“I am very happy with the work I do. I wake up happy every morning. I love my days! Sometimes the team calls me in the morning, I’d still be sleeping, and they give me a list of the things they’re working on and that they’re having a great day; and I’m happy then.”
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It isn’t. This is what Surabhi HR, Founder of Political Quotient and Head of Arise India, an NGO, told me when I asked her what her day looked like.
Who is she? Where does she work?
Surabhi is a 20-something Economic (Hons.) graduate from Christ University, Bangalore, who is extremely passionate about studying and bringing a change in the political landscape in India. She started a firm called Political Quotient, a political consultant, in August of 2013 with the intention of working with elected representatives to provide them with basic services like research, event management, etc. “What we learnt during the early days of the company was that a lot of things that happen are intuitive. The reliance on data and the use of technology is very low. The work mechanism was very hap hazard,” she explains.
One of the main aims of Political Quotient is to ensure that elected representatives are using data and technology to the best of their advantage to ensure efficiency. Post the elections, they now offer a service called ‘Constituency Management Services’ to elected representatives at all levels, which is a basket of services to help representatives at the constituency and legislative levels. The service gives elected representatives access to Political Quotient’s political researchers, data analysts and technology team to better manage their various duties such as keeping track of development work, addressing citizen grievances, etc.
“We are developing a few of our own products. The first is a Grievance Redressal Portal, to better connect the citizens and their representatives. We’re also working on a programme for information dissemination and providing feedback on various schemes launched by the governments. Everyone has a mobile phone today, and we’re going to capitalize on that by delivering information directly to the citizens’ phones. We will also provide representatives with data and analytics on the performance of their schemes,” Surabhi reveals.
Does this really work?
Thanks to prevailing stereotypes, I was quick to jump to the conclusion that not many ministers would have been excited about this. The truth, in fact, is quite the opposite. “Anyone who hasn’t seen the industry of politics has the perception that politicians are not responsive to development work. A majority of them understand that at the end of the day they will not be voted back if they don’t work,” she points out. So there are apparently two kinds of politicians; the benevolent ones who work for the work itself, and there are those who work to get voted back. “They are very responsive! It’s really encouraging to see that there is a demand for such a solution, which sometime leads me to wonder why no one else ever thought of starting something like this,” she tells me.
Political Quotient has already seen success, coupled with a healthy positive response from their clients. Over the past few months they have provided tailor-made services to representatives in the form of social media initiatives, legislative research and boundless passion. “We want the work to speak for itself,” she confirms. “With ministers being active in the media all the time they need continuous inputs, and when we give them data that is suited to their needs they’re able to build comprehensive arguments for their side. This is the structure I want to maintain in the political system,” she continues.
The team of five (plus a few interns) is steadily focusing on building and scaling up PQ’s technology. However, they hope to expand up to 20 people by the end of the year. In the future, they plan to diversify into doing workshops in colleges to ignite an interest in politics as a viable career options for students. The internship programme offers an opportunity for people to work alongside representative in their day to day activities. They also plan to take their flagship Constituency Management Services model across the country; for now they’ve expanded their reach to cover South India. “We will have representation in Mumbai and Delhi soon,” she hopes.
“I used to do a lot of things earlier. I think a balanced lifestyle is very important. I sometimes work 24-hour days, and travel at least once in two weeks, so I don’t get time for myself,” she rues. She’s currently studying for a diploma in politics in the London School of Economics’ distance learning programme. “I try doing justice to that every now and then!” she jokes. “I’ve started learning Sanskrit now, and I’ve just found a lady to teach me to chant the Vedas. I am very inclined towards studying religion,” she reveals.
Surabhi also heads the NGO called Arise India, whose primary area of focus is woman and youth empowerment. The NGO runs a project called ‘Dharini’ for women empowerment. They’re also set to launch a project to tackle child sexual abuse via sex education in government schools.
“We have a great set of mentors – industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology experts, etc. I don’t think I would have been anywhere without their help. It would have been impossible to dream to be where I am without them,” she signs off.
On a healthy female representation in the Cabinet
“‘Women in Politics’ is a larger question. I welcome the fact that there are women in the Cabinet, but I don’t think this would necessarily translate into a trickle-down effect. Encouraging young boys and girls to join politics is the way forward. For now, let’s focus on getting capable women into politics, and not just for the sake of getting women into politics,”
On starting and running a business
“It actually hasn’t been hard from the business perspective, but it has been hard from the political perspective. Politics is a one hundred percent male dominated space. Society doesn’t see women in politics, but I enjoy being the woman in politics. The challenges are certainly a lot more, but at the same it is very welcoming for people to see a woman in politics. I have a lot of men supporting me, but I still need to work myself.”
Is her passion for politics infectious? Let us know what you think of the initiative!