Farzena – Special Projects Director of Saora Industries, which mission is to give more people in the world clean water to drink. It aims to help communities develop sustainable, ecological, simple, easy-to-maintain systems to get clean drinking water to everyone who needs it.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
There is a video we made about a fishing village. What usually happens is that women and kids walk a long way to collect drinkable water. They accept that life is like that. Nobody goes beyond 6 grade of school, girls will be married early into a good family and boys will be fishermen. After installing water filters in that village, we interviewed people and made videos. And they started saying that now they see something more, they can look further for a better future for their children. Just because we installed a water filter… With that one water filter you can see there is so much more, I don’t have to marry my daughters earlier, or my son can actually become a policeman. And all of that because of one project that we did without proper education about microfinance, which we actually want to do now. For me it was a success, that just water filter gave them so much hope… what if it was done properly in a structured way?
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Sustainability. We have to educate, explain things to our partners, sponsors. What they often want to do is to give you money for one event, one project. It looks good for them, most money will go for PR, printing posters, inviting media, things like that. But to make the idea sustainable we need a bigger amount of money. If you talk about sustainability, you don’t give me 10.000 ringgits (about 2.000 euro, ed.). With 10.000 I can install two units of water filter. Just two. It’s not efficient. You need to invest a bigger amount, longer commitment. Most of the cases money is barely enough to buy the product and install it. What about trainings, interviews? And before you even train people you have to be friends with them. It’s not only about money, it’s time, commitment. This is real CSR, we are talking about making a change, not having event with nice pictures.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Make a deal with a big company. Step by step. Right now the challenge is also an opportunity, recently the Ministry of Finance has opened the program which they call VIP: Volunteering for International Professionals, in which volunteers from abroad come to 10 local social enterprises to help them. We applied with our pilot project of microfinancing and we got 3 international volunteers. We have one really nice finance guy from the Netherlands, a PhD student from US and a lawyer from Australia and they took time off to help, they are working on proposals, they went to villagers. Microfinance looks nice on paper, but when you go to the village you realize it often doesn’t work. We are trying to come up with the right program, education, policy, business plan, agreement, criteria, everything in details, we are collecting data.
Would you like to add something else?
If have to say something to people who are starting their own adventure… Don’t think too much, just start somewhere. That ‘s what I learned from my own experience. You just have to start. When you think about all those people working on business plans, mission and vision of the company, where I will get finance and all those things it seems overwhelming. Just start somewhere. You will meet mentors, you will meet friends, you will meet people like you and then the spark will go on. Reach out to as many people as possible and just start. The thing which we always remind ourselves is never give up and always reach out. There are changemakers around. Your friends, politicians, small businesses, big businesses, they can support you, they can have the same mission. They may support you with finances, they can give you a lift to your next meeting, they may provide you cheap office space for next few months, they can connect you to someone, give you list when you need to do research. It’s all support. You just need to reach out. Never give up and always reach out!
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Malaysia, 24th April, 2016