Social entrepreneurs in Asia are leading the area to a brighter future, one business at a time.

Asia faces challenges such as poverty, inequality, and lack of access to education. Fortunately, the region has some of the best social entrepreneurs. With their innovative ideas and strong desire to serve, they develop solutions and build social enterprises.

social entrepreneur asia impact

Social enterprises help the community in different ways. Some of them address social needs through the products they sell, while others provide employment for people in need. They use their earned revenue to support humanitarian and environmental causes.

A great example of social enterprise is Grameen Bank, which was founded in 1983 by Muhammad Yunus. They provide small loans without requiring collateral to the poor families of Bangladesh. Because of their efforts to create social and economic development, Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Mosammat Taslima Begum accepted the award on Yunus’ behalf, who used her first loan from the bank to buy a goat. She then became an entrepreneur and a board member of Grameen.

Social entrepreneurs: Doing good while doing better

Social entrepreneurs have a burning passion for creating better opportunities for the less fortunate. Unlike other startups, these entrepreneurs often have the ‘community first, profit later’ mindset.

Here are the six passionate social entrepreneurs in Asia who are paving the way for change in the region.

Minhaj Chowdhury, India

Chowdhury is the co-founder of Drinkwell, a social enterprise that turns global water crisis to entrepreneurial opportunity.

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - Drinkwell

Drinkwell gives clean and safe water to countries like India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Laos. Water filtration technology and business tools are introduced to local communities affected by arsenic. At this time, over 200 water sources are using their water filtration units. This has improved health outcomes and created job opportunities for the locals in the process.

Smriti Nagpal, India

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - Atulyakala

Nagpal is the brain behind Atulyakala, a lifestyle brand that empowers 18 million deaf and mute people of India. They provide employment, educate deaf students, and spread awareness about Indian Sign language. Atulyakala sells bags, mugs, fridge magnets, and other masterpieces made by deaf artists.

Osama Bin Noor, Bangladesh

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - Youth Opportunities

Bin Noor believes that access to information is a basic right and not a privilege. He co-founded Youth Opportunities, a global opportunity discovery platform for youth. Their website offers access to opportunities for free like conferences, scholarships, and workshops.

Muhammad Alfatih Timur, Indonesia

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - Kitabisa

Timur is the founder of Kitabisa, Indonesia’s first crowdfunding platform for social causes. Kitabisa funded social projects including Indonesian Red Cross’ new blood donation bus and a school for street kids. They also help reconstruct mosques and churches.

Benjamin Aritao, Philippines

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - The Paper Project

Aritao is one of the founders of The Paper Project. Paper Project provides a livelihood for women survivors of human trafficking, prostitution, and abuse. The survivors make handmade greeting cards for Good Paper, a North American market. Aside from giving employment, Paper Project also gives various programs for women. They organize Bible studies and workshops for self-esteem, stress management, and self-defense.

Tran Thi Viet, Vietnam

Social Entrepreneurs Asia - Viet Trang Handicraft Company

Tran is the founder of Viet Trang Handicraft Company. They give local women of Vietnam sustainable livelihood by creating handicraft products. They use natural resources such as seagrass, jute, water hyacinth, banana leaves, and bamboo. They export to international markets including Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and United States.

How you can be a successful social entrepreneur

1. Define your mission. Reflect and decide who and where you want to serve. Point out the problem and think about how you will solve it.

2. Research the environment of your chosen problem. Take a look at other social entrepreneurs in that field and see how they’re doing it. This will inspire you to come up with ideas that will serve your community.

3. Make your products and services unique. When you think about new ideas, always keep in mind what you want to accomplish, and the people you want to help.

4. Look for feedback. Ask for the opinion of your trusted friends, relatives, or mentors. Tell them your purpose and your mission. Their feedback might help you come up with additional ideas. Aside from hearing their side, they can also be your support system.

5. Create your business model. A business model will give you clear direction. Determine how your business is going to earn money and how big you want it to be.

6. Decide what kind of funding type you’ll use. If you have enough resources, you can self-fund it. You can also try to seek business loans or try crowdfunding. Another option is impact investing groups, which focuses on funding social enterprises.

7. Make an action plan. This includes your to-do tasks and schedule, like when you’re planning to launch your startup. Writing down your entrepreneurial goals and tasks you need to accomplish will help you stay on track.

8. Keep the fire burning. Challenges will arise, but don’t let them defeat you. Think about your purpose, the lives you’re changing, and your impact on the society. Be proud of yourself and continue to make the world a better place.

Are you a social entrepreneur in Southeast Asia? What inspired you to build your social enterprise? Share it with us in the comments.

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Rose Tornandeso is a freelance writer from Manila, Philippines. She spends her time as the Editor and Content Creator for NextStep Hub. When she's not chasing deadlines, she visits art galleries, writes fictions, and plays legos with her son.