Hyderabad: Inspiration, Immersion & Innovation

I’m sat here in the _SocialStarters Indian HQ in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad after the fourth day of the _SocialStarters Bootcamp, a 7 day start-up school for the next generation of international social innovators, sustainability professionals and entrepreneurs.

We’ve just ordered take out. It was a choice between Organic Bites, our ‘local’ and Home Kitchen, a start-up that sees the surplus overspill of home cooked food, delivered to hungry ‘take-outers’ all over the city. Genius. And tough choice. We went with Organic Bites (who now know me by voice), a social enterprise cafe down the road who locally source their products and ensure everything they do meets their mantra of ‘healthy’ and ‘Hyderabad Goes Green’.

Hyderabad, inventors of the Biriyani and home of the Tollywood movie industry, is unsurprisingly a hotbed of foodie start-ups – but the innovations don’t stop there. In the last week or so we met with Devthon, a Human Centered Design and co-creation agency who bring together local institutions and the community to tackle urban challenges such as transport and disability.

They run hacks “that aren’t quite hacks” according to their Founder Harish – events that see rapid prototyping of solutions to very real problems across the city, across longer periods of time. Some prototype originators have gone on to form start-ups around the products created, which included a robotic feeding device for amputees.

We also met Professor KL Srivastava, the manager of the Centre for Social Initiatives Management in Punjagutta, central Hyderabad. An incredible man with a bubbly charm and deep knowledge of social innovations in India.

Our Hyderabad support team, lead by Raj ‘Cliqs’, is a testament to the energy of the city – a former corporate professional turned photographer and aspiring social entrepreneur, he is as fast paced, dynamic and multi-dimensional as this sprawling metropolis of this city.

We don’t know what we would have done without him – from the day we found him (on the Hyderabad Volunteers – Volunteers for NGOs & Social Enterprises Facebook page) he’s been a two-wheeling angel of the night behind a 24-105 lense.

Hyderabad (and possibly, India – but I can’t compare, as I haven’t been anywhere else except here, and Sri Lanka) is a place where you find yourself constantly expecting the unexpected. Our welcome dinner for our volunteer Consultants, for example, ended up at the Hydourite music festival, where thanks to the organiser Ramakrishna V Achanta (below, second in from the bottom left), we ended up on stage with the headline act – legendary Indian rock fusion band, Indian Ocean. An incredible introduction to the local culture and innovative music scene.

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Invite on stage by the organiser at the Hydourite music festival, Hyderabad, alongside India Ocean.

Week 1 has been Bootcamp: our version of a traditional training week, delivered in a highly non traditional way.

This week so far has seen our Consultants collaborating with local students and volunteers, solving challenges they’ve identified, devising multiple business ideas, doing creative design workshops, designing new business models and exploring what it means to work in emerging markets.

Paul, a former supply chain management specialist, a great guy who’s worked at Deloitte, Innocent Drinks and Sony Entertainment compared us to the many training courses and workshops he’s done over the years, saying our Bootcamp has been “exceptional”. Not that I feel comfortable self promoting too much, but when you and your team have worked on something for so long and you start to get feedback like that, it’s really quite something to feel proud about.

Every day has been different, but the most inspiring thing for me personally (so far – it’s only day 4!) has been seeing the training work on the people we’ve designed it for. I have always been so passionate about learning and development, so this is a biggie.

Furthermore, from interviewing these guys just before Christmas 2014 and into the new year… mere faces or voices on Skype from New York and Amsterdam, Nairobi and the UK – these guys actually got on a plane to take a huge leap into the unknown, believing in this idea that people from different worlds can collaborate to make positive change.

Next week we introduce them to the cohort of Social Entrepreneurs they’ll be collaborating with.

And that’s when the real innovation begins.

Would you like to join us as a Trainee Social Enterprise Consultant, and work alongside grassroots social entrepreneurs in either India or Brazil? We are currently recruiting for our next programmes, which start May 2nd and June 20th respectively for 6 weeks each. If so, please send across your CV and a cover note explaining why you think this opportunity is for you to info@socialstarters.org and pop either Social Enterprise Consultant – India or Social Enterprise Consultant – Brazil in the subject heading. Also see our website www.socialstarters.org for more details.

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