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Episode 19: Naghma Mulla CEO EdelGive Foundation UdyamStree for Women Entrepreneurship

Naghma Mulla “ Women’s right movement one of the strongest in India”

Nishant Malhotra’s discussion with Naghma Mulla, CEO EdelGive Foundation & UdyamStree Campaign 

Image: EdelGive Foundation

In this episode, Nishant Malhotra has a candid chat with Naghma Mulla, a thought leader and CEO of EdelGive Foundation, a leading grant-making organization in India. EdelGive mission is to build and expand the philanthropic ecosystem by funding small and medium-sized grassroots nonprofits (NGOs) committed to empowering vulnerable children, women, and communities. Naghma Mulla discusses how EdelGive Foundation is enabling social change and impact within the social sector in India through many initiatives including UdyamStree campaign accelerating women entrepreneurship for more nuanced socio-economic equity among the marginalized community for a better tomorrow. Despite thoughtful policies for the upliftment of women, a lot needs to be done in this sector.

Indian women’s contribution towards GDP is only 18 percent versus the global average of 37 percent sadly due to the asymmetries within the Indian ecosystem.  India has 48 percent women population but only 14 percent of women are entrepreneurs. To share a perspective, Vidya Shah Executive Director of EdelGive Foundation, pointed out the importance of equal opportunity for women in India —-  out of 432 million working-age women in India, ~ 80 percent work in the informal sector with limited financial and social support. According to McKinsey Global Institute, equal opportunity for women would add $770 billion to the GDP by 2025. a

Naghma Mulla is the CEO of EdelGive Foundation. She is also a member of the Board of Directors at the organization. Over the last nine years, she has enabled growth and scale for the organizations that EdelGive Foundation supports and has fostered strategic partnerships within the philanthropic network. She has also developed and nurtured two large collaboratives with diverse stakeholders, which are working with some of the most vulnerable communities to support education for children, and economic and social empowerment of women. She began her career with Bajaj Alliance General Insurance and played an instrumental role in their foundational team. Naghma is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and has a Master of Commerce (M. Com.) degree from Pune University.

Snapshot of the discussion

The discussion with Naghma is thought-provoking, insightful, and evidence-based. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks India at 140 places out of 156 countries covered, showcasing the present state of women empowerment in India. Today, the gender gap issue is becoming mainstream with leading women icons like Melinda French Gates vocal about women inequality. Naghma quotes ILO statistics that if globally 25% of the gender pay gap is reduced, it will increase world GDP by $5.8 trillion. 

Naghma Mulla EdelGive Foundation & UdyamStree Campaign

EdelGive flagship report A Landscape Study on Women Entrepreneurship: Its challenges and impact on health, socio-economic security, and family wellbeing outcomes of Women Entrepreneurs is an eyeopener for policymakers and all actors within the development sector. The report is a collaborative work that includes subject matter experts, academia, etc. to understand the impact evaluation of policy-making within the Indian development ecosystem and to get an in-depth perspective on women entrepreneurship. Naghma points out a revealing statistic, only 10 percent  of the women in India are aware of government schemes targeted to help them. Sadly only 1 percent of these women make use of various welcoming policy initiatives example Annapurna, MUDRA, etc. MUDRA facilitates women’s entrepreneurship through loans with a limit of INR 10 Lakhs.

“Women-led businesses currently provide direct employment to an estimated 22 to 27 million people. Growth in the number and size of women-owned businesses could generate 150 to 170 million new jobs by 2030, tackling the unemployment crisis in the country.”


EdelGive Foundation UdyamStree 

Naghma gives excellent examples of institutions catalyzing social change and impact like the Mann Deshi Foundation. Mann Deshi Bank is backed by India’s Central Bank, managed, and caters its basket of financial services to women. The bank has a zero-default rate and stands out as a paragon of virtue among banks in a country riddled with non-performing assets. Refer to the graph on the plight of marginalization among women entrepreneurs. One significant step by various stakeholders within this sector would be to spread awareness about policies taken by the government among the underprivileged section of society to enable a measurable social impact.


In a well-rounded discussion, Naghma chats about the ~9 million migrants’ workers who were forced to travel back to their home destinations during the first wave of the pandemic in India. Out of these 9 million only 4.5 million came back to work after the lull between the first and second wave of the pandemic. 60 percent of the women workforce never came back. The middle Road hopes that the Government of India takes sustained measures in helping migrant workers. Naghma talks about two projects; one in Rajasthan and in West Bengal, wherein EdelGive Foundation is enabling social change and impact. Further, through the Growth Fund, EdelGive Foundation is funding 100 non-profits in the development sector. Naghma talks about two episodes that had a deep impact on her. She cites the Dignity March, an epic fightback of survivors of rape and sexual violence as one of the most defining moments in her life that has had a deep impression on her.

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Questions: The wordings would be a bit different during the discussion 

Naghma Mulla, EdelGive Foundation & UdyamStree Campaign


  1. Naghma good to have a candid chat with you. You have worked for some time at the EdelGive foundation. Do share your experiences at the EdelGive foundation with the audience that has had a transforming effect on you?

✓ What changes have you seen in the Indian social sector landscape especially concerning women empowerment in the last decade?

  1. According to World Economic Forum, India ranks at a woeful 140 out of 156 countries covered in the Global Gender Gap Report in 2021. 3 In a country that has had a systemic problem of gender inequality for generations, how do you think the class divide is impeding women entrepreneurship in India.

  2. According to WEF, in 2018 globally 40.6% of women and 35.6% of men in the world were enrolled in tertiary education but only 88.2% of girls enrolled for primary education in comparison to 90.5% for boys. 3 In India, the situation is far worse for women with a lack of inclusive quality education despite the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Share your perspective ?

  3. What steps is EdelGive taking to drive equitable education among the underserved section of girls in our country?

✓ EdelGive conducted an in-depth study on women’s entrepreneurship.

Do share key insights from the report A Landscape Study on Women  Entrepreneurship: Its challenges and impact on health, socio-economic security, and family wellbeing outcomes of Women Entrepreneurs that you find helpful in driving UdyamStree initiative.

✓ One aspect highlighted in the report is about serotyping women within society. How do you think we can overcome this misgiving perception change in the long term? If so how?

  1. Do speak how the UdyamStree is making a sustainable change within the women startup ecosystem in India?  What policies at the federal level do you feel can help bridge the gap for women entrepreneurship? Enunciate a couple of these policies.
  1. The philosophy of EdelGive Foundation is based on collaboration as you along with other foundations are correcting a market failure within the system. Do articulate how through UdyamStree, you plan to collaborate with other foundations example Milaan for a better tomorrow.
  1. Anu Prasad discussed Pay What It Takes Philanthropy, a welcome initiative during my conversation with her for The middle Road platform. Pay What It Takes Philanthropy, is an impact-driven giving framework that EdelGive along with other leading foundations and The Bridgespan Group are promoting in India. How does EdelGive plan to use this value-focused Grantmaking approach for uplifting underprivileged women for entrepreneurship? Example more streamlined microlending methodology.
  •  Do share about other areas of work apart from UdyamStree ? What change are you passionate about and what steps you feel one should take to achieve these goals?
  1. For the final question, do share the Aha moment with the audience that brings a smile to your lips. Feel free to share any message with the youth out there.


  3. World Economic Report Global Gender Gap Report 2021
a Vidya Shah Times of India blog