For Budding Social Entrepreneurs

Many friends and people I know have been taking up responsibilities or causes that have a social objective. Education is a particularly good field where the needs are great in India and where people like us have been beneficiaries of a good education and all that comes with it.

Friend and former colleagues P R Ganapathy and Sandeep Shroff are both involved with non-profits. Guns, who is going back to India will spend part of his time with Teach for India. Sandeep has been involved with the Indian Literacy Project here in the Bay Area for many years. I do my little bit through my father’s trust Digjyoti Trust that supports higher education for orphaned and disadvantaged children.

Aside from the non-profit route, others are succeeding with a commercial model, but with a social objective embedded within it. Samhita Academy is one such educational institution. Their flagship school in Bangalore is doing quite well even though it is in just its third year.

The school is backed by the family of S. D. Shibulal, a friend, former colleague and founder of Infosys. Asha Thomas, Exec Director and her team have done a fantastic job in laying a solid foundation of the school. The infrastructure, staff, teaching methods – everything points to an excellent school in the making.

25% of the student population of Samhita Academy comprises of disadvantaged children whose costs are borne by the school. As Samhita Academy sets up more schools this objective will carry into the other schools as well. However, and this is the interesting thing, Samhita Academy is a commercially run enterprise. The fees must cover all costs. Why? because Shibu believes that this is a better model. If the schools are run like a commercial enterprise, the model becomes much more scalable. Ultimately, the social objective too is served better if the schools succeed commercially and expand to many more cities.

Samhita wants to now expand with more schools in other cities. They are looking for a leadership team. If you or anyone you know has climbed all the mountains you wanted to in your corporate job, and wanted to do something different and more meaningful, please contact Samhita. Or drop me a note and I’ll pass it on.


  1. Paddy says:

    Hi Basab

    Incidentally, the Right to Education act passed by Government of India prescribes that all unaided schools i.e. not receiving any grants from the state shall admit in class-I to the extent of atleast 25% children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group of the neighborhood and provide free and compulsory elementary education till its completion i.e. class-8. Ofcourse not many unaided schools currently follow that guideline. Government allows three years from the commencement of the act i.e. from 26-Aug-2009 before such schools can be derecognized.

    Further, unaided schools admitting children from weaker section and disadvantaged groups can get reimbursement for the costs incurred in providing free education to the extent of the similar costs i.e. the actual costs of the state run schools on per child basis, incurred by the concerned state government.

    These reimbursements can help commercial models such as Samhita's in scaling up. I thought I would pass on this info.




  2. That's interesting, Paddy. Seems to be a pretty fundamental shift for private schools, if this is implemented right.

    Samhita of course had its 25% objective well before the Right to Education act. Also, the 25% disadvantaged students are residential – in superb hostel facilities, I might add – which is also a cost that needs to be borne by the school. On the flip side, by caring for the students 24 by 7, they have the best chance of fulfilling their potential.


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