Please tell us about yourself

Six years ago, in 2009, US-based Vaishali Rao shocked her parents by saying she wanted to go to India and work in the social sector. Her Silicon Valley-based engineer dad, who emigrated in 1999 to the US, protested. “We moved here to give you and your sister a good education and a better way of life and now you want to go back.”

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

“I told my parents it was the values they had brought us up with that made me want to contribute. It was unusual in those days, but today it’s catching on. I know of many young people who decide to work in the social sector,” says the 27-year-old, who works as a programme manager, livelihoods, at the Bengaluru-based Solar Electric Light Company (Selco), a social enterprise that provides sustainable energy solutions and services to underserved households and businesses.

Tell us about your work

Vaishali is just back from Kalahandi in Odisha and part of the trip involved visiting paddy farmers. “Since they live in remote areas with no access to machinery like threshers, they thresh the paddy by making cattle walk over the grains, a process that takes very long and is inefficient,” says Vaishali, who is in charge of the project at Selco that is testing a low-cost thresher. If viable, this thresher, developed in West Bengal, will help many farmers save time and make more money.

What did you study?

Vaishali, who is a graduate in political science and history from the University of Oregon, US and a MA in Social Entrepreneurship from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai , began her career by working for Oxfam in Hyderabad in 2009 and joined Selco in October 2014. “Social enterprise makes sense to me. It forces you to work with the triple bottom line of profits, social impact and the environment aspect, she says.

What are you doing currently?

Iam Head Of Operations at Mynergy at Amsterdam. Mynergy unlocks capital for small and growing businesses, who are at the forefront of creating an inclusive low carbon transition, in India and other emerging markets.