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Market-Based Solutions for Poverty Reduction in India
By Brian English
The rapid increase in slum populations in India, now at 93 million, has far outpaced the impact of interventions to date. Market-based solutions have started gaining the attention of governments, international aid groups, NGOs and entrepreneurs as they look for new ways to scale up their impact and sustain their interventions. Thousands of new social enterprises that seek to provide social benefits, and sustain largely on business revenues, have sprung up in response. These initiatives are welcome news to governments and donors with tighter budgets. And their rapid proliferation has attracted the attention of impact investors looking to create the next microfinance industry.
India has been a beacon of innovation in market-based poverty reduction, creating enterprises that span from sanitation to education improvements. This chapter profiles two case studies of market-based solutions in India that provide some important lessons for others fostering similar initiatives: 1) LabourNet, a social enterprise that provides vocational skills for informal-sector workers. It began in Bangalore and has now scaled up to thirteen regions of India; and 2) the Trash to Treasure programme, which started as a pilot to test enterprise models for recycling waste in Bangalore and has evolved into a network of organisations that are establishing one of India’s first city-wide recycling programmes. Both cases demonstrate how partnerships between local government and social enterprises can deliver large-scale results. Both cases also show how important the enabling environment is to these supply-driven enterprises, in addition to fine-tuning their business models.
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