By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | May 03, 2023

Reeva Kulkarni Stepping out of Paradise

Reeva Kulkarni of today is currently a Senior Consultant in Communications at Atma, an accelerator in capacity building of NGOs. Her journey of four-and-a-half years at this organisation has given her a fulfilling growth. The thirty-one-year-old had to unlearn a lot of what she knew and start from scratch to understand the needs of underprivileged communities. 

Reeva Kulkarni of nineteen years ago knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up—a Fashion designer. As a twelve-year-old, her textbooks were filled with sketches. She was a creative dreamer with no interest in Math or Science. At 21, she graduated from the London College of Fashion with a specialization in sustainable textiles. Reeva Kulkarni dreamed of keeping the art of Indian textiles alive and making a name for herself in the fashion industry.

Reeva Kulkarni… from Fashion to Social Work

With huge dreams, she walked into an internship at a fashion magazine in Mumbai. This is when she realized that the fashion industry wasn’t for her. As a fresh fashion intern she found her calling in life. “I wanted to align my purpose in life with my career, and fashion wasn’t the place for that. I realised that I wasn’t meant for this. So, I made a bold shift towards a career in the social sector,” reveals Reeva who wanted to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Reeva Kulkarni
“It’s never too late to follow your passion and align it with your purpose,” says Reeva Kulkarni. Pic Credit: Geneive D’Souza.

Speak to her about her new profile and her eyes light up as she elaborates about the work that is keeping her busy and has given her a sense of satisfaction. Speaking with Opening Doorz she says, “It’s never too late to follow your passion and align it with your purpose.”


What was it during your internship that got you to realise Fashion was not your calling?

I didn’t feel as driven toward that sector. While I’m very passionate about fashion and appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity involved, what I don’t appreciate is the need for over consumption. It seems to be a driving force in the industry with the era of influencers. I am not an advocate for time trends and excessive consumerism. While I appreciate the art of fashion, I’m not sure the business aspect of it aligns with my values.

I strongly believe that each individual has a purpose and a unique role to fulfill in life. Although I appreciate art and design, as they allow for self-expression, my growth mindset compels me to constantly challenge myself and learn new things. Working in the social sector at Atma has been a catalyst for me to reinvent myself and advocate for my beliefs.

I also believe that the social sector offers innovative solutions to uplift underprivileged communities in various ways throughout the country. For example, one of the NGOs that Atma has partnered with develops children’s social-emotional skills through art, enabling them to acquire 21st-century competencies that are essential for success in the new world. 

How has your experience in the fashion industry helped you in your work with underprivileged communities?

While my experience in the fashion industry may not directly relate to my current work in communications, my creative background from studying design has been invaluable in this field. Leading the Communications at Atma, it’s essential to constantly innovate the way we talk about our work, and I find that there is ample room for my creativity to thrive in this role.

What are some of the key skills that you have brought from your previous profession into your current work?

My creative skills, honed at design school, have been instrumental in my work. In design school, the consumer was the focal point, and I have carried that same approach into my current role. I strive to put myself in my audience’s shoes, communicating in a language that resonates with them. Additionally, critical thinking has been crucial in problem-solving, improving my creativity, and facilitating continuous learning in my job.

Any challenges you have faced in your new profession?

Sometimes we live in a bubble and may not fully understand the needs of certain people or communities. It took me some time to realise that instead of creating solutions we think are necessary for them, it’s better to ask them what they need. The work at my organization is complex, and it has been a journey to understand it well enough to create effective communications.

Reeva Kulkarni
“I believe the fashion industry has the potential to make a significant impact and can play a huge role in helping the underprivileged communities,” says Reeva Kulkarni.

How do you think your work is making a positive impact on underprivileged communities?

I believe that Atma’s work is focused on empowering strong and resilient leaders and organizations, which ultimately leads to positive impacts on the lives of many. This, in essence, is our impact.

Being a part of the Fashion industry for some time and understanding the way it functions, how do you think the fashion industry can play a role in helping underprivileged communities?

I believe the fashion industry has the potential to make a significant impact. Firstly, the textile industry is the third largest producer in the world, providing numerous opportunities and steady income for many. By promoting Indian textiles and craftsmanship, the industry can help restore artisanal villages and support communities that have been struggling with low wages. 

In terms of communication, the industry can take a more responsible approach by advocating for high-quality, sustainably produced products that are made to last. This can help reduce overconsumption and consumerism. However, it’s important to acknowledge that businesses still need to thrive, so finding a balance between profitability and sustainability can be challenging.

What are some of the most rewarding experiences you have had while working with underprivileged communities in these past four years?

The field visits to the schools of these organizations have been truly impactful for me. Witnessing children growing and developing into dynamic young adults makes me believe that we are making a difference by creating equal opportunities for them. I am optimistic that this will create a ripple effect, leading to a better life for future generations.

What advice would you give to others who want to make a similar switch from a high-paying industry to a more fulfilling profession that helps others?

One of the biggest misconceptions about working in the social sector is the belief that it pays poorly. While salaries in the sector may not be as competitive as those in the corporate world, it is possible to lead a fulfilling and comfortable life with the income earned in this sector. More importantly, the satisfaction of using your skills and talents to uplift the lives of others and ensure that no one is left behind in the race of life is immeasurable. The sense of fulfilment that comes with this work is invaluable and cannot be compared to any amount of money.

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