Aavishkaar is a pioneer in early stage investing in the country and has been active in the space for over a decade. We are guided by the fundamental belief that investing in early stage entrepreneurial ventures can not only deliver commercial returns, but also bring about significant efficiencies and developmental impact to rural and underserved communities. Over time, Aavishkaar has built a track record of high impact scalable enterprises in its portfolio that span across seven key sectors, namely Agriculture and Dairy, Education, Energy, Handicrafts, Health, Water and Sanitation, Technology for Development and Microfinance and Financial Inclusion.

Women @ Aavishkaar

This International Women's Day, we are celebrating the spirit of women at Aavishkaar. We are showcasing our phenomenal women team members and our women entrepreneurs to celebrate their achievements and contribution as they describe their life journey in their own words.

Purnima Khandelwal

To me, entrepreneurship came naturally - it's inherited! Coming from a Marwari family from Calcutta, I have grown-up seeing businesses being built. I had no doubt on what path I wanted to tread in my life…it was always to have an enterprise of my own!

My entrepreneurial journey started at 18 when I started working with my father taking care of sales to Western and Central Railway for Railway track fittings along-with my graduation in Economics from St Xavier's College…wasn't easy for a girl to enter into a Chief-Engineer's chamber and talk about Fish Plates and Sleepers.


I was born in Calcutta, India, and grew up in Pondicherry, South India.

Pondicherry is a melting pot of people, cultures and ideals, fuelled by a spiritual ambience. Inspired by this rich environment and after a ten year sojourn in Italy, I started my own clothing company in Pondicherry with the assistance and guidance of an established Italo-Iranian designer.


My journey to where I am today has been a fortunate one. I have evolved from being an extremely shy and introvert person (My best friends as a kid were the plants in our kitchen garden) to someone who is independent, confident and I guess, reasonably social. And as people say that opposites attract, my closest confidants and friends in this journey of mine have been individuals of opposite disposition.  


Being a woman, I draw inspiration from independent, assertive and ambitious women. The nature of our industry is dynamic, and the work is very demanding because we are faced with new challenges everyday within our own portfolio companies as well as while looking for new investible opportunities. From the time I have joined Aavishkaar, I have been truly inspired by women within the system itself. Within our team, there are women who are married, have kids and thus have equally demanding personal lives as well. Yet they are highly self motivated, bring a different perspective to the table and make excellent professionals. What amazes me most is that they also take out time for pursuing hobbies and chalking out routines for staying fit. The key message that I derive from here is that it is of utmost importance for women professionals to be thoroughly enjoying what they do. It is very easy for women to hold themselves back in their careers, but the true winners are those who carve out a space for themselves, stay fit and then make the family happy. Instead of trying to achieve work life balance in their lives, which in today's age is a myth as there is no demarcation anymore about when work ends and life begins, they go for work life integration.


There have been lots of people along the way who have inspired me to become an entrepreneur from my reporting boss who was paralyzed to my granddad who inspired me to start something. My mom and dad as well, my mom was an entrepreneur in her own way throughout her life, and I have always seen that within my family which has inspired me to be an entrepreneur.


With two daughters, my parents were often reminded that their life is going to be hard with two girl children. They were told they should start saving for our marriage when we were born. But my parents ensured that we were going to be no less than anyone ever. They ensured we got the best education and opportunities to do anything that we ever wanted to do. I left home at a very young age to pursue my studies, make my career and to create an independent life of my own. Along with working hard to achieve your dreams, as a woman you also have to battle the constant gender stereotypes. Over the years, I have learnt to not worry about what the world says and follow my heart. I am a feminist and a strong believer in equal rights for everyone. I believe in living my life on my terms and not by the expectations of the society.


My journey as an entrepreneur has been like a roller coaster. Challenging, vibrant, with lots of learning. In all it has been a very fulfilling and fairly empowering journey. Fulfilling because you are part of an activity that is creating economic wealth and empowering because you can see things take shape and be a prime driver in it.

My Dad is a first generation entrepreneur. He created an economic opportunity and as the opportunity grew, it needed a boost of energy in the form of ideation, time and specific skill set. Besides that need, there was something compelling about the cause – the cause to touch a critical aspect of human life and impact it positively, while building a viable economic model around it. This, I would say, is what attracted me to join the business.


A Woman's day calls for celebrations, to celebrate the women who have achieved something in their lives- who have played multiple roles, in their families, in businesses, and let us not forget even the women in microfinance who have tried to change something, taken a small step albeit in their own way to make this world a better place; Of women who are inspired and inspire you every single day - your mother, your teacher, your friend…


When I was 5, I eagerly awaited to turn 10! Life would be so wonderful… I would be independent and could do things without anyone watching over me…..

Then I turned 10…and realized that I am better off being 15! Would be on the path to absolute freedom…..college would open new doors of opportunity. I could decide what I want to be in life. In true sense, I would be in control of my life….


