Meet the Founder

Nisha Chakravarty, Founder Nuru Social Enterprises


I am a challenger of norms, a math nerd, a graciously opinionated, confident woman, a New Yorker after more than a decade but a Southern girl at heart, a musician, an advocate, and a believer in the importance of laughter and the beauty of a child’s smile. I am all of these things and more because I can be—because luck and circumstances and incredible parents gave me access to education, to unforgettable experiences, and most importantly, to meaningful choices.

My story is that of a first generation immigrant child, raised by highly educated parents who deeply believed in every child’s right to education. However, while other children narrated examples of the pressure to succeed and their “Tiger moms”, my father would look at my test scores, and ask only one question very calmly, “Did you do your best?” Maybe because the only consequence for saying “no” was to be asked “why not”, “yes” became more than a simple, seamless answer, uttered automatically. For, wrapped in that simple question and answer, were many lessons: it’s about the honor of your word, the importance of your conscience, and the obligation to be the best you can be.

It is those beliefs that have guided me through my Wharton undergraduate, my Masters at Columbia University in Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences, and my progressively senior, operational, financial, and strategic roles at Time Inc., Lehman Brothers, and ultimately Goldman Sachs. It is those beliefs that made me walk away from the for-profit banking worlds of London, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and New York, to tackle the challenges of what I believe should be every person’s basic rights—access to healthcare, to education, and to the opportunity to earn a living for themselves and their children. While my time at UNICEF and KIPP indoctrinated me to the non-profit world, I also quickly grew impatient at the prospect of supporting donor-funded models into perpetuity. And thus, knowing that the best I can be means striving to blend my for-profit sensibility with my non-profit heart, I am eager and honored to take on this latest challenge as the founding President of Nuru Social Enterprises.

Nuru Social Enterprises is striving to create a model of financial self-sustainability for local communities, which few others have been able to accomplish

Nuru Social Enterprises is striving to create a model of financial self-sustainability for local communities, which few others have been able to accomplish, thus making its end goal disruptive, bold, audacious, and, I believe very personally, the only long-term solution. I spent many months of my childhood in the heat of Delhi and Mumbai summers and lived in Mumbai for two years in 2008 and 2009. Dharavi, in Mumbai, is Asia’s largest slum, and is lately a large tourist attraction, due to Slumdog Millionaire’s popularity. Seeing the tour cars always disturbs me for many reasons: it glorifies a situation that is not at all glorious, adds an element of indignity to a very personal situation, creates a system where tour organizers profit off of others’ misfortune, and ultimately, does nothing to solve the problem or address the core issues. But there is another piece that few people, certainly not the tourists providing handouts of pencils and apples to children running after the tour cars, see. It is that indomitable, entrepreneurial spirit of those living in poverty, the ability to create solutions for problems they face, to iterate, to
persevere.

It is that very spirit that Nuru Social Enterprises (NSE) endeavors to partner with, by providing start-up capital and business training and why I feel fortunate to engage my business background in building this unique model. Success for NSE will mean an intersection of for-profit returns, generally lower than the market rate, with non-profit virtuosity. It will mean providing local communities with the ability to scale businesses, to gain access to markets, to build a robust market-driven system that is not determined by luck or circumstance. Bold and audacious? Perhaps. Sector-changing? Most likely. Redefining possible? Definitely.

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