The genesis of The Antara Foundation dates back to 2003 when I left McKinsey for an offer that could just not be refused. It was an opportunity to lead the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in India and spearhead a program (Avahan) that would stem the growing HIV epidemic in India. Experiences over a decade with the Gates Foundation helped me appreciate the complexity of public health delivery in India and drivers of scale. These crucial insights helped shape the idea of The Antara Foundation.
At the time Avahan was conceptualised, experts told us that HIV prevention at scale was impossible. Solutions to HIV prevention were well known but sex workers had far more serious problems and priorities than focussing on HIV prevention. Widespread social stigma and apathy were a huge barrier. There was very little data to go by. In less than three years, Avahan became perhaps the largest private HIV prevention ever undertaken operating in over 600 towns across India. The program has been credited by Lancet with having averted over 600,000 infections.
As Avahan expanded, I became convinced that the lessons we were learning in scaling up were universal. This led me to the idea of setting up The Antara Foundation.
At The Antara Foundation, we take the view that there are known solutions to most problems in public health delivery in India. The real challenge is the delivery of these solutions at scale. This involves frontline supply management, creation of consumer demand and building an enabling environment. Some would say that these are lessons from successful businesses as well.
Scale also requires partnership with a visionary state government and a donor with both commitment and imagination. We are excited to have that understanding with the Tata Trusts and the Government of Rajasthan. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Tata Trusts Chairman Mr. Ratan Tata have expressed their deep commitment to Akshada. The flagship program for the state of Rajasthan, Akshada aims to transform the state’s outcomes on nutrition, maternal and child health.
Through our website we will keep you updated on our learnings – both data and human – from this journey that we’ve embarked on. Keep coming back and bring your friends!
Founder-Director, The Antara Foundation