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The middle Road Podcast

May 2021

Episode 17: The middle Road chats with Dr Robert Karanja, Co-founder of Villgro Africa

This is the first podcast episode from Africa, a continent of unmatched pristine beauty, wildlife and origins of modern human race. In this episode Nishant Malhotra chats with Dr Robert co-founder of Villgro, Africa. Robert has a Ph.D. and Masters in Medical Parasitology & Entomology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Bachelors in Biology. Before setting up Villgro Africa, Dr Robert wore multiple hats as a professional within the development sector in Africa.   

Villgro Africa is inspiring a new wave of innovative thinking to address deep rooted global health challenges in Africa through market-led solutions. We provide seed funding, technical assistance and business development support to global health innovators to take their innovations to the market. Working at the interface of science and industry.

Dr Robert chats about his experience in starting Villgro Africa, his game changing and defining experience in a one-month training program on innovation in Sweden. One of the major partners of the program is Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation, that works through a multifaceted collaborative partnership model enabling social change and impact within the sustainable development sector in emerging markets. His experience at the training session changed the perspective on the innovation sector with a feel-good understanding on drivers guiding a knowledge focussed economy.

The discussion delves into how technological innovation can transform Africa from an extractive driven model of natural resources to an innovation focussed mobile platform enabled economy. Example Microfinance, Fintech, Telemedicine etc. Villgro Africa has made a deep impact on the lives of the underprivileged in Africa, impacting more than 1 million lives, with investment of over $800K across 24 startup’s. One very interesting startup is Rescue, the largest network of first Kenya’s best first responders. Wheels for Life enables expectant mothers to reach the hospital during curfew hours. The inventiveness is a significant success during the pandemic as all mothers who have used this service have survived.

The major part of the discussion is on healthcare sector. According to Alt Network, in Africa, fewer than 50% have access to modern healthcare facilities but 25% of the global disease burden. With health coverage ~ 4% in Africa and government expenditure less than 10% of their GDP, the region faces major acute healthcare crisis. According to the Africa Business Community, 11% of Africans experience catastrophic spending for health care every year, 38% delay or forgo healthcare because of high costs. Dr Robert shares an excellent perspective on this aspect. Africa has only a 3 to 4 percent share of global pharmaceutical industry and 2 to 3 percent share of global medical devices. Yet many countries with Africa are ahead of the curve in fighting the pandemic. Another troublesome statistic is African DNA is only 2.3 percent of the global genome database.  

Robert proposes a universal healthcare plan for the citizens in Kenya and a universal tax to sponsor the initiative. Listen to the in-depth interview to understand the African development ecosystem especially Kenya. The podcast is available on Podbean director, Spotify, iTunes, iHeart directory etc.




Feb 2021

Episode 16: The middle Road chats with Brooke Burton, Founder of The People’s Club

In this episode, Nishant Malhotra chats with Brooke Burton, Founder of The People's Club.

Brooke is enabling social change and impact by focusing on building communities. Based in Chicago, Illinois, US, Brooke completed her MBA from ROSS Business School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and BA from Vanderbilt University. This is the first podcast from The middle Road wherein a free flow strategy is deployed. In this mode of the podcast, no set of questions are decided beforehand rather than a brief outline of the fireside conversation is discussed. The informal talk begins with the theme question with follow-up questions based on the flow of conversation that is directly related to the subject at hand or can be tangential.

In this episode, Brooke will discuss her journey through time articulating her thoughts as an entrepreneur, facilitating social impact through community events. In this exciting, insightful, and refreshing podcast, Brooke shares stellar insights example only 3% of the venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs in America or 30% of the millennials feel lonely always or often. Why only 4% of the non-profits led by Black/Latinx leaders receive only 4% of the philanthropic money? 

A top-gun podcast, listen to Brooke as she shares a game-changing perspective of her motivation in launching her start-up, enablers, and key performance indicators for her business going forward, key statistics concerning the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the US and much more. A must listen for everyone esp. Millennials and Gen Z, the podcast is also the recorded as a video chat and free available on The middle Road YouTube channel. Brooke shines out as a brand ambassador of her generation, eloquent, charismatic in this thought provoking and riveting episode from The middle Road.    

The podcast is also available on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart directory.  

Jan 2021

Episode 15: The middle Road interviews Erica Mills Barnhart, Founder of Claxon Marketing and Claxon University

In this podcast episode, Nishant Malhotra chats with Erica Mills Barnhart, founder of Claxon Marketing and Claxon University. Erica Mills is an internationally recognized expert on how to use words to make the world a better place. The discussion entails the finer points of marketing, messaging, and mission statement for enabling social change and impact within the sustainable development sector.


Snapshot of questions with a brief note of introduction of Erica Mills. Erica wears many hats that of a Consultant, Professor, Speaker, and Researcher. She works with purpose-driven organizations significantly nonprofits in amplifying their work through marketing, messaging, and fine tuning their mission statement. A pioneer in understanding the impact of language used within the social sector, Erica Mills is a podcast host and inventor of The Wordier, an online tool to accelerate better usage of words for articulating communication for the greater good. Her 1,2,3 Marketing tree and Claxon Method have been used effectively by numerous mission-driven organizations with measurable impact.     


