by: Scott Goodson

I have been interviewing a select group of people who impress me and who are doing their own thing in their own way. Stanley Hainsworth, Creative Director of Starbucks, Kerri Martin, and Lee Daley, former dude from Manchester United. I've been calling it Goodson Lunchtime chats.

Now, I am adding an interview with the Director of Nanhi Kali, one of the world's leading not for profit organizations. She is a visionary. And in a marketing world looking for innovative thinkers in the digital space, she's a trailblazer. Watch this.

Enjoy

Tell me about your life?

I've always been a challenger. But in a positive way. Just a year and nine months after my brother was born, my twin sister and I arrived in this world. Since I was the last to arrive I was always considered the youngest, so from my earliest days I had to find ways of being heard. We are a very close family. It was a lot of fun finding ways to make my point of view heard. Growing up in Bombay in a close knit and loving family were some of the best days of my life! In School, my sister and I teamed up with 2 other pairs of twins and collectively drove every teacher crazy as they just couldn’t tell us apart. It's no wonder that I graduated from Mumbai University with a double major in Psychology and Sociology and a minor in Economics!

Your career?

Did I mention that I love a good challenge? Soon after graduating, I joined one of the largest Automobile manufacturers in India, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. as a Management Trainee, and was confirmed in their Marketing Department. I lived through the transition from a Sellers Market as a result of a closed economy to a more competitive “buyers” market due to the economic liberalization in India. Opportunity came my way, and I worked with a team at Mahindra with international partners like Chrysler and Renault, studying the feasibility of launching their products in India. I was also selected to be part of a Fact Finding team which traveled through many parts of the world looking for the right joint venture partners. Eventually we did get into a joint venture with Ford Motor Co, and I was selected as the Brand Manager by the joint venture, Mahindra Ford India. I returned to Mahindras as the Bolero Product Manager which is today the largest selling SUV in the country. I was also part of the team which launched the Scorpio in India.

Though India was poised for economic growth, which would have only benefited me personally in my Marketing career, approximately 5 years back, I suddenly felt the need to do something more meaningful for the huge underserved sections of society living in our country. The late founder of the Mahindra group had set up the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, which had a vision of transforming the lives of Indians, through education. I was extremely touched with a project conceptualized by the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra which the Trust had begun in 1996 called Nanhi Kali, which aimed at changing the life of an underprivileged girl child in India. I applied for a position at the Trust, and was appointed as Executive Director of the Trust, and within a year was heading both the Mahindra Foundations and was soon also appointed as Chief – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the Mahindra group. The last 5 years have been extremely challenging and fulfilling at the same time. I am happy to say the Foundations have grown and we have been able to reach out to 38000 girls from 1700 when I joined the Trust, but with a vision of reaching 100000 by next year, this journey is just beginning.

Any regrets?

I recently read a quote from Zachary Scott - “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.” Yes, there are many things I didn’t do and wish I could have done them but then I still have a lifetime ahead of me!

Greatest Lessons?

Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams. Be positive. Defy evil.

Stuff no one knows about?

While at school, a few friends and I decided to explore our school building which was built over a century back. We discovered a small room on a terrace which we were prohibited from entering. The room had no door but had large windows through which you could enter. Being adventurous, I decided to jump in, and landed up falling right through the floor down 20 feet into the room below, which turned out to be the Teachers Staff room! And the teachers ran out thinking a tank was falling through!

The future; where's it all heading?

We need to define this space. It's a new world. And there are many new opportunities if you take the time to look. My immediate goal is to reach out to 100000 girls by next year. If you are reading this, please go to girlsmiles.org and click on donate and donate $65 to support a girl for a year.

Help transform their lives. To change mindsets. Creating awareness of the cause. All of what I am doing finally boils down to Marketing. But not traditional marketing, but rather Innovative Marketing.

What defines you?

Zag when everyone else is zigging. Be committed and passionate about whatever I do.

Spiritual home?

Family and friends. And spirituality.

What are you up to now?

I am having a lot of fun doing important work. I am very excited about my vision and the challenge of finding a new innovative way to create awareness and build new relationships for Nanhi Kali, without wasting money buying traditional media. StrawberryFrog , have used their creative instincts, and come out with a truly innovative communication tool , a revolutionary new website which uses the social media on the internet to provide information on Nanhi Kali and links us to the users of these sites. Check it out on girlsmiles.org

Who are your heroes in life?

I have many heroes – anyone who does something creative, new, defies tradition, but my biggest heroes are the courageous underprivileged, especially women, who have managed to break free from the shackles of poverty, and are now standing on their two feet. In my line of work, I am fortunate to have met a few.

5yrs from now.......????..

I hope to see governments, corporations, individuals and not for profits working in partnerships each extending forth their skill, their expertise to make this world a better place for all!

Original Post: http://scottgoodson.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/05/sheetal-mehta-.html

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