And With Resilience She Paved Her Own Path

Darshita Gillies, Founder and CEO, Maanch, was listed among the 100 Most Meaningful Business Leaders 2020 and the 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations. She founded Maanch in 2018 which is a UK-based B Corp developing technology to measure, monitor and report on the impact of investments, organisations and philanthropy, through the lens of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

With professional foundations as Chartered Accountant, Operational Risk Manager, Investment Banker, Executive Coach as well as FinTech-Blockchain Specialist and ESG-Impact Evangelist, Darshita serves on Boards of for-profit and non-profit organisations. She is now based in London, as Global Citizen, Entrepreneur, Impact Investor and Philanthropist. “I spearhead endeavours delivering planetary wellbeing and prosperity,” she introduces herself! 

Born and brought up in Mumbai, into a “scheduled-class,” non-English-speaking, conservative family; Darshita claims to have lived an otherwise happy life. Although she had hard working parents who instilled the value of education in her, there were days when things got challenging, she reveals, “For example, no food in the kitchen and no money at home”. “We would go around the house collecting scrap newspaper, boxes, empty glass and plastic bottles and go to the local raddiwala (recycler) to exchange them for money and buy some rice,” Darshita adds. 

She earned her Bachelor’s in Commerce from Narsee Monjee College, and Master’s from the Mumbai University, while also qualifying as a chartered accountant. She credits her accomplishments since that time to the resilience built into her character through her humble upbringing in India. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with a 47th All-India rank, she joined Standard Chartered to work with their Board Directors. Darshita met her partner, Rowan Gillies, there and left home at the age of 24 to live and work in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the following years leading up to her founding Maanch, she lived and worked in Africa, Europe and America. 

Having lived across cultures and paradigms,” Darshita shares, “what became clear to me was that we do not have the challenge of resources, we have plenty for all”. “Our real challenge is how we distribute these resources, for all on earth to have generative life. Our financial systems have a huge role to play in moving us from this imbalance to a more balanced growth.” “Technology applied towards this cause can enable us to be there within our lifetime and that’s my life’s purpose and that is why I set up Maanch,” she adds.

It was her determination to create a better future for herself and her family that allowed her journey from the bottom 1% to the top 1%. She explains, “This led me not only to the “conventional” kind of success and joy, but also provoked me to ask a bigger question – What if the whole world is my family? What would I do for a collectively successful future?”. She was presenting some dynamic impact data and statistics at the UN to heads of States, Businesses and Nonprofits to show how they could collaborate towards achieving the UN SDGs. At the end of her presentation, she summarised her recommendations and highlighted the need to invest in collaborative technologies that enable these data sets to be accessible to decision makers. She shares, “This was the aha moment when I realised that my role and career as consultant and advisor was finished and it was time to go out, take the risk and make it happen”. 

Having started her journey in a limited environment, Darshita faced many challenges in the initial years of her career: most notably, financial challenges and challenges imposed by class and status such as racism, gender inequality. However, with Maanch, she found her true calling. The concept of “work-life balance” became stale and outdated for her and she found work as a platform to express herself. She gladly shares, “I am committed to delivering my purpose and soul mission of enabling planetary wellbeing and prosperity”.

She passes on her mantra of resilience and determination as a message to the readers saying – “Dream big and make it happen…!” You too can make a difference out there with just a dream and actions that strive to make it a reality.