'Why doesn’t India have $100 million worth of NGOs?' : Atul Satija, Founder and CEO, The/Nudge Foundation
Through N/Core, the foundation intends to invest over Rs 50 crore to incubate and support over 100 non-profit startups in the next five years.
With the launch of N/Core, an incubator for non-profit startups, which works on poverty-related problems, ‘N/Core Alpha’ received 583 applications to select 21 of the most promising non-profit startups in India with game-changing ideas. The selected incubees are 0-3 years old and will work to create highly innovative solutions in areas such as education, healthcare, employability, access to finance, agriculture, water, sanitation, energy, gender equality, human rights, and disaster management. The incubator is based out of Bengaluru and will work with Social Alpha, Ashoka University, Dalberg, Deshpande Foundation, Dr Reddy’s Foundation, and many others.
“Through N/Core, the foundation intends to invest over Rs 50 crore to incubate and support over 100 non-profit startups in the next five years. The idea is to invest Rs 10 crore per year, out of which majority will be given as direct support to the non-profits running the incubator. So about 25 lakh to 75 lakh of grants will be given to early stage non-profits and we plan to do around 20 non-profits a year,” says Atul Satija, Founder and CEO, The/Nudge Foundation who is excited to welcome the first cohort.
Some of the industry experts who are part of the N/Core collective: Anantha Padmanabhan, CEO, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives; Ajay Kela, President and CEO, Wadhwani Foundation; Gautam John, Director, Nilekani Philanthropies; Naveen Jha, CEO, Deshpande Foundation; Mekin Maheshwari, ex-Chief People Officer, Flipkart; Punit Soni, ex-Googler, ex-Flipkart; Alok Goel, Partner at SAIF Partners, ex-CEO redBus, FreeCharge; Amit Gupta, Co-founder, InMobi; Sanjay Purohit, ex-EVP, Infosys; Ujwal Thacker, Advisor, PwC; Mohit Saxena, Co-founder and CTO, InMobi; and Anurag Batra, Chairman & Editor in Chief, BW Businessworld.
In an interview with the Founder and CEO of The/Nudge Foundation, Atul Satija, we speak about his journey and the way forward. Excerpts:
Q. Tell us about the concept of N/Core?
We started working on The/Nudge Foundation in mid-2015. Our gurukul system has been helping the underprivileged men and women get skillsets that include work and social soft skills. The Foundation in the third week of January announced the launch of N/Core, an incubator for non-profit startups who work on poverty-related problems. ‘N/Core Alpha’ has received 583 applications to select 21 of the most promising non-profit startups in India with game-changing ideas. The selected incubees are 0-3 years old and will work to create highly innovative solutions in areas such as education, healthcare, employability, access to finance, agriculture, water, sanitation, energy, gender equality, human rights, and disaster management. The incubator will be based out of Bengaluru and work with Social Alpha, Ashoka University, Dalberg, Deshpande Foundation, Dr Reddy’s Foundation, and many others. So it will include co-working space, seed grants, networking, personal coaching, vertical mentors, horizontal mentors, all of which will be stitched together.
Q. From a corporate job to a non-profit sector. How has the experience been?
From running a mobile business for Google in Japan, launching the android ecosystem in the region, to a Chief Business Officer in Inmobi, I have worked for 18 years as a Corporate Engineer and launched multi-country operations. My non-profit journey started by volunteering for an organisation called End Poverty in Gurugram, and I realised my keen interest in this sector. I hung my boots in the corporate sector and started The/Nudge Foundation two years back. We do fully residential skilling programmes in the four different Gurukuls in Bengaluru, where the students come and live with us for 100 days. I also realised that the support system that you are used to in the for-profit sector almost does not exist in the non-profit. There is a capital market to feed in money and take away some experience or mistakes to learn and improve many times. India is world’s largest country in terms of social needs and some of the largest single non-profits are not doing much, given the problems in India.
Q. Which all social organisations you think are doing their bit and have a direct impact in the sector?
Organisations like The Akshaya Patra Foundation, the world’s largest non-profit organisation providing mid-day meal to 1.6 million children in India every day; Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) is a premier educational institute in the country providing need based quality education to the tribal children; are doing their bit to sustain. If the best talent in India does not aspire to work in the non-profit sector, there is no way India will be able to eradicate large scale problems like education, healthcare and livelihood. Why doesn’t India have $100 million NGOs? So N/Core thought of bringing the top talents into the sector, an incubator for non-profit startups to work on poverty-related problems.
The same energy that feeds somebody to do a startup is the energy that feeds somebody to do a non-profit. If one realises that the non-profit is a better way to do it, I think you will see a lot more people here as well. So we want to tap that energy.
India is in this confident developing economy zone from under-confident developing economy zone and that is making people take risks and do their startups. It is a very good state to be in as a country. We also want to tap the same energy to solve India’s most important issues, even if they are not economically profitable, we’ll figure out a way to support.
Q. Apart from the benefit of getting a platform, what are the other benefits that the NGOs would get from this?
While they get to work in co-working space, they can get seed grants during the incubation and get mentorship with one personal coach. We have partnered with the Institute Of Generative Leadership, a global organisation of personal coaches, allocating 10 hours per non-profit as a personal coach. So people will be assigned coaches from all over the world who will personally invest time in entrepreneurs, talk about anxiety, stress and how to manage issues in life.
Q. What is the criteria for selection?
Those who are 0-3 years old and will work to create highly innovative solutions, possess mid-career talent and have a few years of professional experience. But most importantly can these entrepreneurs make it very large, are they really understanding the problem, do they have a pulse of what they are trying to solve, have they done their homework in going to communities, what is their motivation to be in the sector, tomorrow when the going gets tough will they be disciplined and go back to a normal for-profit corporate job or will they stay put. So perseverance, great passion and the energy to solve problem, understand the customer and the core that requires one to be in any startup are a few things we look for.
Q. Anything important that you would like to add.
Yes, the most important thing is that today we are not even tapping 1% of the energy available in the society to change our own country. It’s a shame. If we take even 1%, we will have 10x more energy to solve all the problems in our country. So 10 years from now, we want to grow up saying ‘I want to be in the non-profit sector or developing sector doing good work for India’ and hopefully by sharing the collective, and with the right kind of mentorship and government support, there will be more room to work in a non-profit.
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