The 9th Annual Convention of Katalyst took place on 29th July 2018 at Fortune Acron Regina,Goa. The convention is organised every year in Goa where over 200 Katalyst girls from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi converge to listen to distinguished speakers who have been achievers in their respective fields. In addition, they also get a chance to meet Board members, mentors, corporate partners, Katalyst team and other well wishers who attend the Convention.
This year, the theme of the Convention was “There is no right time, there is only right now”, a quote by Mel Robbins, who is a popular author known for her work in the area of self development, leadership and transformation. The Convention comprised thought provoking stories and messages from stalwarts on the panel, experiences from different stakeholders of Katalyst such as donors and mentors and most importantly the Katalyst Annual Awards.
The convention started with the launch of the Katalyst Yearbook, Winds of Change 2018 followed by an inspiring Keynote address by Mr. R. Gopalakrishnan, Author, Corporate Advisor and Former ED Tata Sons Ltd. Mr. Gopalakrishnan used Dandi as an example to convey that we can also gather momentum and reach for the Katalyst program. He suggested that digitisation would help gain that scale. He told the Katalyst girls in the audience that they have the power of carrying the vision. He ended by saying, “Think Big, Act Small; Fail Fast and Scale Up quick”.
The zenith of the event was panel discussion which was graced by distinguished guests such as Ms. Debarati Sen (MD 3M India region), Ms. K Ratna Prabha (Former Chief Secretary (Retd), Karnataka), Ms. Prajakta Lavangare Verma (Joint MD CIDCO), Ms. Shinjini Kumar(Consumer Business Manager, Citi India), Jayashree Vyas (MD, SEWA Bank) and Mr.R Gopalakrishnan, ED, Tata Sons Ltd.
Mr. Sunit Mehra, Managing Partner at Hunt Partners and the co-founder of Third Sector Partners, parent organisation of Katalyst, moderated the panel discussion. Mr. Sunit Mehra alluded to the theme of the Convention, “There is no right time, there is only right now” and said that the greatest transformational ideas come to you in a flash and the difference between those who make it and those who don’t make it in life is that they act on that five second inspiration. He further said that Acting on your instincts ‘right now’ by silencing thoughts of self doubt can lead you to a path of greater change. Ms. Prajakta Lavangare Verma, stressed this point further by an example from her professional life when she was a senior at Zila Parishad, with a drive to make tribal communities open defecation free. She narrated the story of a woman who pawned her nose pin to construct a toile. She was the first to build a toilet in that hamlet. Had she waited for the whole village to change their habits and then follow them to build a toilet that time would have never arrived. But her realization that the time was now and that she had to do it for the dignity of her children, was the moment of her awakening. She drove the change, seeing her others also built toilets and within a few days the entire community became Open Defecation Free. She concluded with the thought that ‘one must not keep waiting for the right time to come, but it is when we make the right choice that the right time arrives.’
Ms. Ratna Prabha, interpreted today’s time as the ‘right time’ for modern young Indian women, stating that there were plethora of opportunities available for girls today as opposed to few decades ago. She advised the girls to take advantage of these opportunities and move ahead in life without self doubt. She appreciated the work done by Katalyst to mould girls to be leaders and encouraged the girls to also become a catalyst in someone else’s life to create a ripple effect.
Ms. Debarati Sen focused on the power of ‘action’. She followed a rule in her life which helped her to scale great heights. She lamented that every time someone said no to her, that was her permission to ask herself, ’why not’. She further said, “Our brains are wired differently, just because society sees you in a different way you do not need to become that. You have to embrace what you have and break stereo types. One can retaliate to the society with anger. That’s not the point! Join and respond to the society with humor. Every time a rule is given to you, test its boundaries, it will be a great journey and you will have a lot of fun.”
Ms. Jayshree Vyas, who has worked with the underprivileged women to build SEWA Bank described her ‘right now’ moment when she was called upon to lead SEWA in its nascent stage. She went on to resign from a very high profile, secure job to accept something which was just being set up and was very uncertain. However, she was inspired by the courage shown by the women she was going to work with. Her one decision changed entire trajectory of her life leading to the monumental work she was able to accomplish in women empowerment though financial inclusion. She said that she was inspired by the tribal women and learnt a lot from them.
Ms. Shinjini Kumar provided an entirely different flavour to the discussion by taking the audience back to her childhood which she described as a time when they had nothing that money could buy but lacked nothing that money could not buy. Her strong message to girls was to cherish and enjoy what they had today and build upon the same. She said, “Everyone in the world will come on to you, telling you to be ambitious, to dream big, rule the world…but along the way learn to relax, to smile to support each other. The most important thing in life are the human values, never let them go.”
Mr. R Gopalakrishna, the chief guest, spoke about the bigger picture that we all need to see. He discussed how young people are often in despair about how India is headed nowhere. Taking the audience back to historical times and citing examples he demonstrated how each generation in India has been living a life better than the last one. He compared India to a gyroscope. Its built in such a manner that one feels it would just topple over. With everything happening in the country, it too appears ready to just topple over, but nothing happens, it stands and survives. He appealed the girls to take pride in their heritage and wished them good luck for their future.
The Panel discussion was followed by the Annual Katalyst Awards which felicitate the young achievers across four centres based on their commitment to the program, leadership abilities, academic score, volunteering and achievements. The awardees touched the chord with their emotional and inspirational speeches. The Convention ended with a vote of thanks by Katalyst and TSP Advisor, Mr. Vijay Mahajan, an independent consultant and a Board Advisor.
The evening ended with the Talent Show competition showcasing tantalising performances from Katalyst students from across the four centers.
Katalyst started a decade ago with the intent of liberating women from low income communities, through the pursuit of professional education. The initiative definitively prepares young women for leadership roles, thereby creating a wider talent pool for India Inc and helping bridge the gender divide. Katalyst achieves this objective through a blend of unique development interventions, including our 600 hour proprietary and scientifically researched curriculum. Over their four years in the program, we also provide one-to-one mentorship, access to best in class technology, assistance with internships, and world class industry exposure and corporate interactions. Set up in 2007 with 10 young women, Katalyst now has chapters in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi and has impacted the lives of over 900 girls, with 500 currently in the program. Katalyst alumni now occupy positions of seniority in prestigious MNCs and large Indian companies, both in India and abroad, as well as the Civil and Administrative Services.