Ronnie Screwvala stepped up on stage. As a highly successful entrepreneur who built up UTV Group into an Indian media empire and then sold it to Disney in 2011, Ronnie knows a thing or two about building a great business from scratch. Assembled before him in a Mumbai hotel ballroom was a cosmopolitan throng: impact investors, social entrepreneurs, advisers and enthusiasts who had turned out for the Sankalp Summit, held 12-13 April in Mumbai, the event of the year in India’s impact investing sector.
After a day of fervent discussions on business models to serve the urban poor and the lack of debt financing for social enterprises, Ronnie put the focus squarely back on entrepreneurship. Ultimately, all the business model ideas and financing in the world will achieve nothing without a generation of bold and creative entrepreneurs willing to strike out and make them real. Just as in commercial entrepreneurship, Ronnie emphasized how social entrepreneurs have to be able to ‘absorb risk’ if they are to overcome the unpredictable shocks and challenges of starting a new business. He also talked about the importance – and the challenge – of building great teams, investing in strong performers and letting go of poor performers.