Empowering Women in Business: Poorvi Shah’s Journey as CEO of Katalyst
Fortune favors individuals who work hard, regardless of their gender. Historically, the male-dominated world hesitated to acknowledge that women were on par with men in terms of hard work, intelligence quotient (IQ), and leadership qualities.
However, the new generation of women worldwide has shattered these negative perceptions and proven themselves in various aspects of life, including the complex and challenging realm of entrepreneurship.
While there are some women who resort to shortcuts, there is no shortage of confident and self-believing women who possess immense determination to surpass the best in the business on their own terms. India, too, boasts a remarkable group of bold and fearless women who have achieved recognition within the country and beyond.
It is widely acknowledged that female entrepreneurs, even the successful ones, do not receive adequate media coverage. In this regard, The CEO Magazine has identified Poorvi Shah, the CEO of Katalyst, as an inspirational figure for all.
Poorvi Shah has defied inherent limitations and roadblocks on her path to success through unwavering zeal, an insatiable thirst for success, and a willingness to go the extra mile. She assumed the role of CEO at Katalyst, an initiative of Human Capital for Third Sector, in January 2015.
With over a decade of experience at The Akanksha Foundation, she excelled in leadership development, student enrichment, teacher training, fundraising, and reporting.
During her tenure as Director for Student Enrichment, Poorvi prioritized character and life skills development in students. She oversaw the Career Resource Centre, Mentor Program, scholarships, alumni engagement, and youth leadership programs like Learning to Lead and Service Learning.
Her responsibilities encompassed program design, review, research, planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment.
Poorvi, along with her students and alumni, actively represented Akanksha in various forums such as the UN Global Forum (WASH), RISE Round Table, InspirED, Youth Leadership Conferences, and Common Purpose.
She also served as a jury member for the Social Innovation Awards at IIT’s Techfest. Her co-authored Annual Report and proposal for Akanksha garnered recognition, receiving the Outstanding Annual Report Award from CSO Partners and the NGO of the Year Award from Resource Alliance and Rockefeller Foundation, respectively.
Equity in education and empowerment are Poorvi’s passions, and she thoroughly enjoys engaging with people from all walks of life.
Dreams and Aspirations
When asked about her dream as a businesswoman, Poorvi Shah reveals that her aspiration was to make a positive impact on society. Her focus goes beyond personal success, emphasizing the importance of creating a meaningful change in the world.
Poorvi considers her appointment as the CEO of Katalyst and subsequently taking the organization to new heights as her greatest professional accomplishment. This achievement holds significant value to her, especially considering that she never anticipated holding such a position.
Challenges to Female Leadership
According to Poorvi, the biggest challenge to female leadership originates within women themselves. She highlights the tendency for women to create mental and physical roadblocks that hinder their progress. She emphasizes the need for women to believe in their own capabilities as leaders and recognize their true potential.
Decisions and Turning Points
The best decision Poorvi ever made was transitioning from the corporate sector to the social sector. This shift marked a turning point in her life, offering her a profoundly enriching experience.
The satisfaction and fulfillment she gains from working in the social sector surpass any monetary rewards she could have received in the corporate world. Poorvi highlights the significant impact this decision had on her personal growth and the beneficiaries she serves.
Inspiration and Influence
Poorvi finds inspiration in the remarkable work of Shaheen Mistri, the founder of the Akanksha Foundation and Teach For India. She admires Shaheen’s passion, energy, creative ideas, and resilience. Having the privilege of working closely with her, Poorvi has gained valuable insights and motivation.
Furthermore, every student she has taught has served as a constant source of inspiration, pushing her to strive for continuous improvement.
Contributing Factors to Success
Poorvi attributes her success to various individuals and factors in her life. She acknowledges the pivotal role played by her parents in shaping her thinking and instilling strong values. Additionally, she expresses gratitude to her husband, children, and in-laws for their unwavering support and encouragement.
Poorvi also recognizes the importance of mentors and bosses who have provided her with opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute meaningfully.
Strategies for Success
Initially, Poorvi dedicated time to understanding Katalyst’s operations and identified areas that required strengthening. Drawing on the support and insights of key individuals, she devised a one-year plan with timelines and began executing it alongside the existing team.
Through a systematic approach, Poorvi identified and addressed gaps, increased visibility for Katalyst, and implemented an end-to-end management information system (MIS) to enhance efficiency and accuracy in data and reporting.
Defining Success and Long-term Vision
Success, according to Poorvi, is not a static concept. She defines it as a journey marked by achieving milestones while consistently pushing boundaries. To achieve long-term success, Poorvi emphasizes the need for a clear vision and a well-thought-out plan. While challenges are inevitable, she advises not to give up and instead transform each challenge into an opportunity for growth.
Both Poorvi and Katalyst share a vision of seeing more women in leadership positions, especially in the workplace. To realize this vision, they aim to scale up their efforts by creating a replicable and sustainable model that can be implemented across India and internationally.
Poorvi highlights the need to enhance women’s competencies and expand the talent pool for Indian businesses, addressing the existing gender disparity in senior management roles.