Villgro Unconvention|L Hyderabad

Several weeks ago, I attended Unconvention|L Hyderabad, a conference run by Villgro, an incubator and funder of early-stage rural-focused social enterprises. The conference, hosted at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, featured a range of speakers providing business advice on founding and running social enterprises. Some highlights from the speakers:

Paul Basil, Founder & CEO, Villgro Innovations Foundation

  • We need innovation, but innovation needs to be taught differently. 
  • Local ecosystems need to be created to foster social entrepreneurship. This is why Villgro is hosting Unconvention Local conferences in cities across India, to bring the social enterprise community together to address local needs. 
Sudesh Menon, Co-Founder & CEO, Waterlife India Pvt. Ltd
  • India is 122 out of 123 in terms of safe water. 4000 kids die daily from waterborne diseases. The cost of water diseases annually is USD 600 million.
  • Waterlife provides safe water to more than 2 million people.
  • Waterlife charges user fees for the safe water, but they have found that people are willing to pay because they are assured of the organization’s long-term plans for working with communities. 

Mukti Bosco, Founder, Healing Fields Foundation

  • Who are we talking about when we talk about sustainability? The individual entrepreneur, the organization, the end user? This needs to be clarified. 
  • Social enterprise is not glamorous. You need to get your hands and feet dirty.

Pankaj Jain, Founder, Impact Law Ventures 

  • The legal structure of the business does not determine the amount of social good it does. 
  • When founding a social enterprise, it’s important to understand the different legal structure options and the benefits and restrictions of the different structures. 

Mukesh Sharma, Founder, Vija Capital & Senior Advisor, Villgro

  • Business plans change upon first contact with the customer.
  • If you have an idea for a business, you should start with the question “does it solve a customer problem?”
  • A business model is how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value. 
  • I asked a question about whether business models should be created with scale in mind from the beginning. He said there needs to be a balance. Models should be focused on the immediate goal and community, and you don’t want to scale too soon. But they should also be scalable eventually, or else there will be a loss of funder and employee interest.

Atreya Rayaprolu, Co-Founder and Director, Intellecap

  • Unscalable organizations, such as schools, are not attractive to investors.
  • VCs tend to want to get rid of the entrepreneur after they invest. 
  • In terms of funding, the best ideas will survive, and the less risky ideas will survive first. 
  • Entrepreneurs need to design business models with the whole ecosystem in mind. 
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