Season 2     EPISODE 5
May 20, 2022

Accepting that you can only do so much | Nisha Subramaniam

Nisha Subramaniam, co-founder of Kanavu, an education nonprofit working in rural Tamil Nadu, shares how the founding team’s failure to think through the feasibility of a project ended up stretching the team too thin and almost jeopardised the future of their organisation.

2 min read

Nisha Subramaniam is the co-founder of Kanavu, a nonprofit that leads efforts in education and community development in rural Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. She also runs a social enterprise, Sura, which trains and recruits rural women to stitch affordable lifestyle products for a global audience. Deeply passionate about elementary education, gender, and leadership, she believes that challenging the current status quo lies at the intersection of these themes.


“This difficult period shattered our belief that passion meeting purpose alone could carry us through any challenge. It has since introduced the big ‘f’ word into our decision-making: feasibility. As part of our working process, we have started to ask ourselves: Is this feasible? How do we make this feasible? Just asking this seemingly simple question is helping us declutter. We are able to look at what’s a ‘good to do’ and a ‘must do’. It has helped us think critically about how we spend our resources and time. 

This failure also underlined the fact that reflective individuals coming together alone doesn’t necessarily result in a reflective team. While each one of us grows aware by reflecting, we also need spaces to come together as a team to reflect and articulate those reflections. Doing this will help us get on the same page, make tweaks accordingly, and move on.”

Read more

  1. Read Nisha Subramaniam’s story on Failure Files.
  2. Read more failure stories on Failure Files.
  3. Check out some ideas and tools from Fail Forward to help your organisation take risks, learn, adapt, and fail intelligently.
  4. Understand why the social sector must recognise and talk about failure.
  5. Learn why talking about failure is crucial for growth.

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