Madhav Chavan moved from the field of Chemistry to the field of literacy a few years after his return to India having acquired a Ph. D. in the United States and some post-doctoral experience there. He worked in the field of adult literacy from 1989 to 1994 inspired by the National Literacy Mission launched by late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. In 1994, Unicef in Mumbai put him in charge of creating a ‘societal mission’ to universalize primary education in the city of Mumbai. As a result he co-founded Pratham that started in 1994-95 as a Mumbai based organization and has now grown to be one of India’s largest NGOs working across the country with millions of children every year with a focus on basic learning outcomes including reading and math. Its flagship programs, Read India and the Annual Status of Education Report have earned the organization a reputation as a pedagogy and advocacy innovator that has influenced policy and practice at the national and international level. He stepped down as CEO of Pratham Education Foundation but continues to be on its Board and actively leading the new experimentation in use of technology for education.
Madhav has been personally recognized for his work with the WISE Prize and The Skoll Award for social entrepreneurship as his organization has received the Kravis Prize for Leadership and the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award for developmental work.