Advisory Board

Shilpa Sharma

Past: Founder, Jaypore
Current: Mentor, Flourish, Industree Crafts Foundation


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In a 12 years stint with Fabindia as Head of Product Development & Buying, she delivered 45% growth by evaluating new business opportunity, growth strategy and sole accountability for the P&L for 78 stores pan India and growing at the pace of 3 new stores a month.

Shilpa co-founded Jaypore, India’s first online retail portal for exquisite Indian handmade and contemporary design craft products. She is currently mentoring Flourish, a global platform that envisions making ‘conscious consumption’.

She continues to nurture two other ventures, Breakaway (an outcome of her passion for travel) and Mustard (offers Bengali and French cuisine and has a presence in Goa and Mumbai). She enjoys her work with FMCG, as a consultant, mentor, and advisor. Shilpa is also actively advising founders at Purplle and Bzaar on strategy & growth, and is an Advisory Board Member at Anant National University, Ahmedabad. She is actively engaged as a mentor with the IIM Ahmedabad led CCBP program and the Young India Fellowship (YIF) at Ashoka University. Shilpa is co-chair for the Fellows Program at Ink Talks.

Dr. Timo Rissanen

Past: Author, Shaping Sustainable Fashion and Zero Waste                       Fashion Design, Associate professor, Parsons School of                 Design
Current: Course director and associate professor of Fashion and Textiles, University of Technology Sydney


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Dr. Timo Rissanen is a researcher, educator, artist, and designer. He is the associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and is currently serving as the course director. He was the associate professor of fashion design and sustainability at Parsons School of Design, The New School from 2010 to 2020.

Rissanen completed his PhD on zero-waste fashion design. He co-curated Fashioning Now with Alison Gwilt in 2009 and Yield with Holly McQuillan in 2011, and has co-published two books on fashion and sustainability, Shaping Sustainable Fashion with Gwilt in 2011 and Zero Waste Fashion Design with McQuillan in 2016. He is one of the co-founders of the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF). 

Smriti Iyer

Past: Consultant, Global Education Practice, The World Bank
Current: Program Manager, IMAGO Global Grassroots


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Smriti holds a Master’s in Public Administration & International Development from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is a development economist working in the areas of social enterprise development, skill development, education, health and infrastructure. She has engaged with diverse work environments ranging from corporate social responsibility to research and advocacy, and is extremely interested in operationalising enterprises that want to be inclusive and simultaneously serve people, the planet and profits.

She has previously worked as Program Manager in a non-profit based in Washington DC. Prior to that she has held positions in the World Bank, Tata Trusts, Centre for Policy Research and Grant Thornton India.

Akash Karmakar

Past: Associate, Veritas Legal Advocates and Solicitors
Current: Partner, Panag & Babu


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Akash Karmakar is a partner and a practice head at Panag & Babu Law Firm. He’s been on the frontlines with Panag & Babu’s corporate and regulatory advisory team, which has advised several multinational investors and target companies on structuring their entry into India and acted on transactions involving strategic and financial investments into, and outside India. He is familiar with issues that arise in complex transactions across diverse sectors, including technology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, manufacturing and e-commerce.

He works closely with healthcare, telecom and pharma giants, payment platforms, mobile app companies, smart network connectivity providers, online marketplaces, and crypto-exchanges to structure operations in a manner that avoids triggering licensing requirements.

Mahesh Yagnaraman

Past:  Co-founder and Director, CEO and Managing Director, First Energy Private Ltd.
Current: India Country Director at Acumen


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An entrepreneur, CEO and strategic professional with over thirty years of experience spanning varied roles and functions across continents. Mahesh co-founded First Energy Private, Ltd., an alternative energy business and led its transition from a division in MNC to an independent company. Mahesh built and ran the biomass cook-stoves and fuel pellets business from Project Stage in BP Energy India Pvt. Ltd., initially serving underserved rural consumers. He transformed the business model and succeeded in building one of the most successful alternative energy companies in India, which was acquired by Thermax Ltd in 2017 for its pioneering efforts. Previously, Mahesh has also worked in Marketing in BP, Castrol India and in multiple roles across functions and continents in Unilever.

He has a degree in Economics from Delhi University and an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur. For his entrepreneurship and work, Mahesh was conferred the honor of Distinguished Alumnus by XLRI in 2015.

Sonali Mehta-Rao

Past: Co-founder & President, Mela Artisans.India Director, Tala.
Current: Co-founder & CGO, Awaaz.De


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Sonali loves building businesses that solve social problems, and has over a decade of entrepreneurial and leadership experience in fintech/social innovation. She is an Acumen Fellow and Miller Center Social Enterprise Accelerator Alumni.As Co-founder and CGO, Sonali leads Growth at Awaaz.De, a fintech social enterprise expanding access to finance for India’s underbanked. Awaaz.De’s platform for local vernacular (10+ languages) mobile communication empowers last-mile customers to make informed financial decisions and helps leading financial institutions drive growth, cut OpEx, and improve transparency and customer protection. Awaaz.De reaches ~8-10 Million customers monthly, primarily low-income, rural women. Awaaz.De is funded by the Aavishkaar-Intellecap angel network and IIM-A CIIE.COPrior to Awaaz.De, she co-founded Mela Artisans, a social enterprise working to provide a sustainable global market for Indian artisans. She led the company as President to significant revenue growth and a Series A, and is currently on the Board. She also served as India Director for leading global fintech company Tala, which provides instant, personalized credit to underserved customers in emerging markets through their smartphone app and is backed by leading venture and impact investors including PayPal, Revolution, and Lowercase Capital.

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