Opportunity: India

This summer, Opus College of Business Dean Stefanie Lenway traveled to India (in conjunction with the Academy of International Business annual meeting held in Bangalore) to explore opportunities for St. Thomas students to study abroad and work in local social enterprises during a J-Term course. While the course details are yet to be finalized, this post is a report on her trip.

SP Jain is a top ranked business institute in India with a research culture similar to that of the Opus College of Business in its focus on practice. SP Jain’s mission is to “influence practice and promote value based growth.”

When I arrived at St. Thomas and learned about the university's strategic commitment to social entrepreneurship, I contacted the SP Jain director of international affairs, professor Prem Chandrani, to discuss building a partnership around social entrepreneurship and enterprise. Chandrani, and SP Jain’s dean, Ranjan Banerjee, agreed that we should embark upon exploring how we might work together.

(As dean of the Broad College, I worked with Chandrani, to build a strategic alliance between the Broad College and SP Jain in supply chain management. I chose to work with SP Jain in part because of their social mission. Each SP Jain MBA student spends two months working in social enterprises distributed across India.)

Associate professor of entrepreneurship Laura Dunham and Chandrani have been working together to outline a J- Term course proposed for January 2017. The components include some pre-work on social challenges in India, one week of class with SP Jain faculty and site visits in Mumbai, two weeks of work on a pre-determined project in a social enterprise in Mumbai, and a final presentation to the social enterprise leadership and St. Thomas and SP Jain.

The course will be designed to create opportunities for students from across the University of St. Thomas including those studying music, art, psychology, social work, education, engineering, public health and environmental science, in addition to entrepreneurship and business. It will count toward the proposed university minor in entrepreneurship, as well as toward elective credits in the entrepreneurship major.

The Social Enterprises
During my visit, I met with three social enterprises, which are representative of the kinds of social enterprises with which SP Jain has contacts. They were all open to inviting St. Thomas students to work on projects.

Parisar Vikas

A program for women waste pickers, Parisar Vikas has organized about 3,000 women in collaboration within the city of Mumbai. Jyoti Mhapsekar, an Ashoka Fellow, is the founder. This social enterprise, which has as its mission creating livelihoods for underclass women in Mumbai and providing educational opportunities for their families, has evolved into a social conglomerate.


“The Aseema Charitable Trust is a Mumbai based non-governmental organization with a mission to equip children from marginalized communities with high quality, value based education, enabling development of their limitless potential. Over the past 17 years, Aseema has worked extensively with children living in slum communities in Mumbai and remote tribal communities in Igatpuri.

“In Mumbai, Aseema works in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to create centres of excellence within the public education system. We have adopted the English medium sections of the Pali Chimbai Municipal School, Santacruz (W) Municipal School and Kherwadi Municipal School. In each of these schools, Aseema supports the MCGM by providing teachers who are oriented to Aseema’s child friendly approach, making the learning environment stimulating and safe and creating a culture that respects the child and promotes learning.”

Om Creative Trust

Om Creations is a “non-profit training project for holistic and educational rehabilitation of the mentally challenged women from age 20yrs onwards. Here we assist differently-abled women with opportunities that help them lead a meaningful life of dignity and self-worth. By giving them a stipend for the products they make, we help them be economically empowered and add that extra support to the family income.

“In order to maintain an uncompromising quality standard, we employ highly qualified and experienced professionals who teach our wards different techniques of painting, sculpting, baking, cooking, chocolate making, gift packing and all varied art.

“We function on a part-charity, part-revenue model. We earn a small revenue from the sale of products made by the beneficiary-workers, and also depend on philanthropic individuals, corporate institutions and other trusts to bridge the deficit between capital and expenditure.”

Next Steps

The course is scheduled to be launched in January 2017. Between now and then many issues need to be addressed, including logistics, communication plans and a format and a syllabus for the course. Stay tuned as this partnership develops.