Greatness lies in great ideas! This is the mantra of Sonkee Shah, CEO at ARCH Development Foundation, a CSR management company operating in Vadodara, Gujarat. A petite and smiling woman with quiet confidence and an eye for perfection, Sonkee has over 17 years of rich industry experience. You walk into her office and get the first taste of minimalism and impeccable organisation, two qualities she is strongly associated with. A visionary in true sense, Sonkee anticipated the importance of good CSR management in industry long before the Ministry of Corporate Affairs made it mandatory. She always spoke of how structure and legal compliance in CSR had a twofold advantage; maximising advantages for the beneficiary and better company accountability and responsibility towards its surroundings.
Today, her belief has become a subject of great global interest.
Ask Sonkee why CSR consultancy and management and ‘Why not?’ she asks back! She believes that traditional practices and a myopic view of Indian businesses have limited companies to employing tax consultants and financial advisors but none to plan their CSR activities. Why she questions in behest! “A CSR team may not look like a profit centre in the short run, but has a deep rooted positive impact on any organisation in the long run!” In fact ARCH, in the short time span of two years, has created ripples in this traditional thinking and is compelling companies to re-think their organisational strategy.
As Sonkee treads along changing and challenging conventional practises, she is a glowing example of leading from the front as her small but committed team moves mountains in CSR Management under her able leadership.
As a child, Sonkee was always a face in the crowd. Her choices and ideologies were different from her peers. A brief but impactful act of volunteering in the fund raising committee of the Latur earthquake relief in 1993 first sowed seeds of social entrepreneurship in her. With a post-graduation degree in Agriculture and Extension Education System and a PG Diploma in NGO Management she worked closely with uplifting people suffering from HIV in the capacity of Project Manager at Francois Xavier Bagnoud and Valsad Rakhtdan Kendra. She then took the responsibility of projects in the field of Micro-finance, health and education with special focus on women and children. She also dabbled with research studies on legal issues concerning women and spearheaded Sakhi Mandal Projects with the Gujarat government for skill development and training of women for sustenance. As Project Manager with Suzlon for a period of two years Sonkee worked in the area of setting up CSR Council at the grassroots level, employee volunteering, and conducting CSR orientation programs at business schools. At Larsen & Tubro, Hazira she became an indispensable member of their corporate CSR team executing 360 degree dynamics of Social Auditing.
Sonkee believes that certain decisions that one makes become game changers in life. She recalls her decision to take up professional training in NGO Management as one in hers. Not only did she find her life partner but also a flourishing life path in social entrepreneurship! Another path breaking move for her came in 2014 when surrounded by deep difficulty she made the toughest decision of her life. She found herself sitting in her boss’s cabin with a promotion in one hand and her resignation in the other. As Project Manager in the CSR department of L&T Power while she had outdone her contemporaries and earned herself a historic promotion in less than two years of joining, she had to give it up all due to personal commitments. With family taking precedence over her job, she decided to take a sabbatical to put things into perspective. During this cooling off period, Sonkee recharged and re-charted the course of her life by turning entrepreneur.
She completed the Social Auditing course from Social Audit Network India in 2015 and took up freelancing projects for CSR consultancy. It is on 17th July 2015 that her baby, ARCH DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION was born.
Today, ARCH is a force to reckon with in CSR consultancy and management amongst corporates, MNCs and small business enterprises. Sonkee is spearheading her team of 20 and involved in smooth functioning of everyday activities. An inspiration for them, she exercises her comprehensive knowledge of development and CSR projects to design, plan, execute & monitor self-sustaining programs at grass roots level. Her creative thinking and immaculate execution has made her popular with her clients. Nothing gives her more satisfaction than a well-thought of plan implemented well.
A woman is Shakti. A woman is a Superhero. And Sonkee is a rare combination of both. While she juggles her responsibilities as a homemaker, mother and an entrepreneur, things are not always a piece of cake. There are days when plans go overboard and a little out of her stride but those are the days when the learning is maximum. With clients queuing up and projects flooding in, Sonkee has a lot to be grateful about. She finds inspiration in big and small opportunities that promise to make the world a better place. Her happiness revolves around the things she loves, and needless to say ARCH is surely higher than most others on her LOVE ladder!