In a momentous achievement for the Indian social sector, Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, and Shuchin Bajaj, Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Hospitals, have been recognized with the prestigious Social Innovators of the Year 2024 Award by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The announcement was made at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos, Switzerland, echoing the remarkable impact of these social entrepreneurs on a global scale.
This recognition marks the culmination of their journey as winners and finalists of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) Award – India platform, a collaborative initiative between Jubilant Bhartia Foundation (JBF) and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The SEOY India platform serves as a springboard for Indian social innovators to gain international acclaim, with recommendations from the platform influencing the selection for the Schwab Foundation global awards.
Ajaita Shah and Shuchin Bajaj, among the 16 global awardees, join a distinguished community of 477 change leaders dedicated to improving the lives of 891 million people worldwide. The Social Innovators of the Year Awards by Schwab Foundation recognize individuals who are instrumental in driving inclusive growth by implementing practical and sustainable solutions to address challenges in areas such as health, education, environment, technology access, and job creation.
The exponential growth of social innovation worldwide has been highlighted in a study by the Schwab Foundation, indicating the existence of at least 10 million social enterprises globally. In India, the social economy constitutes nearly 10% of employment and approximately 9% of the country’s GDP, as reported in 2018. The Indian impact investing ecosystem is rapidly evolving, positioning the country as one of the largest impact investment destinations among emerging economies.
The 2024 awardees have been recognized across four categories – Social Entrepreneurs, Public Social Innovators, Corporate Social Innovators, and Collective Social Innovators. These categories showcase the diverse efforts contributing to positive societal change. For more information on the award categories and nominations, visit Schwab Foundation.
Ajaita Shah – Empowering Rural Households through Frontier Markets:
Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, has been honored in the Social Entrepreneurs category for her groundbreaking work in establishing an Indian social commerce platform. Frontier Markets focuses on providing a crucial last-mile connection to rural households, particularly women, leveraging convenient smartphone technology. The platform has empowered a rapidly growing community of women entrepreneurs to connect with over 1 million women customers in thousands of villages. Ajaita’s vision extends to serving 100 million rural households by 2030. With over 18 years of experience in rural India, she has been a driving force in microfinance, rural distribution, marketing, and gender-inclusive business models.
Shuchin Bajaj – Bridging Healthcare Gaps with Ujala Cygnus Hospitals:
Shuchin Bajaj, Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Hospitals, is celebrated under the Social Entrepreneurs category for his impactful contributions to healthcare. Operating 20 hospitals in Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Haryana, Ujala Cygnus Hospitals provides super-specialty and emergency healthcare in regions lacking such facilities. Shuchin envisions expanding to 25 hospitals with 2,500 beds by the end of 2025, addressing critical healthcare gaps. Apart from being an eminent physician, Shuchin is an investor in health tech, contributing to the digital health startup Medpho. This initiative ensures surgeries for hundreds of patients each month at zero out-of-pocket costs.
Both Ajaita Shah and Shuchin Bajaj were previously recognized in the Indian context. Shuchin Bajaj secured the prestigious 14th Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) Award – India 2023, while Ajaita Shah was a finalist in the 13th Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award – India 2022.
The collaboration between the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Jubilant Bhartia Foundation began in 2010, with the joint aim of promoting social innovation in India through the SEOY India Award. Over the past decade, this initiative has evolved into one of the most respected awards for social entrepreneurs, fostering and recognizing impactful change-makers in the Indian social sector.
As Ajaita Shah and Shuchin Bajaj stand on the global stage as Social Innovators of the Year, their achievements illuminate the potential and success stories within the Indian social sector, paving the way for more Indian social innovators to garner international recognition.