EDII has met some highly unusual people in its journey of developing development professionals. One of them was Tejas Merh Desai. A development sector specialist, a financial whiz and a trained chartered accountant, Tejas surprises you yet again with her multi-lingual abilities. In addition, she is a trained Kathak artist/ danseuse who seems to step straight out of a Barbara Cartland novel with her pert nose and a very expressive face.
A single girl child of unconventional parents, Tejas spent her childhood in an almost live edition of National Geographic as her father was a Geohydrogeologist and lived very close to nature. Tejas travelled extensively with her father to the far interiors of Saurashtra, an arid region which was almost always parched of water. At a very young age she saw suffering borne out of the scarcity of water both in terms of acute poverty and the emotional toll it took on people. This resulted in an awareness of the “other India”, the India that people usually prefer to blinker out. Her mother was a professor of journalism at Saurashtra University and later worked on freelance assignments and translation work for the development sector, which further sowed in her the seeds of ‘be the change you wish to see’.
She moved to Ahmedabad with her parents in the early 90s and learnt all that was available in Ahmedabad. By the time she finished HSC, she already had 7 years of intensive training in Kathak, a diploma in French and a decent HSC score. The decision to take up Finance as a career was a practical one but once she passed CA, her choice to join the development sector was one that was borne out of the empathy and sensitivity she had learnt in her childhood.
Once she decided to work in the development sector, she felt the need to understand the sector better to be able to figure out where her expertise would be used best. EDII provided that understanding. Finance for Non-profits was not a common specialisation but she realised that marrying of the finance concepts to development ones made her an expert in both which was a rare combination.
She started working even before she graduated from EDII. The earthquake in 2001 which shook Gujarat gave her a chance to put into practice all that she had learnt and she used that context for her practical project which was a part of the EDII course. Her project won her a gold medal from EDII.
The project was done through GiveIndia, and they offered her a job immediately after graduation in August 2001. Since then, her journey has led her to work with many NGOs across the development sector spectrum.
With the same ease she took marriage and motherhood in her stride. She started taking on freelance consulting projects from 2009. NGO accounting, finance management and legal compliance became her expertise. She started her own venture Avkaash in 2015.
As a chartered accountant, Tejas had the financial expertise but EDII brought an understanding of finance contextually, which was extremely important. She developed her soft skills relevant to non-governmental organisations. Currently, Tejas is developing an NGO Finance Network which aims to be a knowledge sharing platform for finance professionals working with NGOs in India.
On one hand this permanent learner is ready to conduct some much needed academic research in her area and on the other, she is learning, performing and teaching Kathak to young children, and encouraging her gymnast daughter to reach different heights.
Hoping that her versatility stays and exuberance grows, EDII wishes her new levels.