A glimpse into the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Hyderabad, India

Welcome to Hyderabad, India. Famous for biryani, pearls and Charminar. Not heard of it yet? Well it’s also on it’s way to beating Bangalore as the startup hub of India, in 2016 and 2017 it was named the best city for quality of life in India and will be home to Google’s new global headquarters outside of the US. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will do soon.

I’m a social entrepreneur from London and have made Hyderabad my home for the past 6 months. It’s exciting to be part of India’s fastest growing city and their buzzing startup scene. The rate of growth is evident all around me, every day. I can’t move very far without seeing construction work. It makes for a dusty city at times but the transformation in years to come will be incredible. Just down the road from my apartment they are constructing T-Hub Phase II, a co-working space that is going to be the largest such facility in India. There’s also an IKEA on the way. I think I’m equally excited about both. With the growth and development of the city over the past 5 years came developments in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which has also led to a rise of social enterprise startups. So what does this fast growing tech hub have available to facilitate and support social entrepreneurs?

Co-working spaces

Co-working spaces in Hyderabad have doubled in the 2 years that I’ve worked here and they are on the rise. Here are my top 3 places to work from as a social entrepreneur in Hyderabad.

Photo: http_www.t-hub.co_catalyst

T-Hub (which stands for ‘tech hub) is India’s largest coworking space/incubator for startups and was launched in 2015. It’s also my office. T-Hub phase II is on it’s way in the form of a 70,000 sq.ft building and will be complete in 2018.

91Springboard was set up by a group of investors who run Anthill Ventures – a startup accelerator and they have branches all across India. 91Springboard isn’t just a co-working space, they run events to bring their community together, including their Friday night ‘Start-up’ bash and other themed industry events.

Photo: http_www.91springboard.com

 

Whiteboard Cafe is a co-working cafe and serves tasty, healthy food to keep you going all day. You can rock up and work there all day with no charge. It’s well designed, spacious, has speedy wifi and great coffee.

Other coworking spaces in Hyderabad include Coworkzone, CLOwork, Unispace Business Centre, iKeva, rentadesk, Collab House, Hatchstation, OurHub and The Valley.

 

Incubators and accelerators

Hyderabad has also seen a rise in incubators and accelerators that are supporting social entrepreneurs in the city. There are even 2 more being launched this year which I can’t even write about as it hasn’t been announced! Here are a few which are currently running in the city.

Surge Impact – A social enterprise accelerator founded in 2016 and headed up by the talented Raj Janagam, former founder of UnLtd Hyderabad. This 6 month programme includes bootcamps, mentorship, seed funding and access to industry experts.

Vikasa International Centre – Which was set up in 2015 by the NGO, Bala Vikasa, they run an incubator for potential and investable social enterprises. In December 2017 they will be launching their 30,000 square ft training campus. They state ‘it’s mission is two-pronged, to harness vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and foster its growth, while promoting business responsibility and effective partnerships between companies and communities.’

Villgro – The most well-established incubator in the country – running now for 15 years and incubated over 120 social enterprises. Their incubation programme provides funding, mentorship and technical advice. They run their ‘Unconvention’ and Speaker Series conferences on social entrepreneurship around the country where they aim to build the social enterprise movement in India.

Other incubators and accelerators for social enterprises in Hyderabad include ICRASAT, NAARM and NIRD.

A look ahead into the future

Co-working spaces are aplenty in Hyderabad and offer state of the art facilities. The best of the best however do come with high price tags for aspiring social entrepreneurs who are starting out. To cut down on costs I’ve seen many social entrepreneurs work from home and when they do expand their team the majority find a low-cost office to rent. To encourage more social enterprises to use co-working spaces in the future I think offering reduced rates or an initial introductory rate would be of benefit to those starting out. But over the next few years I’m sure the number of coworking cafes like Whiteboard will also increase across the city.

Something which I have heard countless times when meeting with social enterprise incubators in Hyderabad is about the ecosystem and the need to develop it. The number of social enterprises starting up in Hyderabad may be on the rise but the rate is slow. It’s important not just to offer to incubation support to existing social entrepreneurs but to also include outreach programmes to schools and universities to provide education on social entrepreneurship and to make people aware of the support available. Raj Janagam, founder of Surge Impact commented, ‘There are much better avenues for social entrepreneurs to set-up their ventures in this city than a few years ago due to the gradual development of the ecosystem, what we need now is to invest in education, pipeline development and putting more capital in high risk ventures. Then we can start to get social enterprises into the mainstream in Hyderabad.’