Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved

Summer 2019

Summer Diaries: Ashoka; Innovators for the Public

August 8, 2019
- Uday Singhal

Disclaimer: Ashoka and Ashoka University are two completely unrelated organisations. I was a part of Ashoka during summers. Don’t sweat it out, I’ll tell you what Ashoka is, and maybe a bit more. No, it’s not a long read.

“I want to work on a whole bunch of other things: Sustainability, Education, Healthcare and what not. Why should I keep on working for the LGBTQI rights?” — Akkai Padmashali

Akkai is empowering members of minority groups, such as sexual minorities (LGBTQI community) to become leaders; thereby creating a domain for discussions on issues of national importance to become more convergent. I was stirred with emotions when I heard it. The vision - that the cause for which she’s working should no longer remain a cause; the cause for which she’s working should no longer exploit anyone else; the cause for which she’s working should no longer demand any work; the norm around that cause shall change. Everyday at Ashoka, you’re exposed to dozens of such ideas that are nothing but strong, passionate and systems changing.

But what is Ashoka?

Bill Drayton founded Ashoka in 1980 based on the idea that we need to look at the impact sector through a completely different lens: Just donating money to beneficiaries is not sustainable; we need to start looking at the beneficiaries as clients and hence, became the first person to coin the term - ‘Social Entrepreneurship’. Since 1980, Ashoka started identifying and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs who have ideas for far-reaching social change. It started by first distilling their unique qualities and pioneering a rigorous global system for vetting and electing them to the Ashoka Fellowship. This is handled by the Venture Team; after electing these social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, the Fellowship Team engages with these fellows to strategically drive them towards maximising Social Impact. Other than this, Ashoka also engages with young people across the world with the belief that ‘Every child should practice Empathy’ and hence, enable ‘Everyone a Changemaker Movement’. Currently, Ashoka is the world’s largest network of Social Entrepreneurs and 6th largest Not-Profit organisation in the world.

The team in India Office is a small one but comprises of a very diverse set of people. There are individuals who have had experiences ranging from Journalism and Public Policy to Corporate Houses and Startups. There’s a lot of diversity in terms of Nationality as well; there were at least 7 interns who were from the USA, Germany and Egypt. It results in a really healthy workplace environment involving a lot of cultural exchange as well.


How did I end up at Ashoka?

I’ll be fairly honest with why I applied to work at Ashoka, or impact sector for that matter. Since, my second year I was really drawn towards Consulting but we all know how easy it is to get a job at either of Mckinsey, BCG or Bain at IIT Roorkee. In the next couple of lines, I want to break some myths about consulting and how it is really different from any other roles (in terms of preparing yourself for getting a job). Let’s say, someone is really into UI-UX designing. Most obvious thing for him/ her to do is start preparing for it, intern as a designer at a couple of firms and get a job. Now, let’s say, someone really wants to be a Consultant. Interning at boutique consulting firms to prepare your profile doesn’t work; what works is, showing consistency in anything; differentiating yourself from all the other applicants. I spoke to a couple of alumni who were working as consultants in reputed firms. After, going through my resume they suggested me to start looking for socio-economic interns because there was a similar pattern in my resume. Plus, when I was working at a CSR Consultancy firm last summers, I really loved the immense feeling of gratitude I got by working. There was this emotion making me push that, “Come on Uday! You’re work is going to help 100s of women micro-entrepreneurs in Mumbai”

With these two thoughts, I started looking for an internship in the Impact Sector.


Networking is a lost art in Roorkee, majority of the people underestimate the power of social capital. First things first - update your LinkedIn profile; add a professional formal picture, update your experiences and start following people relevant to your field of interest. It’s much more than just sending connection request, increasing your connections and sending cold messages to everyone in your circle. Leverage the power of a very strong network that Roorkee has to offer, in the best manner possible. Honestly, it demands time; it’s boring and even frustrating at times; but, there is no alternative.

I reached out to someone at Ashoka India office on LinkedIn, highlighting my interest in working there along with my resume and the relevance it had with my past experiences (Internships, Inter-IITs, Competitions, Projects). He was kind enough to reciprocate to my message pretty fast and scheduled an interview. I had three rounds of interviews before I was finally offered a chance to work at Ashoka. The interview process wasn’t really difficult; it primarily revolved around three sections:

1. Who are you as an Individual?

2. Why did you choose to work in the Impact Sector?

3. Skillset requirement depending upon the team and project you’re being interviewed for

What did I do at Ashoka?

Ashoka is an extremely fluid organisation with a completely flat hierarchy (not just for the sake of it; as an intern you get to attend all the meetings, meet partners, funders and fellows); you get almost the similar kind of work and ownership as a Consultant who’s working there. There is no age discrimination at all, you’re actually pushed to do more and more. I was hired to work for the Partnership and Fundraising team where my job was to design a Product which was supposed to teach school students ‘Empathy’ through experiential learning while attaching a Fundraising aspect to it. I was given complete autonomy by my Manager to complete the project in however ways I want to. After the completion of Product Designing, I was also allowed to reach out to schools and sign a contract with them to launch it.

Other than this, I actively worked with the Venture team. It was one of the most exciting parts of my internship where the team’s role was to engage with the nominated candidates and assess if they qualify as potential ‘Ashoka Fellows’. During the process you engage with a candidate for approximately 60-80 hours; if the team finds the candidacy strong enough to take them to further processes, you get to go on a field visit where you do on ground Impact Assessment of the candidate’s work (while I’m writing this blog, I’m booking my flights to visit a candidate’s organisation in Orissa who’s working with the Adivasi Communities there). To sum it up, the work is around Impact Evaluation of leading social enterprises in different domains. After a month at Ashoka (first week of July), I was offered to be appointed as a Consultant to work an Ecosystem Mapping study in the field of Sustainable Livelihood for an external global partner. After our mapping, this partner is supposed to invest their money to maximise impact in the mentioned field. This project gave me an actual experience, of what Consulting is and also, provided me with an opportunity to interact with a lot of Ashoka Fellows in India and Bangladesh.

At Ashoka, it’s all about how you want to position yourself and how much work you can take. I positioned myself to get an exposure of Consulting, Impact Evaluation, Entrepreneurship and Product Designing.

Is it even completed without some catchy Concluding Remarks?

“What motivates you to wake up in the morning and go to work?”
“What excites you to do what you do? “

If the answer to the questions above is ‘money’, you probably have some thinking to do. If the answer to the questions above is, ‘I don’t know!’, it’s completely fine. ‘Internship’, I believe is the best opportunity to help you find answers to these questions. And trust me they are much more important than just having your ‘Summers Sorted’.

Things to do in Bangalore?

1. Appreciating really good weather everyday
2. Whining about traffic twice a day, every moment you step out
3. Good Beer