Everyone a Changemaker – An Accelerator Program by Surge Impact

For Surge Impact, social entrepreneurship is a key focus and they strongly believe that it will be a catalyst for social change, and helps startups and entrepreneurs build a better nation. Excerpts from an interview with Small Enterprise India.

1. Tell us something about your business model which is quite unique due to its diverse nature. What inspired you to launch this company?

Our mission is to enable and empower social entrepreneurs as problem solvers in the areas covered by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). We want to help grow startups around each of the SDGs and to demonstrate SDG 17, which calls for partnerships with governments, businesses and social sector to achieve the SDGs. We help create “everyone a changemaker” world where every individual is driven by how she/he can bring about positive change in our world.

2. Would you brief about your diverse business segments?

Surge currently operates few key business segments, in the areas covering the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. We have our flagship six-month long Accelerator Program powered by Mytrah Energy India Pvt. Ltd. to support for-profit Social Enterprises in India. We also have a Tech4Social incubator program in collaboration with International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIIT H) for technology-based start-ups that are in prototype stage.

3. What was the core objective of launching Surge Impact and where you find your company today?

The core objective of launching Surge Impact Foundation was to find and build the capacity of social entrepreneurs to sustainably scale their social and/or environmental impact.

Today, our vision is much broader and we want to help create a world where everyone contributes to sustainable development. In order to achieve this, we have started working and partnering on several fronts with multiple stakeholders, including the government, NGOs, Corporate, other startup incubators/accelerators, and the academia.

4. How is Surge Impact changing the face and contributing to the business landscape of India and the entrepreneurs as a whole?

It is our belief that Surge Impact Foundation’s work today and in future will lead to two very important outcomes. First, through our work, we will bring about a realization and need for ingraining responsible business practices in the business landscape of India.

Second, we will bring key stakeholders together, especially in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem to help entrepreneurs.

5. Being a visionary, where do you want to see Surge Impact 10 years down the road?

We’ve helped create a world where everyone contributes to sustainable development.  We want to run our SDG themed program until 2030 working with governments, institutions and corporate partners in India and around the world. We want to not just build bridges between entrepreneurs, investors and corporations but also bring in policymakers from around the world to facilitate greater growth and prosperity.

6. According to you what is key to the success of Surge Impact? What else, in terms of employment, policies, and strategies, can yield better results?

Our success will depend on the evolution of both the business and legislative mindset. Investors need to look beyond expecting a quick profit and focus more on the long-term benefits and maximizing the benefits of social impact. On the legislative front, tax incentives to encourage investors to finance social enterprises over businesses offering compelling monetary returns are essential to our success.

7. Do you think the fiscal policies of Government will help start-ups and other small businesses to grow in this competitive market?

The Government’s commitment to strengthen the startup ecosystem, the Startup India Program and several initiatives such as creating the Fund of Funds is commendable.

Given the dip in funding in the past several months, a relaxation in the angel tax in the 2018 budget would be a welcome move. Most startups struggle through the initial phases to survive and then to thrive. In its current form, funds from angels are taxed at over 30%, if it is more than the fair market value (FMV). According to Tracxn, the percentage of capital invested by angels fell in 2017 compared to 2016.

Start-ups are a step in the right direction to tap India’s demographic dividend. Today’s start-ups will be employment generators of tomorrow. So we, at Surge, are optimistic that the Government of the day will take steps in favor of start-ups and other small businesses and cannot ignore them.

8. Has GST affected your business? What opinion do you have about GST? 

Even though ours is Non-Profit Entity, for our services, we have to Charge the GST @ 18%. GST exemption should be available to Incubators and Accelerators on par with Government agencies funded by likes of DST.

9. Being a not-for-profit company, what is the next course of action to expand your functioning as a company?

Being a not-for-profit company, we have started our journey with the help of grants and will likely continue to do so in the near future. However, we at Surge strongly believe that we need to practice what we preach the start-ups being self-sustainable.

We have already started our journey toward being self-sustainable by delivering services to various stakeholders. We will continue to strengthen ourselves in this area and both improve and expand our services to generate revenues. For instance, we are the Project Management Unit for the Dept. of IT, Electronics and Communication, Government of Telangana step to developing a platform to improve collaboration among stakeholders (Govt., NGOs, and Corporate) to better utilize available CSR funds to derive maximum impact at the grass-root level.

10. Do you see a need for more such companies in India and what’s the future of such companies in India?

We definitely see a need for more such companies in India. In the Western countries, there is a greater momentum of sorts in the last 5 years towards conscious capitalism, B-Corp, etc. Given the current socio-economic scenario in India, with increasing inequalities, we will eventually move in that direction with greater participation from the youth.

Surge is well positioned to be a catalyst for helping such responsible start-ups and enable individuals & institutions to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

11. How was your journey as the Co-Founder, CEO of Surge Impact as a whole?

It’s been very rewarding as the thing that I enjoy the most is working with a very talented team and the knowledge that social entrepreneurs share. Of course, working with a very progressive state government is a bonus.

12. Can you talk about how Surge Impact has helped Start-ups and Entrepreneurs?

As on date, we are either supporting or have supported 22 social enterprises, including 20 growth-stage social enterprises and 2 prototype-stage start-ups with technology as an integral part of their business model. Surge has both directly and indirectly helped the start-ups to:

  1. Raise over Rs. 1.2 Cr collectively (mostly debt funding)
  2. Create over 120 jobs
  3. Reach direct beneficiaries: Nearly 9000 people
  4. Reach Indirect beneficiaries: Nearly 2.4 Lakh people
  5. Connect start-ups with potential investors to conduct discussions to collectively raise over Rs. 50 Lakhs

Most importantly, Surge has been able to help most of the start-ups dream much bigger than what they thought was possible at the start of our support program.

13. What message would you give to the small businesses to grow and succeed in the competitive market?

Find a mentor/build a support network – that can help them navigate through the (inevitable) ups and downs that come with owning and growing a business.

Do pilots, as soon as possible, let the revenues and real impact tell your story and not just your idea or passion.

Mamta Sharma


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