A letter from our Founder
Imagination, Innovation, Commitment
“Business leaders work to make the rich richer, but what if they worked to make the poor rich?"
-Sabiha Malik, 2007
I grew up feeling passionately responsible for my fellow human beings for I was born in a part of the world that suffers from stark divides where the rich are rich and the poor are poor.
Imagination and commitment aren’t enough to create more fairness and justice in the world but when we feel strongly enough about something Life creates pathways to innovation. Thus, in the mid-1990s - entirely unexpectedly - I was invited by a group of street children to visit Dharavi, a slum in in the centre of Mumbai. Shaken to the core, I discovered a remarkable community of over half a million people toiling in horribly untellable circumstances merely to survive for one more day. I saw creative, talented, hard-working people trapped in hellish poverty simply because they lacked opportunity.
Poverty is an affliction. How could people ever be free from the affliction of poverty if they were denied opportunity?
Seeking to understand, for over ten years I studied the writings of Amartya Sen, C. K. Prahalad, and other distinguished economists. I learned a great deal about what was being done to reduce global poverty but I had questions that I needed to find answers to. Why can an economy not be socially just and environmentally stable? Why was economics not seen as part and parcel of the social environment it was embedded in? What, if anything, stood in the way of finding a fresh, untried approach? What solution had not yet occurred to economists? What more could be done? What wasn’t being taught at business schools? What were the gulfs that had not been bridged? How could economics be humanised?
In 2007 I was blessed with a glorious insight: “Business leaders work to make the rich richer, but what if they worked to make the poor rich?"
There was the clue. I was elated. The insight thrilled me. Then, the sound ‘sanghata’ alighted in my mind, quietly, as a little bird alights. I discovered that ‘sanghata’ is an ancient Sanskrit term that suggests transformation, joining different elements to create something that hasn’t existed before. I knew what I had to do. I raised money from the sale of an art object and in 2009 I founded Sanghata and worked on a detailed business plan with the help of a consultant. Sanghata would launch a breakthrough educational program where we would train business leaders to advance sustainable business development in low-income areas worldwide. After training, the participants would provide management skills to local enterprises to get them ready for investment, and provide due diligence to socially minded investors. In 2009 I shared my concept and plans with Scott Horton, co-founder of the American University in Central Asia, and a New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets. Scott agreed to join Sanghata as a co-founder.
Next, to transform my revolutionary concept and plans into a global movement to reduce poverty, I needed to collaborate with an ambitious institution ready to administer and co-develop the Sanghata business education program where the faculty were to be business leaders, not academics. In 2009 I conveyed my concept and business plans to Dr Yuwei Shi, dean of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), Monterey, California and professor at its Graduate School of international Policy and Management (GSPIM). Yuwei was “thrilled”, aware that the Frontier Market Scouts program would raise GSPIM to a new level. After discussions with Sunder Ramaswamy, the president of MIIS, Scott Horton and I chose MIIS to become the primary associate for administration of Sanghata’s flagship Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program, and invited Yuwei to become the FMS director at MIIS and offered him inclusion as co-founder of Sanghata. After signing the partnership details in December 2010 my concept and plans became the foundation stone of the Frontier Market Scouts program - the first business executive training program of its kind in the world.
In order to launch the FMS program in January 2011, Sanghata invested in the program. To test its impact and to develop its field program model - designed to benefit both the emerging and established markets - Sanghata also helped fund Ross Baird’s establishment of Village Capital and consequently, in January 2012 Sanghata became the Global Founding partner of Village Capital. In 2012 Village Capital began to manage placements of Frontier Market Scouts program participants around the world.
The Monterey Institution of International Studies is now known as the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). Sanghata’s FMS program “the first program of its kind in the social impact sector” at the core of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management (GSPIM) became the foundation in 2015 for Middlebury’s new Centre for Social Impact Learning (CSIL).
In February 2013 Sanghata-Monterey’s Frontier Markets Scouts program won the Ashoka-U Cordes award for Innovation, Impact and Potential for Replicability.
In December 2015 it was awarded the Cordes Hall of Fame award.
It’s heart-warming to remember that we launched Frontier Market Scouts in January 2011 with just 6 participants. It has now grown into an award-winning, internationally recognized educational program which receives over 400 applications from business leaders, every year, and serves 31 countries across 5 continents where our FMS participants have created 100+ social enterprises.
In alignment with my concept and plan, active business industry leaders conduct the FMS training. So here we are – true to my dream - business leaders who work to make the rich richer are now also working to make the poor rich!
In 2017 Sanghata is looking forward to managing its FMS program, bringing in new alliances and new collaborations and partnerships to eradicate global poverty by educating business leaders to engage with problems in education, energy, health, agriculture and financial services. We hope to steer the program in directions that diversify and expand its impact more effectively than ever before.
In our increasingly troubled world, supporting a culture of shared global prosperity is much more than a social necessity, it is a strategic business imperative, for unless we tap into the potential of all and create the opportunities all people deserve, we cannot create the stable and responsible societies all our futures depend on.
- Sabiha Rumani Malik