Purnota Dutta Bahl is the founder and CEO of an NGO “Cuddles Foundation” which is a well-known NGO in India concentrating on the unrecognised area of nutrition for cancer-affected children.
Purnota was born in 1980 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She joined Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai from where she completed her Bachelor of Commerce, and later, she completed her MBA from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
Purnota began her journey as a social entrepreneur in 2012. She graduated from ISB and spent close to 11 years in corporate India, managing and heading brands for companies like Hindustan Times and Shaadi.com. A chance visit to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai introduced her to the plight of children fighting cancer in India. Malnourished children have fewer chances of surviving cancer than a well-nourished child – largely because of their intolerance to chemotherapy. Purnota knew she could do something about it. She quit her corporate career, learnt about nutrition, spoke to doctors, developed a blueprint for a non-profit and made fighting cancer with food and nutrition her mission. She convinced some like-minded individuals with complementary skill sets from her corporate life to join her cause. Leveraging her background as a marketer, they sent out advocacy materials and met with doctors to get the medical community to endorse the need for nutrition to fight childhood cancer. Soon many Paediatric Oncologists joined the cause and became champions.
Cuddles started out as an idea and has since been a primary provider of nutrition to paediatric wards in many government cancer hospitals across the country including Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and AIIMS in Delhi. In 2016, Cuddles was recognised by the President of India with the National Award for Child Welfare. In 2018, with the help of volunteers, Cuddles developed its own app called the ‘FoodHeals App’ to support nutritionists in grading a child’s malnourishment status and providing appropriate intervention. Purnota has set her goals high to take Cuddles’ model of nutrition for paediatric cancer to other developing corners of the world.
Awards & Honours
- President’s Awards for Child Welfare in 2015-16
- Outlook Poshan Special Jury Award, 2019
- Akshaya Patra and UN Global Compact award for its nutrition solutions in tackling India’s malnutrition problem in 2018.
- Panna Dhai Award for contribution to the welfare of children at the Mewar Foundation 38th Annual Awards in March 2020
- Purnota shared one of her experiences with Cuddles Foundation, she said,
There was a boy Nandu who used to work part-time at a factory in the day and come for treatment during the evenings. Despite his illness and chemotherapy, Nandu had no choice but to work. The nutritionists from Cuddles came to his rescue. With their gentle encouragement and nutritional support, he finally quit his job. Today, having recovered he has started going to school with a noble dream of becoming a scientist to find the cure to a disease like cancer.”
- Bollywood actress, Sonam Kapoor is one of the fundraisers. She is also the brand ambassador of Cuddles Foundation.
- Purnota and Emraan Hashmi appeared on the Karamveer episode of KBC 11 on 22 November 2019. Purnota shared her experience with her NGO whereas, Emraan shared real-life experiences of his son, Ayaan Hashmi, who was once suffering from cancer.