Written by Jacinta Plucinski, Be Movement issue 4 – INDIA, published August 2014 In 2007, the Centre of Social Entrepreneurship (CSE) at TISS began offering a two-year full time Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship; one of the first comprehensive courses in India. “I taught right from the first batch here and I was part of the programme design … but in the process I learned social entrepreneurship,” he says. “The process … can happen in any domain.” Built around three subject streams – social context, entrepreneurship skills and management tools such as finance, accounting and marketing – the focus is on training entrepreneurs as professionals. “We teach all those things, but they are tools for us to achieve social goals,” Majumdar continues. Social entrepreneurship in India is not the same as in Singapore. “Our social entrepreneurship is very basic: having clean drinking water, having a sort of livelihood. I think we go at a very, very subsistence level articulation,” says Majumdar. The course encourages students to return to their roots. “Go back to your hometown,” Majumdar advises. “Don’t stick to Mumbai and Delhi. Mumbai and Delhi can find its own way out, but your village will not find its own way. Your village needs you.” The science of social entrepreneurship begins with articulating a problem and its social, political, cultural and economic context. Majumdar believes, “Freedom to grow in your articulation, in your understanding of the social scene, in the context, that’s very fundamental.” Students then spend three months piloting ideas, which allows them to “do enough experiments, commit enough mistakes” and then improve. “This is the process of learning … and tools and techniques make you better in [the] next level of experiment,” outlines Mujamdar. Undergoing its own iterative development, the course underwent a redesign in 2010, incorporating piloting as part of the curriculum and providing an incubation centre and funding. In 2011 it also took the unusual stance of a “no placement” policy. Companies were not invited to recruit students. “We have faced a lot of resistance”, Majumdar says, “… [but] the moment I bring a job here your whole aim is to get into that job.” The aim of the course is to educate good entrepreneurs, not good employees, but still the decision was highly criticised and a low point as the course sought funding partners. “We were not finding anybody really,” Majumdar recalls. “I’m talking to government officials. They have their own agenda. VCs are a big no … They are interested in finding the successful ventures, not the startups … Who’s there to support these kids?” It discovered an ally in DBS. “When we spoke to DBS we told them ‘Look, this is what we do,’” Majumdar explains. “We were very fortunate that they understood what we were saying.” In 2012, the DBS-TISS Social Entrepreneurship Programme was formed to provide three years of seed funding and incubation support and mentoring to eligible students. “It’s almost how you allow a child to walk,” describes Majumdar. “We do a lot of pampering in the beginning. Then we become little tough[er]. At [the] third year we say, ‘Guys, you’re mature. Enough is enough. Now you go out and be on your own and let

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the new batch come in.’” So do most go on to become entrepreneurs? About 40% in each batch and, although numbers are growing, it’s not at the rate expected. “We are realising family pressure is the biggest problem,” Majumdar says. “So now we are seriously thinking how do we connect to the parents [so they] feel … proud that their son or daughter is doing [a] great job? ‘He’s really a brave character who dares to stand out, so respect his courage, respect his conviction, respect his articulation and help him or her to grow.’” The perception of entrepreneurs needs to change. “Entrepreneurs should be as respectable a profession as medical doctors, or lawyers or engineers,” Majumdar explains. Still, for Majumdar the highest point is “seeing one more guy becoming an entrepreneur … The kind of inspiration they bring in … they influence their ecosystem, they influence their family, they influence their friends, and despite all these conflicting opinions about them they … continue to do that.” •






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