Through the latticework of career and purpose

Careers today are rarely a straight ladder, they look more like a lattice with myriad options to move up, sideways, change tracks and take turns.
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Vrunda Bansode

Change is the only constant in life, as they say. Reflecting on my career, it’s clear that change, in all its forms, has shaped my professional journey.  However, it’s through these changes that you find your one constant – something that anchors and at the same time propels you. From starting at a multinational after business school, to pursuing personal ventures, to joining a startup incubator, and finally contributing to an impact-focused consulting firm, change has been my steadfast companion. Amidst these shifts, one thing remains unchanged: my readiness to embrace opportunities and challenge the status quo to drive improvement. 

The Power of Innovation

My journey with innovation began in an unexpected manner. While my formal education might not have been directly aligned with my pursuits, I quickly learned that passion and a willingness to learn are invaluable assets.

Although I lacked formal qualifications in programming, the pressing need to automate tedious accounting processes at my initial workplace prompted me to create a software solution. Similarly, I wasn’t an educator by any stretch of imagination, but the sheer mundaneness of theoretical teaching in our classrooms propelled me to build an experiential education venture.

Entrepreneurship does not always mean founding billion-dollar companies; being entrepreneurial also means solving small problems around you in a new way all the time. And once you have tasted change, it’s difficult to go back to living with the status quo. 

Discovering My Purpose

Eventually when I joined Sattva, it was with a lot of trepidation – I had never worked in the impact sector, I did not know what the difference between outcome and impact was, I had never taken a dev economics class, I did not know what ‘graduation approach’ meant! Yet, with the help of my supportive colleagues and fueled by my eagerness to learn, I embarked on a path of deliberate experimentation and learning from failures without embarrassment. 

My role at Sattva involved setting up the branding and marketing function. I realised quickly that the standard way of doing things was not going to work for us. We were in a nascent sector in India, in an organisation occupying a unique place in the ecosystem, and that meant building our own playbook. And so we did – a lot of heart, coupled with a clear head with analytical rigour, and many carefully executed frugal experiments went into it.

India Data Insight- A Vision Realised: 

While exploring some of the building blocks of who we needed to be as an organisation, I discovered my hitherto unknown passion–data!

 In a country as diverse, populous, and rapidly transforming as ours, the challenge of crafting impactful policy and programme decisions for millions was evident. In a hugely diverse, populous, and rapidly changing country like ours, how do you make policy and programme decisions to impact millions? How do you make those decisions better? With every funder asking for more numbers to base decisions on, how could we help NGOs access data more quickly? 

Thus was born the idea of India Data Insights – a portal to bring together secondary macro socio-economic indicators and provide those as easily usable, analysed, visualised insights. It meant creating a quick and lean minimum viable pilot, figuring out the tech stack, finding the right design and development partners, getting the right talent onboard – and all of it without ever losing the focus on what customers needed!

Better qualified experts joined on the way to making this vision a reality. Presently, IDI’s reports and insights—be it research on the state of healthcare in India, or  an initiative focused on Aspirational Districts, or the annual CSR report—have seamlessly integrated into Sattva’s data-driven advisory services.The beauty of being an intrapreneur is that you already have access to customers and resources, balanced by the need to ensure the fitment of the new product with what the organisation already offers

Fostering a Culture of Intrapreneurship 

​​My intrapreneurial journey continues to this day. And it’s not just me; many of my colleagues are building fantastic products, solutions and playbooks every day.  Without innovation, without risk-taking, without experimentation we cannot hope to solve issues of poverty, scarcity, unsustainable change that have plagued us for ages. Old thinking has clearly not solved old problems! At Sattva, everyone is actively encouraged to be curious, learn, develop a point of view with passion, ideate, experiment, build, learn from failure without fear, and progress.

Careers today are rarely a straight ladder, they look more like a lattice with myriad options to move up, sideways, change tracks and take turns.This realisation lies at the core of our approach at Sattva. While expertise remains a cornerstone, we also value the transferable skills and valuable experiences that individuals from various fields bring, propelling our journey and growth through diverse perspectives and ideas, ultimately leading to a more impactful outcome.

Impact Is Everybody’s Business

Today, I feel happy and proud as I reflect on my contribution to creating impact. What I’ve learned along the way is that ‘Impact’ isn’t confined to grassroots NGO workers, billionaire philanthropists, or governments alone. Society is ever changing, its problems change shape too and what we all need is to steer the change in the right direction. This includes the profound influence of technologies like WhatsApp and accessible mobile data, which have transformed India too. Businesses wield a societal impact, and so does each one of us. This ethos is embodied in Sattva’s mantra—Impact is everybody’s business.

Vrunda Bansode is Partner – Central Functions at Sattva

Sattva has been working with various non-profits and social organisations as well as corporate clients to help them define their social impact goals. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. We assist organisations in formulating their long-term social impact strategy by strategically aligning with business to provide meaningful solutions to social issues.
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