Meet the woman who decided to leave the corporate life and create social change
Radha Arakkal left a cushy, corporate job to help create social impact. She is now working as a freelance consultant and mentoring NGOs as they scale their operations and projects.
Most college graduates have common dreams: a well-paid job, plenty of perks, and a comfortable life. But some of them choose to give these comforts up and walk the path less trodden.
Meet Radha Arakkal, who left her cushy, corporate job as Consulting Partner for Brandscapes Worldwide, and decided to live a life that creates social impact. Since 2018, Radha has been working as a freelance consultant in the social sector and is at present mentoring Swapnopuron Welfare Society’s English medium school for 120 children at Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas, a district in West Bengal.
Radha tells Social Story: "I have helped several brands around the world, grow profitably. Now, I am using my learning and skills to help NGOs scale their operations and projects."
In the past year, Radha has taken on a few consulting assignments. With Sattva Consulting she did a research project on Everyday Giving, helped Teach for India with their Fellow Recruitment communications, and mentored small NGOs.
The turning point
Radha, who has worked for over 25 years in the corporate world, holds a BSc degree in physics and an MBA in marketing.
She spent the first 15 years of her career in the field of advertising, specialising in media strategy, and brand strategy. During this time, she handled campaigns of multinational and local brands, working with five global ad agencies in India and the Middle East.
For the next decade, she worked in global marketing consulting and market research, servicing global companies like Coca-Cola and Unilever. In May 2018, Radha decided to quit.
“I was wondering what next. That’s when my husband returned from the gym one rainy July day last year and said that Sangeeta Menon (ILSS Leadership Programme Cohort 1), a neighbour, was talking about something that would interest me,” she recalls.
After a conversation, Radha quickly applied for the August 2018 edition of the ILSS Programme. The essays she wrote as part of the application process forced her to think about what she cared about.
“I knew this (the social sector) is what I wanted to explore,” she says.
Since then, Radha has been actively involved with the social sector.
She did a short consulting stint with Teach for India where she crystallised communication strategy for TFI’s Fellowship Recruitment. She also guided the communications team in developing an interim campaign till a formal digital agency came on board. The campaign was effective, and recruitment exceeded target for that period.
At a Global Action Against Poverty (GAP) conference in Sabarmati, Radha met some small NGOs doing outstanding work in their communities. Inspired by their work, she resolved to work at the grassroot.
Radha visited Swapnopuron Welfare Society’s school in the Sundarbans village in June this year and there has been no looking back.
At present, Radha is actively supporting and mentoring Swapnopuron Welfare Society (SWS), The NGO is small but has big ambitions. From a bamboo and hay shed for 120 children upto Class V, the school wants to grow to 750 children upto Class XII and get a CBSE affiliation. For this, it has acquired land for a pucca school building. Radha is helping them raise funds for their infrastructure and plan for scale.
Speaking about the school, she says,
“If I want to see poverty eradicated from my country, I need to do something about it. What better way than to educate children from our poorest communities and give them a fair chance at a better future? These are such bright children! Their parents believe that a good ‘English medium’ education will improve their chances manifold. That is the dream Swapnopuron is trying to fulfil by bringing quality education to a remote village.”
Radha has met several mid-sized businesses and philanthropists in Mumbai and Kolkata to raise funds for the school. She has raised a fair amount through her personal connections and a Daan Utsav event.
Other than fundraising, Radha is actively mentoring NGO personnel, working on streamlining accounting and reporting systems, helping revamp the NGOs website, and vastly improve communications.
Radha is very keen to leverage technology to bring the best city teachers to the village school digitally. But the village suffers power outage for days at a stretch. The NGO, which is participating in the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K Run, is appealing for funds for a solar power generator on the marathon site.
The school has now found a donor who will fund the school building. There is still a long way to go before the dream of that little village is brought to fruition.
This former Teach for India fellow is making learning fun by taking real-life problem statements to the classrooms
A long way to go
Radha continues to travel and meets large and small NGOs who are doing great work at the grassroots, while she evaluates her options.
Till then, she plans to continue with her endeavour to bring the abundant resources from our cities to underserved communities.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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