Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

Alumni Profile: Ajaita Shah

Tufts alumna Ajaita Shah’s draws inspiration from her undergraduate participation in the EPIIC Program to drive positive change in underserved rural communities, notably in India.
Ajaita Shah poses with women in India

Ajaita Shah, A06, was recently named as one of the 16 Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Award recipients at the World Economic Forum for her work as a social entrepreneur. Ajaita serves as the Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, a groundbreaking social enterprise operating in India. Additionally, she is the Founder of Frontier Innovations Foundation, a global foundation dedicated to supporting social enterprises in Africa and Asia, and she serves as a General Partner at two impact funds investing in India and Africa, focusing on tech, gender inclusion, and access to services. She also sits on the board of SHINE Invest, a philanthropic platform supporting clean energy access in distressed regions worldwide.

Frontier Markets aims to revolutionize the landscape of rural India by providing essential last-mile connections to high-impact products and services. Through a network of 20,000 Sahelis (gig workers) on an assisted social commerce platform, Frontier Markets facilitates access to clean energy, agricultural solutions, climate solutions, healthcare, financial services, and domestic products for millions of rural households. 

Ajaita’s leadership of Frontier Markets exemplifies her commitment to women’s empowerment. As she explains it, by providing women with “access to clean energy products, livelihood opportunities, and entrepreneurial training, I am contributing to economic independence and social empowerment, which is a source of immense pride for me.” She leads several initiatives focusing on gender empowerment and sustainable development, including She-Leads Bharat and the She Leads Impact Fund (SLIF).  She-Leads-Bharat aims to onboard one million women entrepreneurs as Sahelis, serving 100 million Indian rural households by 2030, while SLIF accelerates economic empowerment for rural women globally by fostering access to health, climate/agriculture, and financial inclusion products and services.

Global impact and changemaking are themes that run through Ajaita’s life. “I firmly believe in the power of social business as smart business, deeply connected to gender empowerment. I am driven by the conviction that every rural family deserves to be treated as a dignified customer, with the right to access quality solutions to address life's challenges.”

Her journey into social entrepreneurship began during her undergraduate studies where she witnessed the challenges faced by rural communities in India, igniting her passion for social justice and economic empowerment. She continued this pursuit at Tufts University, where the civic orientation of Tufts “instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility and duty towards addressing societal challenges. This emphasis on civic engagement has not only influenced my career trajectory but has also shaped my worldview and values.” 

Ajaita credits her time with the IGL programs, particularly the Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) program, which are now incorporated into Tisch College, as helping her to continue on the path of becoming a global citizen and changemaker. She participated in EPIIC twice and, “both experiences were invaluable as they provided me with unique opportunities to engage with global leaders and explore complex geopolitical issues firsthand.” She recently returned to campus to receive the Boyana Damyanova Award for Corporate Responsibility.

“Tufts' emphasis on global citizenship has inspired me to think beyond borders and work towards creating positive change on a global scale. I am grateful for the opportunities provided by Tufts to engage in meaningful civic activities, as they have not only enriched my academic experience but have also empowered me to be an active agent of change in the world.” 

Ajaita has three pieces of advice for students looking to follow a similar path: “take advantage of the many opportunities for civic engagement, community service, and social activism offered at Tufts; stay true to your values, passions, and sense of purpose as you pursue your path in entrepreneurship, let your values guide your decisions, actions, and priorities, and remain committed to making a positive impact in the world; and embrace failure as a learning opportunity, cultivate resilience, and remain committed to your goals and values despite obstacles along the way.”

Students, faculty and alumni can learn more about Tisch College and our Initiative for Global Leadership programs on our website and sign up to join our newsletters.