Be! Fund: Promoting social entrepreneurship

Since 2011, Deutsche Bank has actively partnered with Be! Fund, India’s first non-profit venture fund. Young people receive seed capital and guidance to realize their ideas for solving local social, economic and environmental problems. In the course of several weeks, Deutschbankers assist the project on-site.

India is booming, but despite the growing economy, unemployment and poverty are on the rise in broad sections of the population. By 2020, the country is expected to have more than 210 million unemployed people, 90 percent of them young people under the age of 30. Innovative ideas are needed to give people access to water and energy as well as waste disposal and health services and to ensure their safety. The aim of Be! Fund is to promote solutions to local problems while at the same time creating opportunities for young people in India.

Be! Fund began with the non-profit organization “Going to School in India.” More than half of all children in India leave school without graduating because education for them is no job guarantee. To counter this perception, the initiative has been producing high-quality textbooks for more than 10 years designed to help children develop entrepreneurial skills in a playful manner. With so-called Be! Fund books, school children learn how important education is for their working lives later on and what they need to have to launch their own enterprises.

Be! Fund impact

83 entrepreneurs funded
34 women / 49 men
26 funded by Deutsche Bank
178 jobs created
5 reinvestments
Be! Books – an initiative of “Going to School India”
Supported by Be! Fund: Maheshwari from Kolar

Letting business ideas become reality

For “Going to School in India”, supporting skills development in school was only the beginning. To actually help children not only dream up entrepreneurial ideas but also realize them, Be! Fund – its venture fund launched in 2011 – provides financial and organizational assistance to selected young entrepreneurs. The social entrepreneurs are accompanied on their way toward self-empowerment. Start-up capital and a jointly developed business plan are the basis for turning young Indians into social entrepreneurs who create jobs and improve everyday life in their communities with their ideas.

Take for example Maheshwari: Her homeland, the abandoned Kolar mining region, suffers from high unemployment and power outages. With solar-powered lamps, Maheshwari provides a sustainable energy supply and creates jobs, both of which have a positive impact on the entire region. Making the world a little more greener is the vision of Archana, who has become a successful entrepreneur thanks to Be! Fund. Archana and her 85 employees take betel palm leaves in her native Karnataka region and process them into recyclable plates to replace plastic ones.

Employee engagement

Deutsche Bank supports Be! Fund not only financially but also through employee expertise. Under its Corporate Community Partnership Program, the bank sends employees to emerging nations to advice local non-profit organizations. Joris Hensen, for instance, travelled twice for several weeks to New Delhi to consult the Be! Fund team. He developed a software to evaluate the social and financial implications of individual business ideas, in addition to visiting supported social entrepreneurs in the city. For the organization’s school initiative, Konstanze Hertel also spent four weeks in India developing an online funding campaign to expand the Be! Books success in other schools. Julia Blankenberg connected the two initiatives and identified which skills are most important for the entrepreneurs and develop books teaching children at school those skills. One outcome was to introduce financial literacy skills, for which Oliver Jacob designed the first content for a game.

Additionally, a group of volunteers did co-found a German based non-profit ("Be!Fund Germany") to help Be!Fund and Going to School India with fundraising and communication.

The search for local models is continuously expanded. The organization aims to further grow over India and to use their experience from India to scale their approach to other countries. The organization will continue to be actively supported by Deutsche Bank. In particular in their efforts to grow in India.

Deutschbanker Joris Hensen reports on his volunteering work with Be! Fund
Deutschbanker Konstanze Hertel in India
Be! Fund social entrepreneur Maheshwari

Maheshwari brings solar energy to her village with optimism and a sustainable business idea

Be! Fund supports Maheshwaris’ solar-powered lamp idea

With Maheshwarie’s solar-powered lamps, evenings remain brighter for longer

Be! Fund social entrepreneur Archana

A successful businesswoman: Archana has created jobs for her entire village with her biodegradable disposable plate business

Be! Fund social entrepreneur Shankar

Shanker sits in a wheelchair and knows how difficult it is to find work. People with disabilities produce clothing in his company and are compensated fairly

Be! Fund social entrepreneur Lakshmi

A clear no to plastic: With her small company, Lakshmi produces bags from old newspapers, helping improve the waste situation in her slum in Bangalore

Deutschbanker Joris Hensen visits Be! Fund

Strategic planning: Deutschbanker Joris Hensen visits the Be! Fund team

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