In today’s global economy, small and medium scale enterprises are increasingly a force for enhancing national economic growth and employment. Many government programs contain policy instruments addressing SMEs. New structures and strategies are being explored that will help small enterprises to grow and provide a promising future in the global market. In a number of more competitive economies, business incubation is one of the tools that have helped to create and support new entrepreneurial skills and businesses. The incubation process and programs often called “New Entrepreneur Creation Projects” have included services for on the spot diagnosis and treatment of business problems, dramatically lowering the usual early stage failure rate.

Business incubation in India was a concept unheard of until recently. But in contrast to what the country was thinking, an interesting incubation centre was already working for the betterment of the nation. The Sandbox Ecosystem is a business incubator started by the Deshpande Foundation. The idea of this program is to create a Silicon Valley atmosphere but focusing more on social entrepreneurs.The incubator has reached three divisions in the country by far namely, Hubli in Karnataka, Nizamabad in Telangana and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The functions of Sandbox start with the basic process stages of a normal incubator striving to develop entrepreneurial skills of intrigued groups of people. But what makes it distinct is the agenda of community welfare which reflects in the innovative incubator’s every chosen start-up. Sandbox takes up the job of honing local students to solve problems as entrepreneurs or take up professional jobs and act as incubator for startups. Entrepreneurs honed at Sandbox, who have a sense of familiarity with the people, are able to articulate with the local folks and at the same time collaborate with MIT to help solve existing problems.

Sandbox Incubator has covered varied areas for building start-ups, these include, health, agriculture, livelihoods, technology and education. The annual report of the Deshpande Foundation’s Sandbox of the year 2015–16, explicitly talks about its partnerships in the various sectors. The highes is in the case of Livelihoods. The foundation claims to be improving livelihoods of more than 61,000 people. Up second is Education, where more than 12, 80,000 students are impacted, Chipper Sage, a for-profit company helping children with reading, is a partner, had ushered the opening of 15 government schools in the area. Coming third is Health where about 77,500 lives are positively impacted. OpASHA or Operation ASHA, a partner of Sandbox, specializes in last mile delivery of treatment for tuberculosis in economically backward regions. Another partner, Save A Mother, works to reduce maternal mortality rates among low income communities. Fourth, we have the agriculture sector where 72,000 plus famers are impacted. The Sandbox partnered with Manuvikasa to help harvest rainwater by constructing farm ponds for communities that faced acute water shortage. Another partner of Sandbox, BAIF created the Wadi concept of tree-based farming, to revitalize barren lands and generate income through horticulture and tree-based farming. And lastly there is technology where more than 20,000 people are claimed to be impacted.

BAIF, Save a Mother, OpAsha and many other ventures are examples of those enterprises that have been supported by Sandbox with funding, managerial support, regular auditing, idea development etc. ArtWaley, Nexus 3D and Freshstockk Ventures are involved in art and craft, printing solutions and grocery shopping. A right blend of technology and science with the dimensions of commerce for the virtue of community welfare is what Sandbox Ecosystem ushers.

The Deshpande Foundation has made its name in the arena of positive social impact by educational trusts, education events, youth workshops, exchange programs and various social welfare schemes. Unlike other sectors of the business world which evolved over time such as online operations, which changed the business world forever or FDI that engaged globalization with commerce, the area of business incubation has been taken to a whole new pedestal with the emergence of this innovative incubator. One such intense youth program by Sandbox , is Lead. Lead has pioneered a methodology that engages students with the concerns for society to unleash leadership and problem solving skills. Bullock cart brake system, smokeless chulha, portable mobile planetarium and portable metal cutting tool are some products created by Leaders, these are mostly college students. This program has widely infected the idea of entrepreneurship in the youth of Sandbox regions.

Maanya Charu Kalra