Purnota Dutta Bahl

Hope for Child Cancer Patients

Stricken by the sufferings of children suffering from cancer, Purnota gave up a successful corporate career to establish Cuddles Foundation. It provides holistic nutrition for underprivileged children undergoing cancer treatment.

Purnota began her journey of a thousand miles four years ago – with strong boots and a pocket full of dreams. After graduating from ISB, she spent 11 years in corporate India. Managing brands for Hindustan Times and then running marketing for Shaadi.com, she gained insights on consumer behaviour and the importance of impactful communication. While there was tremendous professional satisfaction, she wanted more.

Purnota started supporting treatment for kids with cancer. Then, through a chance visit to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, she realised that 40%of the kids under cancer treatment did not survive due to malnutrition. She knew something had to be done about this. That was the origination of Cuddles Foundation. Today, Cuddles is the only large-scale, volunteer-driven organization that provides holistic nutrition for underprivileged children undergoing cancer treatment. They work across 19 hospitals in 10 cities and have served 35,000 children over the last year itself.

It has by no means been an easy ride. Purnota had no experience in running a not-for-profit organization and didn’t even really understand anything about medical nutrition. During her researches, Purnota realised that malnourished children had 60% less chances of cure than a well-nourished child. It was as important as the actual chemotherapy treatment. So, she set up Cuddles in the only way she knows: diving in head first and figuring out how to swim later. Of course, her corporate background and her business school education from ISB were her armour.

She learned about nutrition, spoke to doctors, developed a blueprint and did market testing. She brought together a solid team- some of the sharpest minds in the corporate world with complementary skill sets to join her cause. Leveraging her background as a marketer, she went about doing advocacy with the medical fraternity and donors alike. Important doctors saw the meaningful impact her work was bringing about and became champions. Purnota also got on board Unltd India – an accelerator for social entrepreneurs. They provided guidance, training and inspired confidence. And with that, they were off.

What Cuddles is today is not only a product of the hard work, but it is also shaped by the values imbibed in Purnota as a child. Transparency and ethics are extremely important. So is the focus on measurable and meaningful impact. Engaging donors to not only give but to take the journey with the child from treatment to cure are a few reasons why Cuddles has seen massive support and growth.

And this is exactly how, in a short span of 4 years, Cuddles Foundation has been recognized by the President of India through the National Award for Child Welfare. In the next 2 years, Cuddles aims to reach out to 80% of all children under cancer treatment. Today, Cuddles is the thought leader and the largest custodian of knowledge about paediatric oncology nutrition in the world. Cuddles has been able to develop a model that is workable in any underdeveloped or developing nation across the world.

As it moves into its next big quantum leap, Purnota aims that Cuddles Foundation will reach out to all corners of the globe, reaching out to every single malnourished child seeking cancer treatment.

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