A close brush with death had Faiza Seth, founder of a luxury design firm in London changing the lives of underprivileged children in the city
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Hyderabad, but my parents moved to Chicago, Illinois when I was two-years-old. I grew up in Chicago and met my husband while I was at the Northwestern University. We got married when we were 21 and moved to Hong Kong. I worked as an Investment Banker at Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong after which my husband and I started our own sourcing business, Norwest Industries Ltd. After Hong Kong, Pallak and I moved to London and shortly thereafter I went to Stanford for my MBA. After I graduated from Stanford in 2006, I moved back to London and started Casa Forma, a bespoke luxury interior and architectural design firm headquartered in London and I manage a team of 15 designers/architects.
Your world and that of the children (who go to Soham) are two radically different ends of the spectrum. How did they converge?
The moment I decided to bring about change and do something was in January 2008, after I left the hospital after having been treated for a 10mm kidney stone, pneumonia, and septicemia. I had been in and out of the hospital for three months and there’s nothing like being sick and coming close to dying that makes one re-evaluate their life and purpose. I decided that I wanted to help people and use my time, energy and money for this purpose because this truly would give me happiness.
How did you decide on Hyderabad as a venue to establish Soham?
I was born in Hyderabad, and I wanted to give back to the country, because the level of poverty is so much more dire than in other places in the world. Once I chose Hyderabad as the location for my charity school, we surveyed 200 impoverished villages around the area to find one that had a need for an educational institution and that is where I discovered Mallapur, the current location of Soham for Kids.
What are your goals for Soham?
My short term goal for Soham is to expand the school as well as add more adult education classes besides English and sewing. My long term goal is to provide high quality education which equips students with the skills they need to eventually secure a stable job. I want to make Soham for Kids self-sufficient.
What would you describe as your biggest achievement and your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest achievement was and is Soham for Kids. My biggest challenge is how to make Soham for Kids self-sufficient, to expand it every year until 12th grade, and to replicate the model so I can help educate, nourish and provide healthcare for even more kids.
You were shortlisted for the Asian Women of Achievement awards. How was the experience and how important was it to you?
For me the greatest reward is not any award, it is to see the children that three years ago were uneducated, malnourished, sick, withdrawn and quiet, now morph into happy, laughing, chatty, healthy, and energetic children who love school.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love to walk, dance, watch movies, read, and spend time with my two adorable dogs, Fizz and Dopey.
Advice for our readers?
Life is short, so make a difference. I hope that everyone finds the time to help others because there is nothing that gives greater happiness than that.
First job: Babysitter for my neighbours when I was 16. It was quite fun, and gave me the opportunity to earn money for myself.
Last book read: What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Last movie watched: Kahaani. Loved it.
Biggest influences: My husband Pallak who taught me how to be entrepreneuria. My father who taught me the meaning of hard work, and dedication, and my mother who gave me the values I have.
Your mantra: We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. So be positive!