Social startups at Techcircle Startup Summit urge government to lend a helping hand

A little help from the government could go a long way in encouraging more startups to venture into the social space and bring about actual changes in society, according to panelists at The Techcircle Startup 2016 event that kicked off in Bangalore on Thursday. Only genuine government intervention to power social entrepreneurship could change the ecosystem, said social entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capital firms who had gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges for startups in this niche space.

The panel discussion on ‘Starting Up For A Cause: Can startups bring about social change?’ saw a bunch of young social entrepreneurs candidly speaking about their journeys as startups in the social special. The panel, moderated by Srivatsa Krishna, secretary to the government of Karnataka, and chairman of KUIDFC, also agreed that outdated regulations in the country were holding back startups from taking up effective social initiatives.

Roopa Ambekar, founder and managing director of Uber Medspa & Style Lounge, said the government should work towards setting some quality standards by introducing licenses to skilled professionals such as beauticians. “Beauty segment is not recognized as a sector that should be taken seriously,” she said. “In the US, they need a licence to take up any job that literally makes physical contacts with people. We should also look at licensing for such skilled professionals to set standards. We request the government to make the licensing processes easy.”

Saurabh Adeeb, head of operations and partnerships, The/Nudge Foundation, said the government should take a holistic approach and take a re-look at existing regulations.

“I would like the government to create an ecosystem that will initiate a lot of social good projects, which enables more and more companies to invest in social good, and people to engage in such projects and bring a lot of legitimacy to the activities,” Adeeb said.

The other challenge, as highlighted by Vandana Suri, founder of TaxShe, is that social entrepreneurs do not enjoy the luxury of having many employees to delegate various functions and end up managing practically everything from operations to finance, HR and more. She called upon the investment community to get involved in the social entrepreneurial space and said good ideas can turn out to be really profitable.

The panel suggested that the government should create an ecosystem wherein it can bring in large foundations and help them partner with local partners to initiate changes.

Ramakrishna N K, co-founder and CEO, Rang De and Habba, said much of fund leakage happens in the delivery system. “Engaging startups to deliver the last mile disbursement of funds will open up great opportunities,” he said.

The social entrepreneurs also felt that if the government can work with banks to ensure loans to professionals with a lower interest rate, social entrepreneurship startups could get more people from the bottom of the pyramid join the workforce.

Suri urged the government to make it mandatory for graduate students to work in the social sector for a couple of months.

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