Indra Nooyi Inspires Houston Community at Pratham Gala to Support Education in Unser-served Communities of India

Vinita Sud Belani, Founding Artistic Director of Enacte Arts, in conversation with Indra Nooyi, former Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo

HOUSTON: The highly anticipated Pratham Houston Gala returned on Saturday, May 7, 2022 after a hiatus of two years. The event brought together Houston’s Indo-American community to raise awareness and funding for the charity’s education programs for children in under-served communities in India. The highlight of the evening was a conversation with Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

Annu Rao Naik, President of the Pratham Houston chapter, welcomed everyone and started the evening with why she, and so many others, support Pratham, as “Pratham not only connects us with India and enables us to give back, but most importantly we believe in this noble cause that education is a great equalizer. We trust the work Pratham has done over two decades to impact the lives of millions of children.”

Pratham CEO, Rukmini Banerji and inaugural Pratham USA CEO and Global Executive, Manisha Bharti, took the stage together and provided insight into Pratham’s future and key learnings.

From left to right: Deepak Raj (Pratham USA Chairman), Vijay Goradia (Pratham USA Founder), Swatantra Jain (Pratham USA CFO), Bimla Jain, Rukmini Banerji (Pratham Education Foundation CEO), Manisha Bharti (Pratham USA CEO & Global Executive)

The audience was left enthralled and inspired by Guest Speaker, Indra Nooyi, who spoke about education and women’s empowerment in a conversation with Vinita Sud Belani, Founding Artistic Director of Enacte Arts. Nooyi said, “I am so grateful to Pratham for taking on the challenge of educating the children of India.” She spoke about her personal journey of learning and the importance of education in her life. When asked who she looks up to, she said “Rukmini [Banerji] is one of my heroes. I don’t look up to people who make money. I look up to people who make a difference.”

Another highlight of the evening was the honoring of Philanthropist and CFO of Pratham USA, Mr. Swatantra Jain, for his tireless support to Pratham. Mr. Swatantra Jain has been an integral part of the Houston community since 1985, involved with Pratham USA since its conception in 1999, and has been active on the Pratham Houston board since 2005, formerly serving as Pratham Houston President. He spoke about how education has deeply impacted his own life, saying “I have not forgotten how it feels to be poor where parents worry about how to find a meal for their children or to buy a book for their school. I have lived that life of poverty and hardships after my family migrated to Pakistan after the tragedy of India’s partition in 1947. I can feel the pain of the millions of underprivileged children Pratham serves and I am proud to be part of it.”

Pratham Houston Board with Pratham USA CEO & Global Executive, Manisha Bharti, and former Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi

Through Mr. Swatantra Jain’s generous donation and tireless efforts to increase literacy in India, Pratham will be creating the Pratham-Jain Education Centre. This Centre will create digital learning materials and help underprivileged children in the state of Punjab, which has some of the lowest literacy rates in India.

The evening closed with an exciting performance by local dance group, Rhythm India and music by DJ Chani of Desi Junction DJs.

After two years, the Houston community came together once again to celebrate the accomplishments of Pratham and to continue the crucial work being done in India. When asked what they thought about the event, Smita Singh said, “It was a wonderful evening for a crucial cause, and it is always a joy to see the Houston community come together to support children’s education. Education is a cause I feel strongly about and the work Pratham does in India is

Pratham Houston Gala 2022 Volunteers

School closures in India due to the pandemic have been longer than most other countries. There are significant concerns around increased learning loss. As schools reopen in a staggered manner across India, many children will return to the classroom without the necessary fundamental skills – or they may not be able to return at all. Pratham’s proven programs play a role in addressing inequity in education – helping an entire generation of children to learn well and determine their own futures. The funds raised at the Pratham Houston Gala will provide much needed support to children in India, giving them an opportunity to learn and stem the steep learning loss that has occurred during the pandemic.

Event Sponsors included: Accenture, Active Athlete, Amegy Bank, Ascend Performance Materials, Cadence Bank, Deloitte, Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett, JP Morgan Chase, JVB Preksha Meditation Center, Kingham Dalton Wilson, Methodist Learning Medicine, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, Wells Fargo.