Posted by Lauren Meckelberg on May 3, 2016
Each year, the Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth brings alumni back to campus to discuss their careers and the many ways to pursue social impact at Booth. Sundeep Vira, '10, director of strategic partnerships at SPLASH, met with Booth students over lunch in winter 2016. Learn more about Sundeep's work at SPLASH and his advice for students interested in a social impact career.
Balancing a passion for social impact with the reality of running a business is always a challenge, but Sundeep Vira, ’10, has managed to merge the two through his work at nonprofit SPLASH. SPLASH, where Vira serves as director of strategic partnerships, is an innovative international development agency focused on safe water for children in developing countries.
Vira’s interest in social entrepreneurship has roots in his unique upbringing in India. With his family dedicated to rural education and social service, he witnessed conditions that touched him profoundly. At a young age, he received the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold award, the world’s leading youth achievement award for long-term volunteer work. By the age of 22, Vira had moved to the United States and begun work in consulting. This led to positions in marketing and investment management, including roles as managing director of Nuveen Investments, Chicago, and chief operating officer of a global family office in Singapore with roots in Geneva.
By 45, Vira was ready to transition to social impact full time. He moved to Southeast Asia and began doing nonprofit work in Singapore as chief executive officer of the World Toilet Organization. In Singapore, he attended Booth’s Executive MBA Program.
“Booth allowed me to see the big picture and gave me confidence outside the norm of my experience set. I saw stark parallel issues across the social and corporate sector and could tackle any country, industry or sector, unafraid,” Vira says. Applying this mindset, Vira took a position at SPLASH, where he works to scale SPLASH across the Indian sub-continent, connecting supply chains, local governments and donors, with a goal for citywide public school coverage.
SPLASH’s model is equal parts practical and innovative. Their core values lie in international development and global social enterprise, with the ultimate goal to provide clean water, clean toilets, and a "clean hands" mindset for children. They accomplish this through scaled development of water solutions, implementation of educational programming for personal hygiene and improving sanitation conditions.
By working with local governments, SPLASH is able to promote government adoption with an evidence-based approach, also collaborating with local businesses and other nonprofits to effectively implement proper solutions. Once child behavior change and operational maintenance are in place, local officials and schools take over, with monitoring and success evaluation by SPLASH.
Today, SPLASH serves more than 360,000 children daily across 8 countries, including big ongoing projects like covering every orphanage in China and every public school in Kathmandu, Kolkata, and Addis Ababa. Its projects span the globe, and its aspirations include bold goals of “100 percent coverage” and governmental systematic change.
For Vira, combining his love of social enterprise with his financial skillset is incredibly fulfilling. His advice for those that want to work in the nonprofit industry?
- Be patient – nonprofit markets are sadly fragmented, and there can be a lack of instant gratification in your work.
- Be versatile –work to translate your skills across multiple situations.
- Exhaust your alumni network connections!
For more information about SPLASH and its mission, please visit http://splash.org/.
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