In our second social impact series, we bring to light some of India’s change agents—entrepreneurs who are making a difference in diverse fields such as arts and craft, speech recognition, health technology and renewable energy. While their field of work might be different, the underlying theme that binds them together is that they have all created businesses that have had a meaningful impact on society and are profitable as well.
In 1978, Nand Kishore Chaudhary borrowed ₹5,000 from his father to start a carpet business, which got him to work with rural artisans in his home state of Rajasthan. A business that began with two looms and nine artisans now touches the lives of 40,000 rural artisans, over 80 percent of whom are women. His company, Jaipur Rugs, which has a turnover of about ₹134 crore, is India’s largest exporter of handwoven carpets.
While Chaudhary has been nurturing rural artisans for three decades, industrialist Sunil Kant Munjal is now taking baby steps to promote India’s traditional arts and craft industry. In an interview to Forbes India, Munjal says, “There is no industry which touches as many people as our traditional arts and craft sector does.” That apart, Munjal is looking at a larger play in the social impact space, having made a personal investment of ₹100 crore in Vineet Rai’s Aavishkaar Bharat Fund.
Rai is the founder of Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group that has, over the last two decades, become the flag-bearer of promoting social entrepreneurship through its financial products and services, including equity funds, a venture debt vehicle, microfinance lending, investment banking and consulting and research. The group has assets under management of about ₹3,800 crore.
More recently, John Chambers, chairman of Cisco Systems, invested in a technology company that has developed products around speech analytics for the country’s non-English speaking populace. Entrepreneur Umesh Sachdev’s Uniphore Software Systems has developed a speech recognition software by which a tribal in Gujarat can do a bank transaction over phone, using voice as the password.
On the health care front, Nishith Chasmawala, founder and CEO of Consure Medical, has built a medical device that manages faecal incontinence among bedridden patients. Backed by investors such as Accel and the Indian Angel Network, the New Delhi-headquartered Consure Medical sells its stool management device, Qora, to 50 hospitals across India and the US.
And last, Som Narayan of Carbon Masters is creating tremendous buzz in India’s tech capital of Bengaluru with Carbonlites—a renewable natural gas that is made from biodegradable wet waste. Said to burn ‘longer and stronger’ than LPG, Carbonlites is being sold to restaurants in Bengaluru at a price of ₹50 per kg as against ₹55 for commercial LPG. Carbonlites also powers trucks, but not on a mass scale yet.
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(This story appears in the 19 January, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)