5 Competitions in Asia For Social Entrepreneurs

Flickr/CC/Pictures of money

By Beatrice Loh

Competitions are a great way for new social startups to gain experience and funding. Often, many of these competitions also give mentorship opportunities with experts from relevant fields to help social enterprises develop their ideas and strategies. Prizes are attractive, with most competitions offering large grants that can help kick-start a social initiative. Even if unsuccessful, competitions offer social startups the chance to develop their business strategy in more detail and are great for networking and learning from more successful social enterprises.

Here is a list of 5 competitions in Asia that social enterprises should watch out for:


  • DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge

The DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge is an Asia-wide competition for social enterprises, open to any member of the public. It is organized by NUS Enterprise, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) business incubator, and the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) Foundation, a corporate foundation solely dedicated to championing social entrepreneurship in Asia. The Challenge aims to identify and support new social ventures that have the potential to generate positive, scalable and sustainable social impact.

Participants are supported and mentored by some of the most experienced practitioners in this field through workshops held across Asia for two months. Aspiring social entrepreneurs will be equipped with tools to model, test and get valuable feedback on their idea, with the help of mentors. Shortlisted semifinalists are given the opportunity to travel to Singapore for mentoring and coaching with experts before facing the semifinal and final rounds of judging.

The grand prize of the competition is SGD $100, 000 in seed funding. The first and the second runners-up will receive seed funding of SGD $30, 000 and SGD $20, 000 respectively. Finalists and winners will receive priority consideration from partners of the competition for post-competition support, which may include mentorship, incubation or even further funding.

With prizes and meaningful networks, the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia will increase the impact of winning entries and is a fantastic learning experience for all participants.

For more information, visit the website.


  • Asia Social Innovation Award

Asia Social Innovation Award (ASIA) was launched in 2008 and aims to promote social entrepreneurship and business 2.0 concepts in Asia through a social innovation idea competition. This competition is unique because it provides a platform for idea-stage entrepreneurs to kick-start projects through cross-country networking and expertise exchanges – that means the competition is mainly for ideas and concepts, rather than established companies.

The competition is organized by Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVhk), Hong Kong’s first non-profit venture philanthropy organization. SVhk provides financial and non-financial support to social enterprises as part of its dedication to nurture social innovation. It is co-organized by ChangeFusion, a Bangkok-based organization that grows social entrepreneurs for creative and sustainable change, and Social Enterprise Insights (SEI), the first Mandarin-based online information platform about social enterprises and social innovation from Taiwan.

After participants are shortlisted by region through a “Best Social Start-Up Idea” competition, they are invited for a coaching session in Hong Kong where they will have the opportunity to sharpen their idea and business model. Winners are chosen according the creativity, social need solubility, feasibility, sustainability and scalability of their idea.

Each regional award winner will get HK$ 2,000, and the Grand Award of Social Innovator will get an additional HK$ 2,000. Although the prizes are not as great in value as some of the others on this list, this competition is a great opportunity for social entrepreneurs who are merely in the idea stage to get their ideas validated and to network.

For more information, visit the website.


  • D-Prize

D-Prize is a unique competition for social entrepreneurs because it focuses on the distribution of poverty solutions, rather than the creation of such solutions. According to the organizers of this competition, the world has already invented many effective poverty solutions, but most fail to reach actual people in need.

D-Prize set a list of distribution challenges and asks interested parties to design a new social enterprise to solve them. If selected, winners can get up to US$20, 000 to launch a pilot in a developing region. D-Prize will award 5 – 15 social entrepreneurs funding. If the pilot is successful, D-Prize will help them to find future funding to grow the project to impact millions. Although existing organizations that want to pilot new distribution-focused initiatives may apply, if the enterprise is over 12 months old, has already raised more than US$ 100, 000 and is not piloting a new distribution-focused initiative, D-Prize is unlikely to offer funding.

Although the competition is not restricted to the Asian region, the distinctive focus on distribution solutions means a higher impact on the targeted groups, and is a competition worth considering for social enterprises all around the world.

For more information, visit the website.


  • Genesis

Genesis is a social entrepreneurship competition that aims to bring together students, entrepreneurs, NGOs, innovators, incubators, corporates and financers and to create a holistic platform for the initiation and development of exemplary social enterprise models. Genesis has been recognized in a study by Georgetown University as being one of the premier competitions of its type for its reach, as well as for the ideas generated through the exercise.  As India’s biggest social entrepreneurship competition, most entries are local, although its reach has expanded over the years.

Spread over 6 – 7 months, Genesis provides a stage for those interested in the social entrepreneurship field to develop their innovations and business ideas in detail, receive mentorship, network and have a chance of winning seed money to launch their projects. Cash prize money for the competition is Rs. 400, 000, and participants are also given a formal introduction to a team of angel investors for further funding opportunities. As part of the competition, finalists have extensive mentoring for a duration of two months.

Genesis hopes to encourage business ideas that can bring about radical improvements, catering to specific problems faced by society. The competition also gives participants a chance to build a community with an extensive network to like-minded people through which they can find partners, mentors and financers.

For more information, visit the website.


  • TATA Social Enterprise Challenge


The TATA Social Enterprise Challenge is a great opportunity for India-based startups. TATA Social Enterprise Challenge is a joint initiative by the TATA group and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM Calcutta). Based in India, the Challenge aims to find the country’s most promising social enterprises. The competition also aims to raise awareness for social entrepreneurship and encourage youth to join the sector as the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

The TATA Social Enterprise Challenge targets social entrepreneurs at the earlier stages of creating a social startup. It invites those who either have an early stage venture or an idea with a proof of concept to participate. The proposed venture needs to have sustainable business model that will create social impact. Shortlisted participants will be invited to attend a 3-week mentorship program, which includes instruction at the IIM Calcutta campus.

Social entrepreneurs identified through the competition will be offered mentorship support, awarded cash grants and have an opportunity to pitch for funding and incubation at IIM Calcutta. The top 3 winners of the competition will receive up to Rs. 200, 000 each to be invested into their ventures.

For more information, visit the website