Social Entrepreneur Leila Janah Passes Away at 37
Social entrepreneur, Leila Janah, who worked towards alleviating people from extreme poverty, died at the age of 37 on January 24 at a hospital in Manhattan, reports The New York Times. Samasource, her machine learning training data company issued a statement saying that the cause of her death was epithelioid sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer. A child of Indian immigrants in the United States is survived by her husband, her parents; a brother and a stepdaughter.
In 2018, she wrote about the challenges that come along with being a social entrepreneur on her blog. She wrote, “We are fighting the battle of birthing a new venture, while at the same time trying to show the world that we can inject a sense of justice into the business itself, rather than merely trying to rack up profit.”
We are fighting the battle of birthing a new venture, while at the same time trying to show the world that we can inject a sense of justice into the business itself, rather than merely trying to rack up profit.
Initially named Leila Chirayath, she officially took up her mother’s surname about ten years ago. She was born on October 9, 1982, in Lewiston, New York near Niagara Falls. Her father, Sahadev Chirayath, is a structural engineer and her mother, Martine Janah, held various jobs after immigrating to the United States. She shifted to Arizona with her family before finally settling in the San Pedro neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
She had always had the desire to bring a change in the world. It began with her joining the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She learned Braille while on a trip to Ghana as a part of an International Student Exchange Programme. She said that she had never experienced anything like the poverty she saw there. It helped her understand how poverty led to the oppression of people.
After completing her graduation from Harvard in 2004, Leila worked for Katzenbach Partners, a management consulting company in New York. Janah was also the founding director of Incentives for Global Health, the firm develops market-based financial solutions to meet health problems.
The Entrepreneurial Journey
Janah travelled to Mumbai, India, in the mid-2000s as a management consultant to help take an outsourcing company public. She rode through the city in an auto-rickshaw and passed a huge slum on the way. At the outsourcing centre, she found a staff of educated middle-class workers and thought why the poor slum people couldn’t be employed.
She went on to start Samasource in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2008 aiming to employ poor people, in digital jobs like photo tagging and image annotation at the delivery centers in Kenya, Uganda, and India. At least half the people hired are women. The employees have worked with world-renowned companies like Google and Microsoft. It has helped around 50,000 people, including the workers and their dependents. She started another venture called LXMI, a luxury brand with a similar motive: hire marginalized people and give them decent wages. It produces skin-care products and also releases women from the shackles of poverty.
She used to call the poorest people in the world “the biggest untapped resource” in the global economy.
Saavriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV