Indian American entrepreneur and philanthropist Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, the Massachusetts-based founder of Sycamore Networks and co-founder of Cascade Communications, hopes to extend “Sandbox,” his social entrepreneurship model, to at least 100 locations in India, Times of India reported recently.
An initiative of the Deshpande Foundation — the family foundation he launched with his wife, Jaishree — Sandbox Startups Incubation is an ecosystem where entrepreneurs transform ideas into successful enterprises. It taps into the expertise of entrepreneurs, mentors, government leaders, policymakers, investors and financial institutions.
A Sandbox in Telangana was recently co-launched by Deshpande, Redbus co-founder Phanindra Sama and Raju Reddy, former CEO and founder of U.S.-based Sierra Atlantic.
Another initiative was launched in Varanasi in January in association with the Ek Soch Foundation, a social initiative of Dilip Modi’s Spice Mobility, the Times said. A third Sandbox is planned in Gujarat.
“We need help from other people. If we get about 100 Sandboxes in the country, we can spread our network to about 600 districts,” Deshpande told Times of India.
Rajender Singh of DLF Foundation, Sangita Reddy of Apollo Hospitals and Srinivasa Raju of Peepul Capital are among those who have offered their support.
Deshpande said about 30 ventures have come out of the Hubli-based Sandbox initiative. They receive seed funding and mentoring. Enterprises funded so far include a brake system for bullock carts that don’t harm animals when brakes are applied, and a machine to sort cashews by quality standards.
At the launch of the Varanasi project in January, about 25 projects were showcased. They will be evaluated for possible support and funding.
With programs like “Make in India, the country has “taken up entrepreneurship-friendly initiatives,” Deshpande said. “It is a hub of talent.”
In December, Forbes India named Deshpande the winner of its “Distinguished Non-Resident Philanthropist” award for his efforts to help Indian non-governmental organizations scale up.
“As an entrepreneur, you need to identify a problem and scale up," the 64-year-old entrepreneur told Forbes India.
“The same holds true for the philanthropy space where people need help scaling up. That is where we step in. An idea does not have an impact unless it is directed at some burning problem in the world."