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A Robert McNamara Fellow of the World Bank, Manoj’s career as a professional began with stints in Ministry of Finance, development banking, microfinance, and international humanitarian organisations before becoming the founding CEO of Naandi Foundation in 2000 AD. Under his leadership, Naandi’s first decade saw Manoj design and implement innovative solutions that enhanced efficiency and quality of large-scale government services. Creation of the largest network of centralized kitchens for providing 1 billion midday meals to a million school going children being one such example.
With focus on reducing Poverty in India, Manoj led Naandi to focus on two sets of populations that can reduce poverty. Namely, transforming lives of Girls and those of Farmers.
Against the backdrop of a persistent gender inequality in India, Naandi Foundation joined hands with K. C. Mahindra Education Trust to jointly manage one of the largest education based girl child empowerment program named Project Nanhi Kali. Over the years, Project Nanhi Kali has reached out to over 500,000 underprivileged girls across 14 states in India ensuring that girls complete 10 years of formal schooling and reduce gender inequality through intense community level activities.
Manoj led the transformation of tribal communities of Araku Valley (Eastern Ghats) caught in the quagmire of poverty, Naxal (Maoist) insurgency, and aggravating ecological fragility into a region with biodiverse functional forests (30 million trees – mostly coffee, fruits, shade and timber) and thus creating an iconic global brand – ARAKU Coffee that enabled 300,000 tribal lives to come out of poverty. The successful regenerative agriculture model of Araku is being replicated in rural and urban India under the aegis of ‘Arakunomics’ which was awarded the prestigious ‘Food System Vision Prize 2050’ by the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, USA.
A Fellow and Moderator of The Aspen Institute, Manoj is a John P McNulty Laureate. Manoj serves on the Boards of a number of Social Impact organisations including as Trustee of Ananta Aspen Centre which runs the Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellowship in India.
Manoj was named by the Financial Times, London as one of the 25 people to watch out for in India.