ReMeDi™ (Remote Medical Diagnostic) - rural telemedicine and tele diagnostic solution.

ReMeDi™ targets multiple players of the primary healthcare value chain (midwives, community health workers, clinics, trained doctors, pharmacists, diagnostic labs, and hospitals for secondary and tertiary care) onto a single platform. It then provides rational and effective healthcare services to patients sitting in remote village clinics through mobile and videoconferencing.

Finalist- Sameer & Rajeev

Designed to succeed in rugged geographies, ReMeDi™ can measure and transmit a patient’s vitals, manage electronic billings, generate and store electronic medical records and accommodate online consultations at internet bandwidths as low as 32 Kbps. It can be installed in basic computer systems in village-level clinics, run by local high-school graduates and operate on less than two watts of battery.

Through partnerships with NGOs and government, NCPL has deployed ReMeDi™ in 600 clinics, of which 450 are rural telemedicine centres, covering a catchment of 7,000 villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. With consultations fee priced at less than USD 1, ReMeDi™ records 100,000 consultations annually, leading to savings of upto USD 6-9 per illness episode.

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