By Nyan Kyaw, Myanmar, Nanyang MBA Intake 2011
When we look at the traditional career path and aspiration of an MBA holder, it is to move into high paying lucrative careers such as consulting, banking and finance, marketing and so on. But lately, there has been a rising interest in another industry, a relatively new industry and that is, social ventures or enterprises.
Unlike charities, the focus of social ventures is not to provide hand outs, but with a combination of business acumen, social consciousness and some creativity. Social ventures seek to improve the lives of the less fortunate in a sustainable manner.
With that in mind, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Club of The NANYANG MBA invited Ms Thilma Komaling Banyuputro, a social enterprise development consultant who has given up her successful career in petroleum industry to pursue her life calling – to share some of her experiences working for a social venture. The event was an intimate setting for an exchange of life-changing experiences and ideas among 10 like-minded peers.
What I have noticed is most people working in the social venture do not set out planning to work for a social venture, but they are moved by a certain event in their lives which compels them to do so. For Thilma, the turning point was the series of earthquakes in Aceh. After seeing the disasters and the tragedies on the news, she realized it is her life’s calling to help the less fortunate in any manner that she could.
As one of our fellow Nanyang MBA peer, Indonesian Wahyu Widianti shared her realization from the talk: “Follow your heart and your passion. The energy coming from the passion is very powerful for you to do many great things for the community.” And this was what Thilma actually did – being moved by her passion to help those who are less fortunate and in need.
Over the next 2 years, Thilma spent her life juggling between career and volunteering for charities and social ventures. Finally, she took the plunge and devoted her life solely on social ventures. Currently, she is working for Rumah, a low cost mobile phone carrier in Indonesia. The aim of the venture is to provide poor families in the rural areas of Indonesia with access to mobile phones and also create jobs.
We also had the opportunity to hear about her other success stories. One of them was about a guy who had to live in a toilet with his children and about how his wife left them because she could not handle the hardship of their lives. Hearing this, reminded us of the Will Smith movie – The Pursuit of Happyness. To actually hear it from someone that such situation happens in real life, touched a sensitive spot in us, and so it did to Thilma.
Through the social venture Thilma was involved in, she managed to provide the man with means to a better life. It was touching when she told us that the man she helped can now provide regular meals to his children. Thilma’s actions reminded us of the Chinese proverb – “Give a man a fish, you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” – a powerful and familiar proverb epitomized in this self-less action.
I found it a truly engaging event with the participants asking insightful questions. It was good to know that my MBA classmates have a real interest in pursuing some form of social venture at some point in their lives, too.