Enriching to work with social enterprise in India

Last month I had the privilege to return to India to do a workshop on Performance Management with Women on Wings’ partner Grameena Vikas Kendram (GVK). I travelled to Visakhapatnam in the state of Andra Pradesh, a beautiful area at the Bay of Bengal: rough sea, long beaches with palm trees, fishermen and lush greenery. With 38 degrees Celsius and considerable humidity, it was very hot. The boulevard in Vishakhapatnam is only open till 8AM for walkers and joggers because till that time the temps are somewhat manageable. Fortunately, we – the GVK team, me and Ronald van het Hof, joint MD at Women on Wings – were able to do the workshop and sessions in an air-conditioned room…

Getting inspired by social entrepreneurs
GVK is working on making agriculture more sustainable (growing several products on the same land, generating other forms of income for farmers). It’s great to talk to such driven people who really want to make a difference and to contribute with your knowledge to developing their business. We have had wonderful conversations. An important insight I gained was that in India one can create so much more impact in terms of sustainability and climate than in my home country the Netherlands with the same amount of money. There is a lot to improve in India, like the air pollution and the living conditions of farmers.

Contributing to growth
The great thing about GVK is that they run their business on the basis of sustainability, everything is focused on that. This is now also seen and recognized by large western companies, like a well-known global fashion brand from Europe which sources its bio cotton from GVK. An enormous potential for GVK’s future growth and impacting more farmers. At the same time it is a challenge for GVK to substantially scale up the current organization in the coming years. I hope to contribute to this by coaching and improving the organization, leadership and performance management.

Taking home learnings
I particularly liked the fact that we could join a job interview with a new staff member. It made me realize that India has a more hierarchical culture than the Netherlands. And also, that it is extremely important for people to find that one job in their own region and be able to maintain it.
We may take things for granted in our life in the Netherlands where we have so many opportunities in education and work. I find it absolutely wonderful to step out of my own culture and get the opportunity to work with another culture. I may bring my knowledge and experience to India, but I get so much in return that enriches me and that I can use in my own work in the Netherlands.

Joke Hartlief-de Vries
Expert in Human Resources