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For-profit social sector entrepreneurs the future of development

"In India, Shaffi Mather, a social entrepreneur and founder of three successful social enterprises, has decided to embark on a new mission: to combat India's corruption problem. He plans to launch a for-profit, fee-based Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service to stop bribes and prevent corruption. More sustainable models like these will hopefully emerge in the short-run and will help to fill the institutional gap left by the authorities."

If the success of Mather's first social sector business is any sign, we can expect success from this corruption-fighting BPO. From his November 2009 TED talk, Mather explains his first social sector entrepreneurial project, 1298 for Ambulance, "In 2002 - 03 when I stepped out of the pure play capitalist sector to work on so-called social sector issues, I definitely did not have any grand strategy or plan to pursue and find for-profit solutions to addressing pressing public issues." However, after some near death experiences of people very close to him, he realized the need for better emergency care in India and thus set out to create dial 1298 for Ambulance. What he points out as being important is the self-sustainability of this organization based on its own revenue stream. The system of rich pay more, poor pay less, and accident victims pay nothing, is working. 1298 Ambulances were 1st responders during the Mumbai terrorist attacks and went from 1 ambulance in 2004 to over 100 in 2009. As of last year he was working to do the same in Karachi with a Pakistani NGO.

Mather says the success of 1298 was "a small message from us. In our own small way to the enemies of humanity, of Islam, of South Asia, of India, and of Pakistan that humanity will continue to bloom irrespective of such dastardly attacks."

Mather has also worked on universal education and the creation of rural supply chains built on the foundations of self-help group based micro-finance, in addition to the for-profit, fee-based BPO service to stop bribes and prevent corruption in India. He makes a point in his TED talk that his businesses must have been very successful as they are receiving a lot of funds, but they come as security capital, not grants or philanthropy.

Implications from Institute for the Future:

Mather is the future of development. We are moving into an era where we understand that not-for-profit development is unsustainable and therefore need another solution. For-profit social sector entrepreneurs like Mather are the people who will continue to change the shape of different nations and make impacts in areas as wide-ranging as healthcare and corruption.

Grants will be replaced more and more by investments and innovations like 1298 will pop up as poor and marginalized communities continue to have needs their governments and non-profits have been unable to meet.

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