Priya Naik - A social worker and entrepreneur rolled into one!
Priya Naik is a woman who truly demonstrates how in contemporary times, a woman can be as much as she wills to be. As the Founder and Joint Managing Director of Samhita Social Ventures, her entrepreneurial bent of mind has primarily been directed towards social causes. Read on to find out more about the lady who is keen to improve the social landscape by engaging different stakeholders:
1. How would you describe yourself in 3 words ?
Persistent, impact-driven, consensus builder.
2. When and how did you get motivated to work for social causes?
I was quite young when my father told me that the privileged life that I lead is a matter of luck and that millions of other children who just happened to be born to poor parents may never have the opportunities that I have. That thought stayed with me. When I was 23, I spent the summer working in four countries in West Africa. I couldn't’t shake the poverty that I saw and knew then that I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to ensure that everyone has the opportunities that they deserve irrespective of gender, income, nationality or caste.
3. What led to the inception of Samhita?
I set up Samhita Social Ventures with the objective of empowering every individual and organization to learn about and create change. Samhita, which means collective good, seeks to build a network of people that have the vision and commitment to leverage their expertise and resources to work collaboratively to pursue initiatives that would create significant social impact. Whether it’s a corporate, a foundation, a social organization or an individual donor, Samhita works towards creating impact-focused strategies that result in deep social change.
4. What has been the biggest milestone in your journey with Samhita?
It is hard to identify one milestone. In four years, we have grown from a motley bunch of interns and volunteers to a team of 25 professionals that advise and work with some of India’s best known companies and social organizations to implement high impact social initiatives. Our biggest achievements are those that catalyze a shift in the way people perceive and fulfil their responsibilities towards society.
5. What are some challenges you have observed in social entrepreneurship?
Social change is extremely complex. There is no single solution to the challenges that people around the world face. Samhita attempts to find answers to these complex challenges and make it easier for people to tackle them head on. We seek to connect different sector players and in the process, we leverage not only our strengths, expertise and experience but also the strengths, expertise and experience of all stakeholders that are in the social sector.
6. What are your future goals and aspirations?
Samhita is in a very interesting and promising place. We are at the epicenter of the Indian social landscape. The new CSR regulation brings with it both significant resources and the attention of the corporate sector. This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to leverage the strengths of business and employ it towards sustainable social change. However, this transformation will only occur when we educate, empower and equip the corporate sector to understand and engage with the social sector, which will take a lot of work from the various actors in the social sector. One of Samhita’s key goals is to ensure that companies get easy access to the most relevant knowledge, resources and partners that they require to participate in and contribute towards a better India. Simultaneously we also intend to build the capabilities of social sector organizations to leverage corporate sector in the most effective and efficient manner. In short, we want to strengthen the Indian social sector ecosystem to create meaningful, lasting change.
7. Prior to establishing Samhita, you had co-founded The Spark Group. Tell us something about it.
My friends, brother and I set up the Spark Group to incubate social enterprises that would provide good quality, affordable education to low income communities. We believe that the Spark Group addressed an extremely critical need for a large section of the Indian community.
8. Any word of advice to our readers with a social bent of mind?
Passion is not enough. Social change is complex and it takes a lot more than just passion to create that change. Spend time learning both about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses and your beliefs. Spend more time learning about the sector and honing hard skills such as strategy, finance, marketing, sales, business development, etc. Self awareness and these skills will go a long way in helping you go from feeling strongly about a particular issue to addressing social issues in your own unique way.
9. What does woman empowerment mean to you?
It means the ability of every woman to recognize her strengths, articulate her expectations from life and then put all her might to ensure that she achieves what is best for herself and those that she cares about. The only way that this will become a reality is if society allows a woman the same opportunities and freedom that we allow men. The world will experience true economic, social and moral prosperity only when we enable and empower all of our brothers and sisters to realize their true potential.
10. Are you glad to be a woman? Why?
I am glad to be a woman, because I choose to focus on the advantages that it offers. If I decided to focus on all the restrictions that it imposes on me, it is easy to blame my luck. I believe that happiness and contentment is a choice.