Chhattisgarh, being a tribal dominated state, occupies a significant place in the cultural storyline of India. Tribal population of Chhattisgarh constitutes around one third of the total population of the state. According to the state government website, the combined population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh is 44.7%, which is significantly higher than the national figures of 23.6% of the total population. Located at the heart of the country, the twenty sixth state of India is a store house of wealth and minerals. Despite being rich in mineral deposits, the economy of Chhattisgarh is heavily dependent on agriculture and agro-based industries. About 80% of the total population of the state depends on agriculture. A majority of the population can be classified into the bottom of the pyramid category.
However, the state keeps making to news headlines not for its resources or its culture but the strong naxalite activities in the region. The endless struggle of the tribal people over the ownership of land and other natural resources has affected and hampered several lives over the past several decades. The social and economic stature of the Chhattisgarhi tribal people can be classified as poor and backward. In order to achieve holistic development of the entire state, the need of the hour is to make strides towards improving the lives of dominant tribal population. Poverty, lack of education and unemployment are the issue that need immediate attention.
Such a situation demands active intervention by the governments, both at State and Centre. However, due to several infrastructural bottlenecks and controversial nature of political history, the state has not attained growth at the expected rate. In such times, social enterprises have risen in Chhattisgarh to cater to the multiple market failures at the bottom of the pyramid.
BILT Tree tech Ltd. (BTTL), a subsidiary of Ballarpur Industries Limited, is one such venture that aims to change lives of tribal farmers of Chhattisgarh through sustainable Agro Forestry. Its farm forestry initiative has changed the face of several villages. The firm introduced farm forestry and agro forestry as a means to generate revenue for poor cultivators of the state. The firm’s functions include Supplying excellent high yielding planting stock, training on plantation techniques and building market linkage for the wood with Ballarpur Industries Ltd. It has generated impact as well. It has led to job creation in nurseries and farms throughout the year, with around eighty percent of the labor constituted by women. The initiative has resulted in increased yield for farmers and capacity building in sustainable forestry and agro-forestry practices. In 2013, BTTL received a funding of $100,000 from the World Bank Group for further expansion of its operations.
SMV Wheels has determined to change the unorganized rickshaw puller business in India and develop it into a community to rickshaw pullers empowered through better design of rickshaws which require less effort. Being an unorganized sector, no major corporate has ventured into designing rickshaws in the country thus ruling out any kind of innovation in this space. SMV Wheels make these rickshaws available to the rickshaw pullers at a moderate rate and ensure transfer of ownership within a year. They have also ventured into micro-finance to enable these people to accumulate capital to own a rickshaw. They have also added numerous small but valuable aspects to the offering – Insurance, training, identity card and facilitating a legal license.
These are not alone. Several other organizations are working and making leaps in various sectors across the state. Vigyan Ashram, a part of Indian Institute of Education, works towards human powered generators and solar hybrid lighting and laptop charging system. Vrutti is another social venture aimed at agriculture enterprise facilitation. It helps small land holders achieve accelerated growth in agriculture and income levels.
Such innovative business models with the ability of generate significant impact are what is required in the entire country right now. Apart from its regular welfare programs, it should be a prime onus for the Indian government to create strong social entrepreneurship ecosystem in India. This would facilitate new ideas, access to finance and increased collaboration, thereby accelerating the process of betterment of the under-served section of the society.