Who We Are

Our Origin

PRADAN was created in 1983 by two young professionals, Deep Joshi and Vijay Mahajan, who were convinced that even the stubborn, endemic poverty of rural India can be solved. They believed that well-educated professionals working within communities can bring both the empathy and knowledge needed to help poor people improve their lives.

Deep and Vijay also believed that grassroots work in the spirit of pradan, or giving back to society, can be a fulfilling and viable vocation for educated men and women. They created Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan), to systematically groom and enable professionals with empathy towards the poor to work at the grassroots level.

In 1987 PRADAN began working with the government and over the years we have played a major role in developing such programs as IRDP, SGSY, and the National Rural Livelihood Mission. We continue to work for change that is sustainable and self-perpetuating, bringing skills and systems that help women, families and communities gain confidence and take charge of their own lives.

“As we move forward, society needs to engage with compassion and empathy with those who are left behind, treating them as equals.”

Since the very beginning, Deep has strongly believed that the ‘best and the brightest’ were needed to work with the weakest sections of society to help them discover their strength and voice. A graduate of

“Pradan is a deeply held belief for me.”

Deep Joshi

“As we move forward, society needs to engage with compassion and empathy with those who are left behind, treating them as equals.”

Since the very beginning, Deep has believed that the ‘best and the brightest’ were needed to work with the weakest sections of society to help them discover their strength and voice. A graduate of MIT’s School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, Deep has lived this philosophy.

According to Deep, “Development professionals need both head and heart. If all you have is a bleeding heart, it wouldn’t work. If you only have a strong head, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch a human chord.” He believes that PRADAN has institutionalised a way to communicate this belief to young Indians.

But there is still plenty to be done. Given the scale of Indian poverty, what PRADAN does is a drop in the ocean. Deep says, “To fill the ocean is a big challenge as it requires joining hands with people who are different from you.”

“Pradan is a deeply held belief for me.”

“I think it is very worrying for a nation when their elite lose touch with the weakest. PRADAN provides a way to bridge this disconnect.”

An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, Vijay’s first job at an MNC left him wanting to do more for the community. In 1983, Vijay met Deep Joshi and the idea of PRADAN evolved in less than hour. They believed Read More...

“I wanted to change the India I lived in.”

Vijay Mahajan

“I think it is very worrying for a nation when their elite lose touch with the weakest. PRADAN provides a way to bridge this disconnect.”

An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, Vijay’s first job at an MNC left him wanting to do more for the community. In 1983, Vijay met Deep Joshi and the idea of PRADAN evolved in less than hour. They believed that the only way to create change at the grassroots was by getting well educated and motivated young people to work with poor communities. Thirty years later, this remains the core philosophy of PRADAN.

Vijay believes that PRADAN’s ethos lies in being where the action is – living with poor communities, interacting with them, contributing to their dreams and making them a reality.

In his view, PRADAN’s contribution goes beyond individual success stories. It is an NGO that creates new models of development, that have been replicated across the country by others. “PRADAN’s effectiveness lies in the fact that its successes go beyond individuals and even beyond PRADAN!”

“I wanted to change the India I lived in.”

Our Team

We work to strengthen the ability of the rural poor to earn a decent living. We are organized into field-based teams of three-to-five young professionals, under the leadership of a mid-career team coordinator and the guidance of a team of integrators

More than 389 young professionals are working in 8,160 remote villages of India, immersing themselves directly with target communities across seven of the poorest states. They are recruited from universities and hold degrees in subjects like management, engineering, agriculture, and the social sciences. A majority of the 764,539 families we work with belongs to marginalized communities.

Our Board

The governing board provides oversight and counsel to PRADAN. It comprises up to nine independent members with distinguished records of public service and three leaders from PRADAN, including the executive director.

Retired IAS Officer GOI, New Delhi

Anshu is a retired IAS officer of the Government of India. She was Secretary, School Education and Literacy. She has been an independent director at Steel Authority of India Limited since November 2015. She lives in Bhopal with her family.

Development Activist

Sushma founded and led the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, one of the early rural women's organizations in India. She has initiated many civil society organisations and networks. She was in the steering committee for the 12th Plan of the Planning Commission. She is currently on the Boards of Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation and a member of the advisory body of NDMA. In 2007 she was selected as one of the Indian Heroes of the year for Public Service by CNN-IBN. She has a Masters in Literature from MS University, Baroda and has studied Master of Professional Studies, Development Studies and Communication from Cornell University, U.S.A. She is based at Old Madhapar in Kutch district.

Founder, ISB, Ashoka University & Vedica Scholars

Pramath is the founding Dean of the Indian School of Business, and the Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University, and Vedica Scholars. He was Managing Director and CEO of the ABP Group, one of India’s leading and most diversified media conglomerates. He worked as a Partner at McKinsey & Company for 12 years. He has an M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in New Delhi with his family.

Director of Social Security at SEWA

Mirai is currently Director of Social Security at Self Employed Women Association (SEWA). She is also Chairperson of the SEWA Cooperative Federation and the National Insurance VimoSEWA Cooperative. She was appointed a member of the National Advisory Council in June 2010. She has a B.A. from Harvard University in History and Science and a Masters from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She lives in Ahmedabad with her family.