Nishant: Let's begin with your academic journey. You are a Professor at Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the University of Washington at Seattle. You have worked at multiple universities in the US and with the University of British Columbia. How would you explain the transformation within the development sector focusing on nonprofits, philanthropy, and social innovation in your more than two decades of experience?   

Nishant: Keen to understand how policy-making can accelerate social innovation and philanthropy through better messaging of mission and vision of nonprofits. I ask this question since I have a master’s in public administration degree from the Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan and keen to focus on qualitative aspects of policies aiding nonprofits.

Based on Giving USA report, the philanthropy in the US hovers around 2% of the GDP spread over decades. (Refer Eight Myths of US Philanthropy | SSIR). How can messaging increase the giving pie in America as a percentage of GDP? 

How do you think the pandemic will change philanthropy in the US?    

Nishant: In your article published in SSIR, you emphasized the importance of linguistic repertoire as part of official communication for nonprofits. As per your article, research has shown that words that are used less often make a more measurable impact on the audience. Example Betters or using verbs.  Please elaborate on your thoughts here. 

Nishant: Take an example of the tagline of The middle Road- Enabling social change and impact. Taking this as an example, based on your book “PitchFalls why bad pitches happen to good people” do share an example of how a tagline can be better represented as a pitch to investors. 

Nishant: You have mentioned five steps for a good pitch in your above-mentioned book. Would you like to share in detail examples from the industry on how to implement them in real life? 

Nishant: You are a podcast host. As a fellow podcast host, I am keen to understand from your perspective what you feel are key attributes for an excellent podcast host? What excites you about the experience.   


Finally, share any ah ah moment and message with nonprofits/social entrepreneurs out there. 



Jan 2021

Episode 14: The middle Road interviews Larry Johnson, Founder The Eight Principles

Nishant Malhotra, welcomes Larry C Johnson, a thought leader in relational fundraising and philanthropy. A graduate of Yale University, Larry is the author of the award-winning book “The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising” and based on The Wall Street Business Network ranked among the top 15 Fundraising consultants in the United States. Larry specializes in nonprofit development, fundraising, and philanthropy and serves on multiple nonprofit and corporate boards significantly The Philanthropy Council of The Carter Center, the philanthropic arm of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of United States. This podcast focusses on the importance of relational fundraising and philanthropy within the social ecosystem and shares tips for everyone.

Music by DreamHeaven from Pixabay

Oct 2020

Episode 13 : The middle Road interviews Ronald Abraham, Founding Partner and India Director, IDinsight

Nishant Malhotra, interviews Ronald Abraham, Founding Partner, and India Director IDinsight. IDinsight is a global advisory, data analytics, and research organization that uses data and evidence to help leaders maximize their social impact. Its collaborations deploy a large analytical toolkit, including machine learning and randomized evaluations, to help clients design better policies, rigorously test what works, and use evidence to implement effectively at scale. IDinsight works with multiple sets of actors from the social and business sector and works in all major sectors significantly in health, education, agriculture, governance, digital ID, financial access, and sanitation. They have offices in Dakar, Lusaka, Manila, Nairobi, New Delhi, and San Francisco.

Ronald has led several projects at IDinsight’s unit at NITI Aayog supporting the Aspirational Districts Programme, the State of Aadhar Initiative, learning partnerships with Governments of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, and education projects with STiR, Akanksha, and Going to School. He holds a BA (Honors) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and a Master of Public Administration in International Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

The podcast is a deep dive into the International Development Sector to understand the best business and sustainable practices governing the sector. The chat revolves around Ronald's work experience in research and as an entrepreneur with a discussion on emerging various impact and data driven methodologies and tools for impact evaluation including use of machine learning and randomized control trials, new social innovation instruments example impact bonds, work during the pandemic, etc. The discussion shares a well-rounded view on how innovation is driving the development sector with a message on key enablers driving the global development arena.


Jul 2020

Episode 12: The middle Road interviews Gireendra Kasmalkar, Founder Ideas 2 Impacts

Nishant Malhotra, founder of the platform The middle Road interviews Gireendra, founder of Ideas2 Impacts Innovation Pvt Ltd, an upcoming technology company based in India. He is also the founder of Ideas 2 Impact Innovation Center, a leading accelerator/incubator for technology start-ups in India and Pentathlon Ventures funds, which supports early B2B Tech Start-ups.  

The chat focuses on how technology is enabling a sustainable social impact within society and the social ecosystem. The podcast features a detailed discussion on the impact of technology accelerators especially in the B2B sector, and social impact of disruptive technology including Artificial Intelligence, Block chain, Machine Learning among other technologies. The podcast is an excellent source to understand how various technologies are evolving globally and in India.  



Apr 2020

Episode 11: Nishant Malhotra Founder of Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd ( on Sustainable Finance

An excellent overview of the Sustainable Finance with a focus on the Sustainable Bonds. The chat takes through a few selected milestones which led to the rise of Environment, Social and Governance ESG theme becoming mainstream. ESG here implies Sustainable Finance. Sustainable Bonds include Green, Blue, Social and Sustainable Development Bonds/ Sustainability Bonds. 

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