The Engines of Enterprise

What is the primary source of prosperity of a community or a nation? The old world thinking believed that natural resources are the foundation of prosperity. The new age thinking has found many other factors like technology, knowledge, innovation and people. But what is that which brings all these factors together to create wealth for the society? It is the enterprise of the entrepreneur. A community in which most of the educated population seeks for an easy and safe 9 to 5 job can never attain sustained prosperity. Only those communities which foster and nourish independent enterprise can achieve prosperity on a sustained basis.

This brings us to the question what is precisely the nature of this enterprise? There are two aspects to entrepreneurship. First is the ability for organization. Second is the character, temperament and values like self-confidence, willingness to take risks, identify new opportunities, ability to get along with people, honesty and rectitude in all transactions, social responsibility and generosity which uses wealth not solely for the aggrandisement of the self or the company but for building the society. So, for a sustained and equitable economic and social development, we have to build a system of education, especially in business and management education, which can foster the character and competence of the entrepreneur in people. Some human types, called as Vysya in Indian thought, has a special aptitude and talent for entrepreneurship. However every individual has in him or her the faculties and qualities of entrepreneurship. And institutions which impart business or management education must find ways to identify candidates in whom this entrepreneurial mind-set is prominent. At the collective level, we have to create an economic and political environment which favours entrepreneurship, like for example easy access to capital, incentives, minimum red tape and bureaucracy.

But commercial entrepreneurship which creates economic wealth is only one type of enterprise. The other type of enterprise which is gaining increasing importance is the social entrepreneurship which creates social capital or wealth through finding creative solutions to social problems. An informative treatise on this subject by David Bornstein and Susan Davis defines social entrepreneurship as “a process by which citizens build or transform institutions to advance solutions to social problems such as poverty, illness, illiteracy, environmental destruction, human rights abuses and corruption, in order to make life better for many.”

Mohammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy the founder of Aravind Eye Hospital and Ela Bhatt, the founder of SEWA are well known and innovative social entrepreneurs. This issue contains case studies and interviews of these great leaders who are role models for all those who want to bring a positive change in society.

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