Yogavelli Nambiar, 49, is a strategist and entrepreneur. After over two decades of working in the social economy, she founded Niara Advisory. Her key focus areas are entrepreneurship development and support for youth, women and social entrepreneurs.
Yogi has had an inspiring journey as an adviser to those committed to social change. In India for seven years, she worked in women’s human rights and led a foundation in the disabilities sector, which led her to being featured in the book Inspired (2014) by Jennifer Renton on her return to South Africa. She has built two businesses (a social change consultancy and a travel business), consulted on government strategy, corporate social responsibility and social enterprise business models, taught social entrepreneurship, co-founded two sector associations, trained hundreds of nonprofits on how to be more sustainable, and participated in conferences as a thought leader on women and social entrepreneurship.
Yogi was the chief executive of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that identifies and nurtures entrepreneurial potential in young people. She serves on the boards of Aspen Institute Global South Africa, the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs and the Africa regional board of the Young Presidents Organisation where she drives the diversity and inclusion agenda on the continent. She is also an adviser to Womanomics Africa, which promotes women entrepreneurship.
In 2022, she was nominated to the African Leadership Initiative Fellowship.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don’t walk through the world looking for “evidence” that you don’t belong because you’ll always find it; or that you’re not enough, you will find it. Our worth and our belonging are not negotiated with other people — we carry that inside us.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
I empower myself by continuously learning from a diversity of sources and on a range of topics. I actively seek out ways of broadening my perspectives and that comes through pushing the boundaries of my own comfort zones. I also use my voice to advocate, to inspire and to facilitate new understanding.
In the past, I have empowered other women through my human rights activism for women who had been trafficked into prostitution, and more recently by developing and delivering programmes that capacitate and support women entrepreneurs to run their businesses better.
I am now actively engaged in the mentorship of young girls to help them embrace their talents and have the confidence to realise their dreams.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
I would ensure that every child in South Africa gets a high-quality education that includes entrepreneurial and ethical leadership learning, and a sense of hope and agency for their future