Meet the SHEROES - Priya Naik

Last updated 28 Jul 2015 . 5 min read

Today we share the entrepreneurial journey of Priya Naik, founder and CEO of Samhita Social Ventures . This unique ‘CSR Marketplace’ was set up five years ago with the aim of providing all with equal opportunities. Priya, a modest young woman with a dream has always believed in the concept of ‘giving back’,

Let’s hear what she has to say to us today.                                            

Tell us a little about yourself, your childhood, what inspires you.

Growing up I think there was always this strong sense within the whole family that you don’t take your privilege for granted. My grandfather was an orphan who came to Bombay with nothing.  My father studied under streetlights, but he studied hard and did well for himself. My family history has made me conscious of the fact that I was luckier than a lot of other people. There was this sense that your choice of profession or the way you conduct yourself in life, needs to be in a way that you are creating a better world. It was ingrained within me that you always need to give back.

I find inspiration all around me, because there is never a shortage of challenges or opportunities. I am inspired by the efforts of people who tackle challenges, leverage opportunities and make this world a better place.

How did the idea of Samhita come about and what are the main objectives of the venture?

India is a very diverse and very complex place. Any single social issue that you try to address has multiple facets and we believe that you need to work on creating collaborative platforms and leverage a diverse set of stakeholders to create significant impact. Samhita is all about bringing together these diverse set of stakeholders, creating a map and ensuring that these partnerships work to create a larger impact.

I set up Samhita Social Ventures five years ago with the objective of empowering every individual and organization to learn about and create change. The key driver for me is the desire to ensure that everyone, regardless of caste, religion, country of birth or their family’s income levels, has access to equal opportunities.

A lot of companies, especially MNC's have policies in place for CSR. What is your take on how Indian companies should handle the same, and suggestions on this matter?

Although today we do most of our work in CSR we are looking at how to move beyond this. We want to look at how you can weave social responsibility into the DNA of any company. So it becomes about how to make companies cognizant of the relationship they share with society and the responsibility that comes with that. We want them to start asking how they can leverage their own strengths to be able to make a significant contribution. So basically it should be about three things - the recognition and awareness of their relationship with society, a sense of responsibility that comes with the realization and then developing an engagement strategy to address the issues within society.

What areas in India require more CSR contribution? (Education / Healthcare / Rural development, etc). How does Samhita try and focus on this?

So many things in India need help. The question is more about what can a company, or a group of companies, do that can be really catalytic? Something that everybody can bring their strengths and competencies to bear. That’s the lens that we look at it from. There are 2 ways to look at this: one is to ask what can a specific set of individuals do, the other is to see how you can create an ecosystem so that collaboratively we can create more change.

In India, when it comes to CSR, what do you think lack in the minds of the businessmen / entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurs and businessmen are focused on building or growing their own enterprise and the reality is that they don’t have the time to think about these things. And that’s okay. They should be maximising the value of their own business. I think it is left to people like us to actually go to them with a clear road-map and a value proposition, like a clear plan in terms of how they themselves, or their employees, or their company, can engage with society. Once that happens, once you give them a road-map, you create a business plan document and you de-risk that process they are far more willing to engage with CSR. The intent to do something good is always there, as human beings. The question is, how can we help you translate that intent into action?

What is your average work-day like at Samhita?

My day is usually a combination of things. There’s a lot of focus on the team and building out the organisation so that we’re better prepared to respond to needs. We’re constantly looking out for new opportunities, servicing clients etc.

What future plans do you have for this venture?

Samhita is right now in a very interesting and promising place. We sit in the middle of multiple stakeholders and have to address different needs. In the last year, we have grown by leaps and bounds, both in terms of the number of clients and partners we have worked with, as well as the sheer volumes of beneficiaries we have addressed. I want us to be an organisation that is responsible for creating impact through collaboration on a large scale.

A few words of advice for our readers?

I think women especially have a natural empathy and an orientation towards this sector and I feel like many are waiting for the right opportunity to do something. But honestly there is no right opportunity – you just need to start. It can be with something very simple. So you can start by finding an issue that you identify with. Unlike other sectors the social sector is very open. We always need help, we’re always open to receiving help, so if you want to do something good just reach out.

Priya Naik
Paroma Sen
Paroma Sen is a professional content and creative writer.

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