Building a strong team for your social #startup - Action For India Annual Forum

By: Pritam Saikia, 8/02/2016


Action for India’s Annual Forum, a gathering of 100 social entrepreneurs and a hundred key influencers, was held on 30th & 31st January 2016 at Delhi. Flexing It was a proud partner and sponsored a cross-sectoral panel discussion titled ‘Building a skill-high team for your social venture’.

The panellists were Mahesh Venkateswaran and Neha Sharma. Mahesh has until recently led innovation and CSR engagements at NSDC and is now associated with the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship on special initiatives. Neha has been with Executive Access for around 7 years currently working as a Practice Leader in the sustainable development, nonprofit, education and consulting domains. The discussion was moderated by Nagaraja Prakasam who is an Action for India board member and has 2 decades of experience in the social space.

Some of the discussion points and key takeaways were as follows.

  • Identification of top-level talent
  1. Professionals with a consulting background have proven to be good-fits in social enterprises
  2. It is the role of the social enterprise to do justice to the skills that the professional has built in their corporate career
  3. Deeper engagement, field visits and stronger induction are also important while hiring top talent
  4. It is important that the professional identifies with the cause of the enterprise
  • Identification of mid-level talent 
  1. Always hire a failed entrepreneur. They would have qualities like the ability to take risks, ability to handle ambiguity and learnings through a failed enterprise
  2. Live-projects at premier education institutions is a good way of getting motivated and capable talent
  • Talent matching services
  1. Getting highly skilled and talented professions in focus areas, like a bamboo artisan that can build prosthetics, is still a pain point
  • Talent retention strategies/models
  1. ‘Hiring right’ is the first step towards retention. Outlining the hiring strategy while making the business strategy is the key to a successful hire
  2. Apart from financial rewards initiatives like inclusiveness, transparency, ensuring joint ownership of problems and challenges also builds stronger bonds
  3. A best-practices study of organizations with over 5 years on-ground experience would be useful to understand talent retention strategies
  • Equity/ESOP calculations
  1. It works great to have ESOPs for all employees
  2. Helps build external equity as employer of choice and builds more inclusive teams
  3. Infosys, although not a social enterprise,  is a good example 
  • Other observations
  1. Institutions like ANDE that publish state of the sector reports might be good partners to explore  
  2. Salary benchmarking by years of experience in social ventures/fundraising is necessary 


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