Michelle | April 6, 2015

Full circle: From Unconvention|L to Sankalp Summit 2015

Villgro is proud to be a strategic partner to the 7th edition of the Global Sankalp Summit, organised by Intellecap and FICCI. The Global Sankalp Summit (being held on April 9-10 in Delhi) brings together 1,500 innovators, social entrepreneurs, investors, DFIs, service providers and donors from India as well as Africa, Europe, and the US to voice, discuss, and debate issues, trends and solutions that aid business-led development. There is also recognition and celebration of social enterprises from across the world, and particularly in India, who have the vision and the drive to change their country and the world by taking along with them their communities and servicing people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. (you can register here for the Summit)

As part of this partnership, we initiated the Sankalp Unconvention Entrepreneur Scholarships to encourage high-potential, early-stage social entrepreneurs to attend the Global Sankalp Summit 2015. The Entrepreneur Scholarships are an initiative to encourage growing for-profit social enterprises to join in the dialogue and get hands-on learning from the diverse sessions, making the summit more inclusive. This year’s Entrepreneur Scholars were selected at Villgro’s 15 Unconvention|L events held in cities all over India throughout the year, on the basis of their pitches at these events and evaluating the potential of their ideas/businesses.

Essmart pitches their business at UnconventionL Bangalore

The Entrepreneur Scholars get free a all-access conference pass to attend the Global Sankalp Summit 2015 and an additional award of Rs 10,000 for participants towards expenses incurred on travel and stay. This will be a great opportunity for them as they get to connect to the larger ecosystem of stakeholders.  They can avail mentorship opportunities and knowledge sessions at the conference. They also get to participate in an exclusive pre-summit session on April 8, only for Entrepreneur Scholars where they get to meet industry experts, investors and Villgro team. Villgro is also curating several panel discussions covering Scaling Incubation, Innovations at the BOP and Drivers of a Local Ecosystems.

(from L-R) Rema Subramanian, Co-founder Ankur Capital, Paul Basil CEO Villgro, Akhila TiE Chennai

The partnership with Sankalp Forum is an ideal way to finish the series of Unconvention|L events this year, with our last event concluding last weekend in Raipur. As a team, we take pride in the fact that even though the last year was mostly on the road and weekends in various parts of the country, we have met so many enthusiastic and passionate people who want to start up in the social space. It makes our belief stronger that social entrepreneurs are waiting to be discovered and need the right kind of guidance to take the leap and become successful.

Audiences at UnconventionL Chennai at Taj Connemera (2)

In many of the 15 cities we visited in the past year, we realised that there is an urgent need for intervention and that too at many levels. There is still a need to break the myth of social entrepreneurship being charity-driven and not market-driven and, on many occasions, we have had to help them understand this by talking about our incubatees that we have supported. Doing well and doing good is a new concept to many people that we interact with. Those who understand this concept are far removed from what is happening in the larger community and network and miss out on good advice, guidance and funding to fast-track their idea and enterprise.

Structured networking session at UnconventionL Bangalore at Dell Office

By conducting Unconvention|L in each of the 15 cities we hoped to plug in some of the missing pieces through a combination of an inspiration event and a pitch event. The Unconvention|L inspiration event was primarily to bring together like-minded people who believe in the power of social entrepreneurship and leave them a little bit inspired to either start on their own or contribute to the sector in some meaningful way by working with a social startup or become a mentor or advisor to the social start up. In most cities, this was one of a kind event and many people did not even know that they had peers who worked in the same sector and space. We saw more than 1000 attendees and close to 30 local partners from 15 cities across India and are happy to welcome them into our Villgro community of changemakers.

We would like to believe that Unconvention|L provided a much needed platform to bring together such people and play a pivotal role in kick-starting a social entrepreneurship movement in the city. As part of this event, social entrepreneurs like Sabarinath (Skillveri), Ganesh (Skilltrain), Abhishek Sen (Biosense), and mentors like Stuthi Vijayaraghavan and stalwarts like Jaqueline Novogratz (Acumen) came in as speakers and spoke about their journey and the challenges they faced either being an entrepreneur or working with an entrepreneur and how they overcame them.


At the Unconvention|L Pitch, budding entrepreneurs had the opportunity to present their idea for a for-profit business with social impact, to a panel of experts comprising Villgro mentors, other social entrepreneurs, social incubators, seed investors and local support partners. Through this process they learnt how to deliver a sharp and impactful pitch and also got valuable feedback and guidance that helped them refine their business model. In addition that, Villgro also had an exclusive session to discuss their business with Villgro mentors as part of the Open Mentor House.

This year saw close to 470 pitch applications, out of which 74 pitches were selected and 30 were adjudged winners. Each city had its own local hero to boast of who took away the prize at the end of the day. The list of pitch winners here. Apart from the chance to attend the Summit, winners also received cash prizes of up to Rs 1,00,000.

UnconventionL Bangalore Pitch Jury members - Kavita Rajagopalan, Villgro; Stuthi Vijayaraghavan, AgileStrat, PR Ganapathy, President, Villgro

As we come to an end of another edition of Unconvention|L, I want to express my gratitude to all those who have made this possible especially our partners. And a big shout-out to the awesome team who has made this possible. We’ll be seeing you at the Global Sankalp Summit 2015 this week!