Manisha Gupta – Nurturing & strengthening social entrepreneurs

Manisha Gupta – Nurturing & Strengthening Social EntrepreneursManisha Gupta, an inspiring and intrepid woman entrepreneur, is the founder of Start Up!, an organisation that is an incubator, angel investor and consultant to social entrepreneurs. Start Up! helps to launch, strengthen and scale ventures that lead to social development in marginalised communities. Manisha explains the thought behind her venture, “Start Up! is a social enterprise. We work with social entrepreneurs from an early stage to a stage when their social enterprise is ready to consolidate, in a highly embedded partnership approach. We provide all the management support that an enterprise needs to become process & systems driven, to become resilient and to have strategic orientation, so that it can scale without too many trials and errors, without too many expensive mistakes. This way we almost become limited co-partners.”

Manisha’s commitment to social change and women’s rights can be traced back to her early childhood. She shares, “I was a young girl growing up in Kolkata and by the time I was in school, I saw imbalances in my life and family. I grew up in a very large family and I saw how girls were treated slightly differently from the boys. The benchmarks that were set out for boys were very different from those set out for girls. Further in my journey of discovery and growing up I started engaging with organisations that were working on issues of women’s rights.”

Manisha volunteered with several organisations working for women’s issues. She recounts, “As a young person with so many questions about issues of equity, inclusion and participation, I was sniffing around for stories and organisations that could help me with questions. That was when I came across Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global organization that launches social entrepreneurs. For the first time in my life I heard the term “social entrepreneurship” which blew me away.”

At Ashoka, Manisha served as the country representative of India, and later as the International Director for a programme on youth entrepreneurs. She was part of the team that launched the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award in India. Manisha shares, “From my Ashoka window I saw how a woman entrepreneur committed to social change could make a difference. By the time I was ready to leave Ashoka, the idea of Start Up! had taken root. But I also knew that I did not have the skills. I had never worked inside a social enterprise. So after 10 years of working non-stop I went back to being an apprentice with four large scale social enterprises.”

Equipped with her deeper understanding of social enterprises, Manisha launched Start Up! in 2007. The initial years were a struggle but Manisha had steadfast conviction in her idea, “If a social enterprise is a robust strategic & process driven organisation, then funds are not scarce. Everything Start Up! helps them with ensures that they quickly stand up on their feet and become process driven. Any organisation of that kind is attractive to investors and talent.”

With Start Up! Manisha seems to have come full-circle in her quest to work for a more equitable society. She shares, “For me the dots have started to connect because when I look back, the bulk of work we have done is either with women social entrepreneurs, addressing women’s rights or social entrepreneurs who are focussed on ensuring that women from the most underserved communities are included in India’s story. It’s very rewarding for me.”

Manisha believes that the key to success is conviction in one’s idea, non-stop hard work, resilience and to surround oneself with supportive mentors, advisors and other entrepreneurs.

Manisha foresees the future of Start Up! as one where they foster young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities, expand their network, set up more incubators and create a whole new generation of informed and empathetic business coaches and mentors.

We at WEBO Power applaud Manisha’s ceaseless efforts to boost social entrepreneurship in India.

Interviewed By: Supriya Mathur, Team WEBO Power
Posted On: March 08, 2013

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