What started off as an effort to provide a platform to connect social entrepreneurs, incubators, investors, policy makers and other stakeholders has now turned into one of world’s largest socent enabler platforms. Through the Sankalp Awards, we continue to identify enterprises that showcase the most sustainable and scalable solutions to tackle social and environmental issues in India (not to mention, we instituted the Sankalp Awards for Africa this year, and ran a recognition forum for South East Asian socents in 2012).
In year 6, Sankalp Awards were predictably much more competitive. We widened the categories to include enterprises working towards financial inclusion at the BoP and impacting livelihoods at a large scale. We also institutionalized the Women Empowerment category after testing it last year. We witnessed a 50% jump in the number of applicants for Sankalp Awards compared to last year, across eight sectors – Agriculture, Food & Livelihood; Clean Energy & Technology; Education & Vocational Training; Financial Inclusion; Health, Water & Sanitation; Technology for Development; and Women Empowerment.
The trail so far
To engage with entrepreneurs and other players in the startup ecosystem, we conducted roadshows across the country in cities like Ahmedabad, Dharamsala, Jaipur, Shimla, Kochi, Kolkata and so on. We used this opportunity to engage with them through one-on-one meetings as well as workshops.
We began our application process in September. Once all the applications were received, the enterprises were evaluated by a pool of 20 sector experts. About 12-15 enterprises from each sector were selected as semi-finalists based on three key factors — impact creation, sustainability and scalability. The next steps got progressively more competitive. To reach the final, it was imperative that each of the finalists – most of whom were first time entrepreneurs – prepared a pitch book for the jurors who’d be adjudicating each category. Meanwhile, our team conducted a webinar session to demonstrate how the semifinalists needed to present and articulate their business model to the Jury and potential investors. Also, we connected/paired them with mentors – our support partners such as CIIE, Dasra, Unltd India and Villgro – to help them develop the presentation.
The pitch book is a 10-slide presentation, which is more or less a summary of an enterprise’s business model – an exercise not many semi-finalists had undertaken before. The entrepreneurs were driven to present efficient and financially sound business proposals that further helped them to refine their strategies in real time.
Over the last one month, the mentors devoted over two hours to each enterprise every week virtually, i.e., over skype or voice calls, to help the entrepreneurs refine the pitch books. In addition, the mentoring exercise helped them realize the existence of a social enterprises support system. Having received extremely positive feedback from entrepreneurs over the mentoring program, we hope to carry it forward to our future initiatives as well.
With the pitch books ready, business leaders and experts from leading investment houses arrived in our offices in Mumbai for a two-day Jury meet to evaluate enterprises. The in-depth discussions on enterprises’ business models, impact and financials led to the final scoring of the enterprises. To avoid bias, we ensured that the jurors selected for each sector did not have any prior association with the semifinalists.
After tallying the scores given by the jurors we have selected 24 enterprises as finalists who will compete for the Sankalp Award at the Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014. The finalists include three enterprises that have been shortlisted for the Sankalp-Alliance Award for Innovation in Clean Cooking Solutions.
This year, the finalists will have the opportunity to receive the Popular Choice Award by competing for online votes and at present, the enterprises are aggressively using their networks to reach out to a global audience and social enterprise community.
Our next post will reveal the several of engagements we have lined up for the finalists until the Summit.