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India has most innovative social entrepreneurs: Schwab

India is a key country to look for leading social entrepreneurs, says Klaus Schwab, executive chairman and founder of the World Economic Forum.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2006 16:25 IST

India is a key country to look for leading social entrepreneurs, says Klaus Schwab, executive chairman and founder of the World Economic Forum, as his Schwab Foundation prepares to shortlist a winner for the Indian Social Entrepreneur Award for the second year.

"India has some of the most advanced and innovative social entrepreneurs. We believe and already see that many of the models developed in India, for instance rainwater harvesting for schools pioneered by Barefoot College, are exported around the world. India is therefore a key country to look for leading social entrepreneurs," Klaus Schwab told IANS in an exclusive interview.

Last year the first Social Entrepreneurship Award in India went to leading cardiologist Devi Prasad Shetty, founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore.

The awards are given with a view to highlighting social entrepreneurship as a key element to advance societies and address social problems in a pioneering way. This year there were close to 100 applicants, eight of whom have since been short-listed before a final decision is taken.

Based in Switzerland, the Schwab Foundation started by Klaus Schwab and his wife Hilde initiated this second complementary foundation to the World Economic Forum, which he founded in 1970.

They came across Bangladesh's Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, and decided to create a foundation that would help to identify and disseminate such innovative solutions to crucial issues at an earlier stage. Yunus has been an active board member of the foundation since its inception.

Schwab said: "In most countries social entrepreneurs, even the leading ones, are not recognised. They have mainly been labelled 'crazy' by their environment.

"The Social Entrepreneur of the Year awards seek to highlight the outstanding social entrepreneurs of a country as national role models. We hope this will inspire others to either start a social enterprise or support one."

This time around the Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation is working in partnership with the Schwab Foundation and in collaboration with the UN Development Programme and the Confederation of Indian Industry for the award.

In 2000, when the awards were instituted for the first time, they were more in the form of general recognition of people's achievements. The competitive application and jury selection format was not instituted till five years later.

Devi Prasad Shetty, who won the award last year, strives to make sophisticated healthcare available to all irrespective of their economic situation or geographic location. He founded the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital in Bangalore in 2001 and previously co-founded the Asia Heart Foundation.

In addition, Shetty has built a network of 39 telemedicine centres to reach out to patients in remote rural areas.

Together, the network of hospitals performs 32 heart surgeries a day, making it one of the busiest in the world. Almost half the patients are children and babies. Sixty percent of the treatments are provided below cost or for free.

"We identify a social entrepreneur as someone who has created a hybrid organisation that employs businesses methods. Its bottom line is social value creation," said Schwab.

"They plug the gap between the roles that governmental and philanthropic efforts play, often solving societal problems not in opposition to or even at the charity of corporations but rather in collaboration and mutual benefit to the private sector."

The Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2006 will be presented at the India Economic Summit on November 26 in New Delhi.