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Neera Nundy is Co-Founder at Dasra - India’s leading strategic philanthropic foundation. Dasra actively shapes the process of social change by forming powerful partnerships with funders and social enterprises. Since its inception in 1999, Dasra has accelerated social change by driving collaborative action through powerful partnerships among a trust-based network of stakeholders (corporates, foundations, families, nonprofits, social businesses, government and media). Over the years, Dasra has deepened social impact in focused fields that include adolescents, urban sanitation and governance and has built social capital by leading a strategic philanthropy movement in the country.

In our conversation, we spoke about how she and Deval Sanghavi (her husband) started Dasra about 19 years back after their initial careers in Banking in the US. We also discussed how she has evolved as a leader as the organization has grown, the challenges in people transitioning from a corporate career to the Social Impact world, what comes in the way of Founders of Social Enterprises letting go as the organization scales up and more.

Published in July 2018.

Early formative years

Neera talks about how her early years in a Boarding school in Bangalore (while her parents were in Canada) shaped her as a person and gave her a grounded understanding of India despite her parents immigrating to Canada after graduating from IIT Kharagpur.

Changing orbit - HBS, Wall-Street and Dasra

Neera talks about her transitions to Morgan Stanley, Harvard Business School, UBS and then to Co-founding Dasra with her spouse – Deval Sanghavi. She talks about the mindset with which she started thinking about her HBS degree. She talks about moving from seeing it as an asset you could market to something she could leverage and extend to drive impact in the Social Impact world.

Thinking about levers of Impact

Neera talks about how Dasra has evolved into an organization that works in three broad areas (Research, Building Organizations and Giving Strategically). She also talks about the way Dasra has made choices as it has grown as an organization and how it plans to measure impact and success as it grows into the future.

Role clarity with co-founders

Dasra was co-founded by Neera Nundy and Deval Sanghavi in 1999\. They discuss how they have evolved their roles as the organization has grown over time. She talks about how they have gravitated to playing roles that are in line with their sources of energy and strength.

Evolving the goal-post at Dasra

Neera talks about how she and Deval have thought about where they have wanted to take Dasra. She also discusses how when they had a funding challenge a few years back, they had to revisit almost all of their key assumptions and have an honest discussion about where they wanted to take Dasra and move forward with increased conviction.

Transitioning roles within Dasra

Neera talks about how she has thought about her role as Dasra has grown and her plans for governance as we look to the future. She talks about the interconnect between the personal and professional life and how the role she has played in Dasra has been in the context of her personal context.

Leadership Development in Social Impact space

Neera talks about some of the common challenges that entrepreneurs in the Social Impact space face. She talks about founders often being “too mission driven” and thereby coming in the way of systems and processes that could build the organization sustainably. She also talks about the Founders not spending enough time on what they are distinctive in leading to spreading themselves across too many areas.

Transitioning to the Social Impact world

Neera talks about the distinction between Needs and Wants as people think about a career in Social Impact as against the Corporate world (although the lines between the two are being blurred). She also discusses some of the real challenges when people with a long successful tenure in the Corporate world transition to the Social Impact world. She shares her perspectives on how could adapt well into the new context.

Distinctive leaders in the Social Impact space

Neera talks about some of the unique characteristics of the distinctive leaders that have made a lasting contribution in the Social Impact space. She talks about a combination of a desire for large-scale impact coupled with empathy for the consumer whose needs and wants they want to address.

In Summary - Playing to Potential

Neera talks about how it is not about each of us individually fulfilling our potential but more about how we can work with a group of people and unlock greater possibilities. She also discusses how we all get cues along the way that nudge us in certain directions for us to pursue the path that that could enable us to fulfil our potential

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