Sleeping in the midst of tigers

Veröffentlicht: April 9, 2012 von Ms. Monday Jana in Know How, Social Entrepreneurs
Schlagwörter:, , , , ,

Source: entrepreneurship. A term which sounds quite modern, innovative, cool. But what exactly does it mean? What is social entrepreneurship about? We all have an idea of the term „entrepreneurship“. And I am sure that it would be easy for us to right away come up with words which describe the meaning of the term „social“ to us.

However, when I sat down and tried to think of a definition for the whole term, I realized that it would be more easy for me to spontaneously outline the differences and contrasts between the two topics rather than to come up with a clear description of what a „social entrepreneur“ is. Nevertheless, after starting to occupy myself with this topics, I got a rough idea of the meaning. Of course I can think of a few examples for this kind of entrepreneurship: The first thing which came to my mind were non-profit associations and government organizations.

This reminded me of someone I got to know during my internship in India 2012: Raj. Raj is one of the founders of Help Tourism, – a tour operator and destination management consultant with a focus on sustainable tourism. It was founded in 1991 and has supported various communities in India in creating and establishing quality tourism in their area. I was impressed by the engagement of the participants and the clear strategy behind the projects.

India is a country with a rapidly growing economy on one side and great poverty on the other side. I think those are facts we are all aware of. In course of continuous modernisation, the country has gone and is still going through a great change. This may sound quite promising but the adaption of western values goes along with a conflict between old traditions and culture and a new lifestyle. In addition, one of the major problems in India is the pollution. The country is full of great sights but unfortunately a lot of them are not very clean or well maintained. The people of Help Tourism are trying to connect those two topics. By maintaining and marketing the unique local customs and spectacular nature sights, special eco-friendly tourism projects are being developed. The role of Help Tourism is a consulting and supportive one in the beginning: it trains the people involved and uses it’s network to gain support, especially financially. Once the projects are well-developed and settled, the communities take over complete responsibility for the same and maintain everything themselves.

Source: introduced me to a few of his projects. One of them was the Sunderbans jungle camp. The Sunderban area is a vast river delta next to the border to Bangladesh in East India.

The landscape consists of a network of waterways and small islands and a major part of it is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site and Tiger Reserve. The villagers there used to be poachers but now that the site is protected they do not have a proper income. Help Tourism has started a project where the local people learn how to protect the Sunderban tigers instead of killing them. Nowadays, the former poachers have become conservationists and it was amazing to hear their stories of the old days.

Raj also showed me a lodge which is situated on one of the islands and was built by Help Tourism. It is now managed by the communities and tourists can come and stay there in the middle of the tiger reserve and also experience the village life closeby.

Unfortunately, on my tours he tiger never showed itself but I have heard of many other people who have been more lucky than I was. Nevertheless, it gave me a rush of adrenaline to know that I was staying right in the tiger reserve and that it could show up anytime.

The reason why this project came to my mind immediately is the fact that it was amazing to see the change of the mindset of the local people and how they have become financially independent by preserving their nature.

This is just one of various examples but it is my personal start of occupying myself with the topic „Social Entrepreneurship“. Nevertheless, I am sure that social entrepreneurships have already become part of our everyday life (which we might not always realize).

  1. Jan sagt:

    Hey Jana,
    thank you for your first and very wonderful post. I’m sure I will love your further posts as well – I like your writing style and obviously you like Asia (as I do) 😉

    Now, your topic is quite interesting and I guess Eco Tourism is a big future trend. I saw similar projects already in Laos and I’m kind of suprised that there are companies doing Eco Tourism in such „poor countries“ like India and Laos.

    But…do you know if it is a real „Social Entrepreneurship“? Or is it „just“ a Business with a social unique selling proposition. I mean it’s nothing bad about about a social USP…it’s wonderful, but I think it is intersting to know. For example: One day I visited an company which was organizing „Homestays“ in local villages. It was Eco-tourism, supported by UNESCO and the number of visiting tourists was regulated. BUT they charged each person 1/5 of the average monthly income in the country….for only ONE night in the village. Know, that was no longer a Social Business…for sure they are helping the village but the company did a HUGE profit with the program…so in my opinion is it just a social unique selling proposition.

    So, how is it with the Indian „Help Tourism“ company? Do you think it’s a real Social Business or more a USP?

    BTWl: Your link to the company opens in the same window as the blog – maybe you want to change it so their website will open in a new Window/Tab?

    Looking forward to your next post!

  2. […] her post, Sleeping in the midst of Tigers, Jana got a number of us off to a great start!  This is what I […]

  3. janaberlin sagt:

    Hey Jan,

    Thanks for this great and thoughtful comment and the interesting input. You are right – I like Asia a lot 🙂 Especially India is really fascinating to me and I also like Southeast Asia a lot.
    While travelling in India, I discovered that there are actually a lot of eco tourism projects taking place. I do understand your doubts regarding the fact whether Help Tourism is a „Social Entrepreneurship“ or simply has a unique USP. I have seen similar things like the homestay example mentioned by you. There are even a lot of lodges who claim to be eco-friendly but are exactly the opposite. Such things are so hard to control in these countries.
    However. I am sticking to my opinion that Help Tourism is a proper Social Entrepreneurship. Since I have spent more than a year in India, I know the common local prices for transport, housing etc. The prices Help Tourism charges for the tour packages and other things are very reasonable and I know that most of the revenue the company makes goes into other projects. They also have a lot of volunteers participating in these.
    In the end, it all depends on what exactly Social Entrepreneurship means to you. To me, a Social Entrepreneurship can also have make some profit as long as the prices are reasonable. What do you think?

    I am looking forward to your next comment. And thanks for the hint regarding the opening of links!



  4. Mr. Friday Jan sagt:


    thanks for your answer on my comment and the additional information. What you mentioned is very important, I think it is good to know about „local prices for transport, housing etc“…not only if you do Eco Toursim. It’s always important to know if you travelling in a country with another average yearly income than in your home country.

    Fruthermore, I do agree with you opinion about Social Entrepreneurship as well, even if I would prefere a clear difference between Profit (but social) companies and non-profit comapnies…


  5. […] started off with a post by Jana and response to it by Jan. In her post, Sleeping in the midst of Tigers, Jana got a number of us off to a great start!  This is what I […]

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