"I have always loved marketing and storytelling.”, says, Purnota Bahl PGP Co ’05 and CEO and Founder of 'Cuddles Foundation'.

Tell us about yourself, your current role, and your professional journey.   

Hi, I am Purnota Bahl. CEO and Founder of Cuddles Foundation. Cuddles Foundation focuses on providing nutrition for children fighting cancer. Back in 2011 , we were losing approximately 40% of all children battling cancer because their bodies could not withstand chemotherapy. The solution was simple. Support in children undergoing cancer with Nutrition, gave them the Strength to complete treatment. Hence Cuddles Foundation was born.Today we see that more than 82% of the children across our partner hospitals maintain their grade of nourishment or improve it, despite chemotherapy. This is a great indicator of treatment completion

After a corporate career spanning 13 years in marketing with brands like Hindustan Times and Shaadi.com, I found myself drawn to the cause of nutrition for children with cancer. I found that with my experience of working in a startup environment, I was ready to bridge this gap.  That’s when I made the shift from marketing to philanthropy.

What inspired you to join the PGP programme at ISB, especially when it was in its infancy and when there were other choices?

ISB seemed perfect for me. In early 2004 it provided access to the kind of faculty most MBA aspirants dreamt of. Also, the professors were not only from prestigious schools like London Business School, Kellogg School of Management, and MIT Sloan but also from Indian premier league schools like IIM -A

The icing on the cake was when I got a scholarship from the school itself. Very grateful to ISB for the same. Both these factors made my decision clear.

Where did you think you were headed in your career before you took the course? How has the overall ISB experience affected the direction, and what has been the ROI?

I have always loved marketing and storytelling. Prior to ISB, I had worked with the events and branding team at The Indian Express. I was never too ROI-focused ,what was essential for me was to enjoy what I did and the ROI usually followed. ISB gave me exposure to varied aspects of marketing which enabled me to have a flourishing career in marketing which was the bedrock to my being a founder of a world-class organisation.

What ISB memories do you connect with most profoundly? 

I have some very special memories of ISB of not significant events but small things like the most extraordinary library, my quad and the late-night maggi,  the friendships and relationships I made there.

Your passion for entrepreneurship is quite intriguing. Was it a planned career path? How rewarding do you find it?

A chance visit to the Tata Memorial Hospital is what steered me to start ‘Cuddles Foundation’. In that sense, you can call it the cliches engineered by  happenstance. However, once the cause found me, I applied everything I had learnt in the real-world business and set up this charity. The massive impact aside, building an organisation that spans 20 cities and 35 hospitals all across the country ground up has been immensely rewarding.

How have you handled challenging times, and what have your learnings been?

Running a start-up is fraught with challenges; add a layer of a not-for-profit to it, and the challenges becomes multifold.  However, when I look back at my journey and the turbulent times, what amazes me is how help comes from all directions, whether it is the doctors, donors, friends & family and even our generous ISB alums. Hence, my learning has been not to take myself too seriously and assume that it's me who has to figure it all out. There has been an acceptance that the universe chooses us to be instruments, and am humbly glad that I have been selected to be one. I am happy to share that we won a national award from The Ministry of women and Child welfare. I was awarded this by honourable president Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.