09 Aug Social Entrepreneurship in India – Q&A with Chandrakanth Komaragiri
Chandrakanth Komaragiri is the Country Director, Ennovent – India. In this Q&A, he reflects on his nine-year journey with Ennovent and the social enterprise landscape in India.
Tell us a bit about your journey at Ennovent. Where did you start, and how has the growth been?
I joined Ennovent in 2013 as an Associate supporting its Discover vertical – I worked with the team to identify investible impact-focused social enterprises in India and beyond. In the last nine years, my role and responsibilities underwent several changes, and I got the opportunity to be more client-facing over time. Within two years of working with Ennovent, I moved into a business development role in East Africa. After helping Ennovent understand the African market for two years, I moved back to India, managed the Impact Investment Holdings fund, and mentored the younger team in executing projects here.
In 2018, I took over from the previous country director, and since then, I have been leading the business unit in India. Over the last five years, we have focused on becoming leaner and prioritising cost optimisation, delivering high-quality work and profitability. With such focus, I am happy to report that we have now managed to build a great rapport with our clients; all of the current partners have been working with us for the last 4-5 years.
Over the last nine years that you have been at Ennovent, could you reflect on the social entrepreneurship space in India? How has it evolved in this period?
I was recently a speaker on a panel where a fellow speaker was perplexed by how we popularly tend to separate mainstream entrepreneurship from social entrepreneurship. He mentioned how social entrepreneurs serve nearly 90% of the human population globally – so how could they be on the other side and not the mainstream? I fully agree with his thought on this subject – it is true that the Apples of the world exclusively serve 0.5% of the planet, whereas social entrepreneurs serve 90% of the globe.
In the last nine years, I have clearly seen the changes in the perception of social entrepreneurship in India. Currently, more people seem aware of the concept, and more is spoken about in general media. Social enterprises have also matured a lot, started getting more bespoke support and received more regulatory support. We also see a lot more incubation and acceleration programmes at large.
In fact, we can visibly see these changes in certain sectors – access to rooftop solar energy has now become a lot more prevalent, more consumers are conscious of accessing organic food, electric vehicles have started becoming mainstream, and regulations around plastic waste management have undergone a significant change. We also see that big conglomerates like the Tatas see value in working with social enterprises, be it in microgrids in Orissa or Jharkhand, or trying to capture the electric vehicle market.
How has access to funding for social enterprises changed over the last decade in India?
First of all, there are a lot more impact investors in India than there were a decade ago. Serious investors aim to do serious work. They not only provide financial support, but they help social enterprises grow sustainably. There is a lot of handholding that happens. And this handholding is helping run more effective and efficient organisations that are moving towards profitability and scale faster.
Additionally, there is also a lot more access for social enterprises to funding currently. With several more accelerator and incubator programmes, and recognition from the government and HNIs, impact organisations have more choices than they did 10 years ago. Even larger corporations have started working with startups more frequently.
In short, options to seek funding, support, and mentorship have definitely improved.
What are your reflections on Ennovent’s work in the last decade?
We have been part of some inspiring, cutting-edge impact work over the last decade across different sectors. We have had the privilege to have had the front row seat to the evolution of the impact space in India and do our bit in supporting the impact ecosystem around WASH, sanitation, environment, and sustainable tourism.
With Ennovent’s venture partnerships, which offer long-term and customised support, we have found some great people to work with and forged incredible relationships. Our lens constantly looks at what drives a business to the next market.
For me personally, the most exciting and humbling part of my work is the opportunity to listen to people’s stories. I believe I have had access to privileged information – people’s innovative ideas, their struggles, their successes, their fight for their rights, their journeys of how they built a revolution in remote corners of India, and ultimately, how people have genuinely impacted change.
If you are interested in partnering with Ennovent on any of our existing ventures or exploring a new venture, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.