‘New Recruits’ Documents Young Entrepreneurs in the Field

BY Larisa Epatko  June 15, 2010 at 6:36 PM EDT

The PBS documentary “The New Recruits” follows three young business students to India, Pakistan and Kenya as they try to apply the concept of social enterprise as an alternative to charity where the poor pay a nominal amount for services in order to make businesses more sustainable.

One of the “recruits” Suraj Sudhakar, who went to Kenya to help Ecotact install pay-toilets in Nairobi, continued his work there after his year-long fellowship with the Acumen Fund ended. He now works for Peepoople, a company that developed a single-use, self-sanitizing and biodegradable toilet bag.

Sudhakar spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about his experiences and those of the other business students in the year-long program, including how they had to adjust their business plans:

“Many times going in, we do not have a very good understanding of the local context and the plans are made with a certain assumption in mind,” he said. “Most of the time what happens is when you get your hands dirty, get into the field, you realize that most of the assumptions were wrong.”

Watch their conversation here:

In April, NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reported on the Ecotact toilet system and the ideas behind it:

“The New Recruits” debuts Tuesday on PBS stations. Check local listings for viewing times.