1. Theme & Purpose

Indian economy recorded a fairly high GDP growth rate of 7.2% during 1998-2008. Notwithstanding the relatively high growth rate, over 25 crore rural population (45 million households) in the country remain locked in poverty. Govt of India estmates rural poverty ratio of about 42%. While the number of rural people living on less than Rs.50/-(US$1) a day decreased by 2.9 crores between 1981 and 2005, the number of rural people living on less than Rs.62.5 ($1.25) a day grew by 3.5 crore during the same period. The key challenge before the Indian economy today is to ensure that its growth becomes inclusive and contributes to a significant reduction in rural poverty.

The rural poor lack adequate access to financial services, commodity and goods markets, forcing them to be dependent on unorganized/informal commodity, goods and financial markets, and a sub-optimal utlisation of their investments and efforts. To fill this gap, during last few years, rural sector has not only opened up immense possibilities for entrepreneurship, but has also sprouted many innovative social entrepreneurial models.

Moreover, rejuvenation of rural landscape and livelihoods is also emerging a significant national priority. Even government schemes, e.g., National Rural Livelihood Mission, National Rural Health Mission, Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship scheme, etc., envisage a significant role of social entrepreneurs in rural revival. National Rural Livelihood Mission, for instance, aims at:

"...promotion of innovation, social enterprise/ social entrepreneur and public, private and community partnership (PPCP) (for)... development of a new product or new model of service delivery to address challenges faced by the rural poor... Successful innovative ideas are then scaled-up using an enterprise approach i.e., social enterprise... for replication and scaling-up in the Mission districts and blocks."

Clearly, there is a need to learn from - and about - rural-based social entrepreneurial ventures to both meet this challenge, as well as leverage on this opportunity.

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