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25 February 2024

UAE women entrepreneurs learn about India’s social business landscape

By Wam

In pursuit of establishing socially impactful and innovative businesses, the first group of the 10-month Badiri Social Entrepreneurship Programme, BSEP, has spent a week in India to receive inspiration and guidance from the country’s social entrepreneurship ecosystem on how to align their business interests with a social purpose.

BSEP is the brainchild of Sharjah-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment’s education and capacity building arm, Badiri Education and Development Academy, and the UK-based School for Social Entrepreneurs, SSE. Through their collaboration on BSEP, the SSE is expanding its reach into the Arab region for the first time.

The programme aims to empower Emirati and UAE-based female entrepreneurs above the age of 20, through knowledge-exchange and expert sessions that will equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to turn their business into profitable social enterprises.

With an emphasis on practical learning, the programme’s customised curriculum took 13 UAE-based businesswomen and entrepreneurs, who were chosen through a series of interviews, to London and Cornwall in August, followed by more hands-on training and expertise-sharing for a week in the UAE, and the final weeklong field visit to New Delhi, India, from 26th October to 3rd November, 2018, where they met with the owners of successful Indian social enterprises through SSE India.

While in India, BSEP participants interacted with SSE India fellows who are creating significant social change through their enterprises in a variety of industries, and met with celebrated names in the subcontinent, such as Sunil Ganesh and Ankit Gupta who engaged them in a discussion on their business and how they started, and how to measure their social impact of their enterprises by devising specific metrics.

They also witnessed an inspiring talk by Sharmila Karve, who is now a driving force for women entrepreneurship in her role as a Director of SSE India and the Global Diversity Leader at PwC. She spoke about her humble beginnings as a young intern at PwC India before she became one of its first female partners.

In another session, the group met with SSE India 2018 Fellow, Yusra Khan, who told them about how a simple question "what is on your bucket list?" posed to street children prompted her and a group of socially-minded youngsters to start their non-profit, Bucket List, to serve street children.

Highlighting the importance of these visits, Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment said, "Project visits and field trips are a central focus of BSEP, as social enterprises thrive on a unique dynamic, which is being socially conscious. Learning from other people’s experiences requires in-depth exploration and placing oneself within the physical context of the social impact of a business.

"For the past three months, the 13 BSEP participants have been working intensely to shape their business model canvases and examine their value propositions. Each one has benefitted immensely from the field visits, first in the United Kingdom, UAE and now in India. These global encounters have introduced them to essential social entrepreneurship concepts, the ‘Theory of Change’ for instance. These valuable real-time interactions and learning on the field have not only helped them recognise how to incorporate profitability within projects that create a positive social impact, but gain practical insights from successful social entrepreneurs in different countries operating in different socioeconomic contexts."

Pitch development, learning about structuring the organisation’s systems, operations and finance, internal change processes for creating desired performance, facilitation and team leadership skills, immersion into social entrepreneurship in India and using that knowledge to build a successful social business in the UAE, were among the practical exercises conducted by Gagan Sethi of Janvikas and other leading experts. Janvikas’ session also touched on the important theme of how to build a social enterprise from within.

Assia Riccio, Founder of Evolvin’ Women, TEDx speaker and one of BSEP’s participants, said, "The learning phase in India has been transformational. I met social entrepreneurs who are breaking stereotypes and changing their community for the better. Through these experiences, I have gained a better understanding of myself as an entrepreneur. BSEP is changing the way I look at my business and at myself and is offering me the guidance I really needed to bring my knowledge, experience and skills together to create a social impact."

Dr. Mariam Ketait, an Emirati family doctor and well-being advocate, said the programme helped her get out of a mindset that was holding her back, and made her trust herself and others more, "I have not only learned the technical aspects of a social business through this intensive course but met many like-minded women and men in different countries who share my purpose. The bonds I have made with these change-makers will remain. The learnings of this trip have not just made me more business ready, but have had a huge impact on my personal journey as well," she noted.

For a third BSEP participant, Ayesha Naseem, the BSEP journey has been equally emotional. She said, "It has been an intense experiential learning programme, fun but also had some tears. BSEP was carefully curated to give us an insight into the different ecosystems that exist to solve key social issues. While the social problems may be unique to a country, at the heart of every solution lies a deeply personal ‘why’." The lessons we learned could be applied to life and business in equal measure."

"It was just amazing to witness the different ways in which so many spirited individuals around the world are working and collaborating to overcome societal challenges innovatively. NAMA and SSE UK and India have worked together to ensure that we felt comfortable in previously unknown environments. From breaking bread together to travelling 300 plus kilometres on a bus to meeting incredible social entrepreneurs, every day has been different."

The India trip brings the BSEP field visits to an end, and November will see the participants attending webinars, while December is slated for the submission and pitch of their business plans and their graduation. After finishing BSEP, participants will have acquired important skills that will help them establish their own social enterprises or enhance the operation of their existing enterprises.