Director, Grants Deshpande Foundation India
Dr. Neelam Maheshwari received her PhD. in Gender Studies from the State University of New York in Buffalo in 2012, and her Masters in International Development from Brandeis University in Boston in 2007. Neelam brings with her over ten years of experience promoting small enterprises, producer collectives and community led microfinance.
At the Deshpande Foundation, Neelam manages Hubballi sandbox's livelihoods and small enterprises program; where she has helped several organizations develop revenue models of their program, launch community led producer collectives and market led livelihoods initiatives. Besides monitoring and managing partnership with Sandbox partners, Neelam helps create prototypes that drive entrepreneurial opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid. In 2011 she initiated a unique program, “Navodyami”, that has assisted over hundred small entrepreneurs in the Hubballi Sandbox by providing mentorship, financial and marketing support. She is passionate about issues of gender, equity and entrepreneurship and was instrumental in launching a very active women's chapter of TiE Hubballiwhich works to mentor women-led startups in the region.
Before joining her current organization, Neelam taught several courses at SUNY Buffalo for two years and supported the fundraising efforts for a women’s community fund in Boston. Neelam previously worked at Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), an award winning livelihoods organization in India. At PRADAN Neelam led a team of professionals to launch several livelihoods programs in draught prone regions of Rajasthan State including microcredit enterprises, natural resource management programs and the first women's dairy cooperative. Seeking to bridge her interest in academia and action, Neelam also writes about and engages in addressing the challenges of building enterprises that catalyze wealth generation opportunities for resource constrained communities.