My journey as an entrepreneur began in August 2004 when I availed a loan of Rs 5 lakh from Indian Bank to promote microfinance among SHG women predominantly from the weaving community in Kancheepuram.

It has been both rewarding as well as challenging. Mr Percy Barnevik engaged me to lead the charity organization, Hand in Hand Tamil Nadu. Initially, Hand in Hand focused on child labour eradication and education. While getting children out of labour, we realized poverty was the causal factor. We felt that we need to support the mothers with sustainable livelihoods while motivating children to pursue their schooling and help them regain their lost childhood.


It is difficult to think of one person who inspires me, more so one woman, but having said that, maybe I can talk about two women who influenced me in some way or the other, and they were both for what they stood for in their respective families.

To me, the most inspirational has been my mother - the practical, strong, quiet family-anchor, who has always made me look to her for guidance in matters that relate to all situations. She was a Biology lecturer, who gave up working to devote time to the family. She was barely 30, when she, a small town person, took my father for his major operation to Delhi, alone; she tirelessly took care of my brother who had met with a near-fatal motorbike accident at the age of 21 that had him bedridden for a year and took another 2 years to become totally independent; she, single-handedly got my 2 chachas and 2 mausis married, arranged for the funerals of my grandparents, to name a few instances.  I've always seen as her a solid anchor for my father, who drew strength from her each time he faced adversity. 


On the occasion of International Women's Day, I find it most apt to step back & reflect on Grameen Koota's work & its mission to socially & economically empower women.I grew up in Avalahalli, a village on the outskirts of Bangalore. As a child, the poverty of the people in the village, who were all agricultural labourers and granite quarry workers, struck me as an unfair reality. I especially remember the children from these families. Thin, malnourished, hardly any clothes on their bodies and never attending school. At meal times several siblings would sit around a single plate of food and eat. This made a deep impact and the memory stayed with me for a long time. Being from a privileged background I was always looking for opportunities to help!


My parents have been the biggest inspiration in my life. My father Prof. G.R. Sharma, who was a professor at the Allahabad University. He never discriminated between daughters and sons and motivated me to make my dream to achieve a leading position in the medical profession come true. I learnt about service from my father. Taking inspiration from my mother who was unofficially the doctor and friend of the entire city, I decided to pursue my career as a gynecologist to work for the upliftment of the health and social condition of women. In my company, more than 50% of the employees are women and that is one of my biggest achievements.

It has been my dream to take the best of the medical facilities to rural areas. Today, GV Meditech with its dynamic team has taken IVF training, cardiac centre and the best healthcare to grassroot level. We have opened medical centres and hospitals in rural areas. We have faced infrastructural challenges such as lack of electricity while setting up IVF Centres. We have set up the first 500 bed hospital with an IVF centre guided by Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio. We have taken state of the art lab and high end technology to rural areas that had no scope of getting access to them. This is what I always wanted to do and now it all feels like a beautiful dream.

I have always been a devoted doctor but knew nothing about business. Over the years and with support from Aavishkaar, I have been able to put systems and processes in place. I have been able to build good credibility with our patients and the community in UP and Bihar.

In my internship days, I saw my surgeon serving a local MP and I had decided then that I will never do a job and will start something of my own. Luckily I could never find a job because it used to be really hard in those times. My biggest satisfaction is when people say that they are happy because they know that if they come to us in emergency, they will still get treated.


Sometimes as women we struggle to find a sense of self as we feel the need to conform to what it means to be a woman as defined by some faraway and some not-so-faraway gatekeepers, while keeping our own individuality. Along with a sense of entitlement to being 'treated as equals', to use a cliché, also comes the need to prove that we deserve to be. Having said all this though which gets talked about plenty, I feel lucky that the men around me have helped me realize my worth, and deserve credit for contributing to some of the nicer aspects of me as a human being.   All in all, I am very thankful to be a woman since I think that we as women have the ability to touch the lives of many of those around us in a meaningful way while going about our everyday business.


I always wanted to be financially independent and that is what drove me to be an entrepreneur. It all started with me wanting to be a production engineer. I was the only girl in the class and in the department in 1994. Many professors would find it uncomfortable to have me as the only girl in a classroom of full of boys. They would indirectly ask me to change my branch to computers or electronics which had more girls. However, I had very supportive classmates who supported me all throughout the course. I had immense support from my parents who encouraged me to finish the course. Later I joined the forging industry which hardly had any women. I remember people used to hang up when I used to answer the phone thinking they have got the wrong number. It was unheard of to have women in this industry.

I never lost my focus and I knew I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My partners and colleagues believed in me and supported me all throughout. I never thought of the gender bias and worked hard equally as the boys in my class or the men at my workplace. Most times I think we women underestimate or underplay ourselves. If we have a clear stand point and are focused the world will adjust around you and will support you. With the right guidance, teachers and mentors around, I was able to become an entrepreneur. I am now trying my best to give back and provide the right kind of support and create the right kind of workspace for everyone. 

Kalpana Jadhav