Tell us about yourself, your current role, and your professional journey.
My name is Priya Nadkarni. I am the founder of Mrida Education and Welfare Society and we work with tribal children from single parent families or orphans in Mandla (Madhya Pradesh) since 2016. We provide schooling, residential support, food, health check-ups, training in football and/or coding.
We are in a region where school dropouts at high school are 30% and even the ones who are completing school are engaged in migrating for manual labour, doing petty jobs, subsistence farming and criminal activities. Skilling hasn’t helped too as there have been numerous organizations and initiatives. Most youth return to their villages after spending 3-6 months working in jobs they have been placed in, after undergoing a skills training program.
While there are Government schools in the region, 1 out of 2 people don’t actually believe that education will lead to income or employment. We are looking to change that by creating role models for this region, and demonstrating that consistent hard work does pay off. This vision of transformation for eastern MP is a long-term process and we are committed to it fully.
I graduated from ISB in 2010 and started working with Unitus Capital in Bangalore, immediately after that. I worked there till the end of 2012 and then took up a consulting project with another large non-profit on skills training for tribal youth that required me to move to Mandla. After spending several years working in that area, I decided to work with children.
What inspired you to join the PGP programme at ISB especially when it was in its infancy and when there were other choices?
The one-year program at ISB seemed right because I was keen to live and work in India. I also wanted to get back to working soon enough. I completed my PGP in 2010 so the School already had a good number of alumni in the industry back then – of course not as many as today.
Where did you think you were headed in your career before you took the course? How has the overall ISB experience affected the direction and what has been the ROI?
I have always been focused on learning and what I gain out of an experience in terms of personal growth rather than ROI. Prior to ISB, I was a financial journalist, writing on capital markets for Business Standard in Mumbai. I have enjoyed working directly with people and building strong relationships with them. The ISB experience exposed me to newer ways of thinking and people who I would otherwise, never have met. It gave me all the necessary skills required to make sense of a complex multi-dimensional problem and build an organization to solve it.
What ISB memories do you connect with most profoundly?
Taking walks at night in ISB Hyderabad’s beautiful campus is immensely stimulating. I discovered many new titles on the fourth floor of the library and re-read some old classics in my time there.
Your passion for entrepreneurship is quite intriguing. Was it a planned career path? How rewarding do you find it?
When I decided to start up, I had been in Madhya Pradesh for 4 years. I understood the community and the problems – I was clear that I wanted to work on something that would transform the community rather than work on piecemeal impact. The only way I could do that was if I had end-to-end control over the learning process – therefore, we decided to work with a select group of children in a focused, intensive way and then extend our learnings and best practices to sports, education and employment in the region. We are very clearly a region-focused non-profit in a region that has 2,00,000 children
How have you handled challenging times and what have your learnings been?
I find the work and words of Swami Vivekanand immensely inspiring and they have helped me in handling challenging times. All of our work is service and it is my good fortune that I have the opportunity to do it. I am very grateful to family, friends and the ISB community for supporting our work.