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  • Writer's pictureLakshmi Pratury

#50over50: Vidya Shah

The Person Behind Personality in my #50over50 is an IIM-A graduate who chose to head a Foundation that supports small and medium non-profit organisations because her heart lied in creating meaningful impact. Ladies and gentlemen, Vidya Shah!

Sea Lounge restaurant at Taj Colaba is a very special place for me. When I was studying management at Bajaj institute, going to a five-star restaurant was a rarity. Sea Lounge was the first restaurant that I stepped in to have a meeting with a professor who was squeezing me in between his business meetings. While this was his usual hangout, it was an unforgettable memory for me. 

A few years ago, I ran into a friend of mine at the restaurant and he introduced me to his lunch mate who turned out to be Vidya Shah. Vidya runs EdelGive Foundation. I am a huge fan of first moments. For most of my friendships, I remember the first time I ever met them and each time I meet them, I go back to that frozen moment and thank the stars for making that moment happen. Vidya and I hit it off immediately and decided to meet later to get to know each other.

Both of us have crazy travel schedules and an interest in diverse fields. If I count the number of hours that we spent in the last 5 or 6 years that we have known each other, it might total to a mere double digits but the depth of our conversations has aged our friendship beautifully. 

Vidya got her business school degree from IIM Ahmedabad and along with the degree, she also acquired her husband, Rashesh Shah! She came into Edelweiss after it started tasting success and decided early on to share part of the profits with the larger community by setting up a Foundation. She has been instrumental in setting up EdelGive Foundation and made it her mission to make a difference where it’s needed the most. Be it in business or the non-profit world, the lifeblood of the sector is small and medium entities. EdelGive Foundation works with Non-Profit Organisations that are small and medium and are making a deep impact in the areas they choose to operate. 

Having worked in this sector, I know that social entrepreneurs are the most passionate and are very dedicated to what they do. What they often lack is the training and rigor of a for-profit organization. Vidya’s mission was to fill this gap. She designed EdelGive Foundation to help the non-profits they choose with talent development, capacity building, and financing so that they become successful sustainable entities. They choose wonderful social entrepreneurs and help them be successful even if it means pivoting completely to change the mission in order to stay with the needs of the time. 

One of the unique features of this Foundation is to use the employees from their for-profit company to volunteer their time with what a banking institution excels at - strategy and planning, financial sustainability, systems processes and technology, human resources. Under her leadership, the organization has grown ten-fold because she realized the one key to success – collaboration. EdelGive works with dozens of other Foundations to leverage the investment that they make in each of the social organizations. They use their network to bring these social organizations in front of High Net-worth Individuals, international Foundations and CSR divisions of large corporations which they otherwise could not have had the opportunity to meet. They started with commitments of around INR 2.5 crore annually and today, they manage over INR 100 crore along with 20-30 funding partners. This has aggregated to commitments of over INR 230 crore over the last 10 years of their operations. And that's the kind of leverage and scale she brought that does not depend on her alone. She does not seek limelight except when it helps her organizations. When she believes in something, she helps ... no questions asked and goes all out.

I worked closely with Vidya to curate the stories of some of their partner NGOs and the event was held in Alibag at their retreat Fountainhead. It has over 70 rooms including an auditorium ideal for a small corporate retreat. There are three to four bungalows that can be used for a family. To me, that place reflects Vidya’s personality. Right from the name to the décor, that place is a combination of deep thought, elegance, and unmistakable simplicity. When I was curating the stories of NGOs, we could have meetings under a tree or on the lawns or just walking around the premises. It brought out the best in all of us because we could bring the outside energy into our conversations that were happening inside the auditorium. 

Vidya has the brains and the acumen to be a Fortune 500 CEO. Instead, she is building an organization that I believe will have as much, if not more, influence than any Fortune 500 company. She is committed to making EdelGive a world-class entity in terms of scale as well as impact and I remain a fan of her work! 

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