Tata Trusts and Social Alpha looking for entrepreneurs who want to solve India’s problems

NEW DELHI: Social Alpha, the non-profit start-up incubator funded by Tata Trusts has launched a fellowship program for aspiring entrepreneurs in the development sector. Fellows in the year-long ‘Entrepreneurship for Impact’ program will identify problems to solve, find technology from scientists in institutions like IITs and IISc in India and MIT, Cornell and Harvard abroad and then start a venture.

While there were many successful start-ups in the digital, non-banking financial company (NBFC), e-commerce and carpool sectors, this wasn’t true in the social sector, he said. “What about containing post-harvest losses or removing arsenic from water in Bihar?” he asked. Fellows could also receive mentoring from leaders in Tata Group’s companies.

Fellows who start their ventures would have the chance of being funded by the Tata Trust and government departments like the Department of Science Technology and the Department of Biotechnology. Social Alpha has tie-ups with these departments in their healthcare and energy start-up incubation programs.

Manoj Kumar, CEO of Social Alpha and head of innovations at Tata Trusts said that the program aimed at bridging the gap between entrepreneurs and innovators like scientists who solve developmental problems. “I’ve interacted with many scientists, and it’s only a minority of them that want to roll up their sleeves and use their innovations to become entrepreneurs. The rest want someone else to do it.”

Kumar said that applicants did not have to have any minimum qualifications, as he had found even school drop-outs who became successful entrepreneurs. The program will select eight fellows this year, although the number could go up if they find enough suitable candidates.

Health, agriculture, water, sanitation, energy and environment are sectors in which fellows could start their ventures, but Kumar said it was only indicative, and did not rule out others like education.

The Tata Trusts and Social Alpha announced the launch of the Social Alpha Entrepreneurs for Impact (E4i) programme, a 12-month fellowship programme, on Tuesday.

E4i is designed to bring together entrepreneurs and innovators, and foster collaboration among the top educational, technical and philanthropic institutions. The programme seeks to complete the lab-to-market journey by enabling entrepreneurs to commercialise deep science-based innovations in labs.

The first cohort of eight entrepreneurs selected for the E4i programme that is scheduled to begin on May 6, 2019, will be encouraged to adopt a problem statement in one of the six high priority focus sectors, including water, sanitation, health, agriculture, energy, environment, and identify, or develop a solution that has the potential to create impact at scale while remaining financially sustainable. The entrepreneurs will receive a monthly stipend of 60,000 to cover essential expenses over the 12-month period.

“E4i is our attempt to provide an opportunity for passionate entrepreneurs to scout for potential technologies amongst our network of innovators in academic institutions and research labs, create co-founding teams along with the innovators, build and test their solutions and convert them into social impact ventures. We will support them with our network of experts, mentors and investors from the public / private sector, non-profits, foundations and our 50 portfolio companies who work in the social sector,” said Manoj Kumar, co-founder and CEO at Social Alpha.

The programme is structured to include experiential and instructional components that mimic the life cycle of an enterprise – from observing problems on the ground, converting prototypes into viable solutions to developing preliminary business plans. On completion of the programme, entrepreneurs can either opt to be ‘Entrepreneurs-in-Residence’ at Social Alpha or start their own ventures with guaranteed seed funding from Social Alpha, which can range from 10 lakh to 1 crore.

Applications are open for the E4i programme on www.socialalphachallenge.org and the deadline for the application is January 6, 2019.

Since its inception in April 2016, Social Alpha, a not-for-profit organisation that is supported by Tata Trusts and the Department of Science and Technology, has incubated 50 social impact start-ups, of which 25 have received seed investments in exchange for minority equity stakes.

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