Retired Senior Rural, Development Specialist, World Bank

Biswajit retired as senior rural development specialist with the World Bank. He has worked with UNICEF, MacArthur Foundation USA and Swiss Development Cooperation. Currently he is a visiting scholar at the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur. He was one of the initial team members of PRADAN who went on to set up several other rural development organizations such as GDS, Nalanda and IIMPACT. He has a management degree from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He lives in Jaipur with his family.

Advocate, Supreme Court of India Founder, Enviro Legal Defence Firm

Sanjay is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India. He is also the founder and Managing Director of India's first environmental law firm, the Enviro Legal Defence Firm. He was an India Visiting Fellow at the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, Global Fellow at Duke Marine Lab, Duke University, USA and a legal intern to the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund, San Francisco. He lives in New Delhi with his family.


Kirtti Bhusan Pani has been with PRADAN since 1997. He is a B.Tech in Agricultural Engineering from Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar. He lives in Bhubaneswar with his family.


Smita has been with PRADAN since 1997. She was earlier with Oil Orissa, a subsidiary of NDDB. She has a PGDM from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. She lives in Ghaziabad with her family.


Narendranath has been with PRADAN since 1989. He has served in many senior management positions, including leading the embedded cell with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). He received a degree in mechanical engineering from Kerala University and a PGDRM from the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). He lives in New Delhi with his spouse and daughter.


In 2016, we created a small team to drive technical and financial resources to India to help us continue to innovate, scale our programs, and expand capacity in research, communications and advocacy. This group also actively shares our mission, values, evidence and results with like-minded organizations that share our passion for social justice.

The priorities of our global team

Connect PRADAN to Like-minded Organizations Outside of India

We believe we have much to learn from organizations who share our vision and values. We also want to share our 35-year track record of impact with partners and build meaningful collaborations when possible.

Strengthen PRADAN’s Internal Systems

Invest in data, information and knowledge management systems to strengthen the quality and consistency of PRADAN’s work, allowing for more rigorous research and enabling further scale.

Drive Evidence-informed Policy and Advocacy in India

Share PRADAN’s development models and outcomes as evidence to influence the perspectives of global development partners, donors and governments on social development.

Develop Strategic Partnerships

Drive financial and technical resources to PRADAN to expand programs in India and advance PRADAN’s vision within the development community.

Expand Capacity for Measurement, Evaluation and Research

Build evidence of PRADAN’s efficacy, refine the model and value proposition, and strengthen institutional research partnerships to expand PRADAN’s influence.

Global Leaders

Melissa is Managing Director, Africa, at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Before joining MCC, Dr. Ho served as Senior Advisor and Technical Division Director in the Bureau for Food Security at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she led the agricultural water management portfolio. Dr. Ho has a B.Sc. in Environmental Systems from Cornell University, an M.Sc. in Soil Science from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the Pennsylvania State University. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Kavita is senior advisor to Ford’s president, Darren Walker, on issues related to the foundation's work in changing contexts around the world. She is based at New York. Before assuming this position in 2015, Kavita served for three years as representative for the foundation's office in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. There, her work focused on issues of equity, inclusion, economic fairness, freedom of expression, human rights, sexuality and reproductive health and rights, transparency and accountable governance, and sustainable development.

Robert is a Specialist Leader, Emerging Markets in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Monitor Deloitte service line focusing on impact investing, inclusive growth, and redefining value in underserved markets. He is based at Washington D.C. For 25 years, he has advised public/private sector clients on new market entry, growth, and social impact and has developed and implemented innovative, market-based solutions and impact investment strategies. He is a thought leader on inclusive business, scaling social innovation, and corporate intrapreneurship.

Deep is the founder of PRADAN in India and served as the organization’s director until 2007. As a social worker and NGO activist, he is recognized for his leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India. He was awarded the 2009 Magsaysay award for Community Leadership for his work for "development of rural communities". He is also a recipient of the civilian honor of Padma Shri. Mr. Joshi has an MBA, SM (Mechanical Engineering), BE. He was educated at MNNIT Allahabad and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Laura is a Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation based at Seattle.
Laura is an Agriculture-Nutrition Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this role, she works with the foundation’s Agricultural Development team to incorporate nutrition-sensitive interventions and objectives into agriculture-focused programs. Prior to joining the foundation last year, she worked for seven years at the US Agency for International Development, managing global nutrition programs and developing the nutrition framework under Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative.

Soledad recently completed a PhD and focuses her research on comparative political economy, economic development, gender, and the politics of the welfare state, with a regional focus in India. Her dissertation seeks to better understand why women in India, and developing countries more broadly, are particularly disengaged from politics and to identify the mechanisms through which the prevailing political gender gap is reduced.

Development professional who has worked as a researcher, strategist, and advocate for poverty and social justice issues for more than a decade. She worked closely with PRADAN as their Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is truly humbled to lead the development of PRADAN-USA. Prior to the Gates Foundation, she managed HIV programs in West Africa and the Caribbean for the Clinton Foundation and did research on how to accelerate social processes of change using low-cost technologies.