According to a recent World Bank report, 1.2bn people are living in extreme poverty across the world, i.e. they earn less than $1.25 per day. Of these a staggering one-third or 400 million are in India. But at the same time India also is home to 55 USD billionaires[i], 16 million classified as rich and around 160 million considered middle class[ii]. The income inequality is huge and is the root cause behind many social ills.

So, whose problem is it? Those like me, who have grown up in India or lived there for a very long time tend to become immune to the poverty and deprivation all around us. We put the onus entirely on to the government, blame the system and relieve ourselves entirely of any responsibility whatsoever. But given the magnitude of the problem, there’s only so much that the government can do. And if we add to that mix, the inefficiency and corruption that is so rampant in India, there’s not much one can expect from even the very well meaning government initiatives.

Enter corporate India - with all its might, resources and most importantly the huge pool of talent and passion, and we can only imagine the impact it can make. There are around 1.6 million registered companies and another 26 million unregistered businesses in India[iii]. What if every one of them, big or small, transformed themselves into social businesses and addressed the various social issues in their own way? Well, it’s a bit far-fetched, but just imagine, even if 10% of these, i.e. 2.8 million companies turned into true crusaders and touched 100 lives each, they alone could change the world for 280 million Indians.

Well, coming back to reality, India’s Rajya Sabha (the Upper House) recently passed a new Companies Bill that would make it mandatory for all companies with over $200m turnover or a net profit of a minimum of $1m to spend at least 2% of their net profit on CSR. This is absolutely laudable and according to analysts, will increase CSR spending of just the top 100 companies alone from $265m currently to $850m and increase the overall CSR spend of corporate India to anything between $3bn to $5bn.

However, rather than just being driven by a legal mandate, the need of the hour is for every corporate, big or small to take up a social responsibility and have social objectives woven into the very DNA of their existence taking the cue from the emerging breed of social entrepreneurs.

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