Hema is a social, rural and development research expert, published author, and entrepreneur, with over 25 years of research experience. She has a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration (PGDBA) from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Gujarat University.

Over the course of a rich career, she has led a wide variety of social and rural research projects across the length and breadth of India, and in countries in all corners of the world.


Some of her most enriching experiences till date include:

  • A study on Diarrhoea in Rural India. Commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNICEF, this study, covered 35 regions across 16 states in India. This study also led to the publication of her first book ‘Diarrhoea in Rural India (Vision Books, 1988).

  • A study among key influencers of HIV Vaccine Utilization Policies across 27 countries

  • HIV Vaccine Uptake – a barriers and drivers study across 9 countries

  • Immunization Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study. conducted in 12 districts across as many states.

  • Water & Environmental Sanitation. This KAP study covered 8 states and involved detailed and in-depth discussions and interviews across close to 100 villages. Recommendations to the Rural Drinking Water Mission from this study were implemented over the years and a subsequent study showed distinct improvements in access to water in rural India.

  • A seven-year study to assess behaviour change for Safe and Effective use of Pesticides: As a member of the International Steering Committee for this project, with responsibility for managing the study across three countries, India, Mexico and Zimbabwe. The results were published in a book titled “Safe and Effective Use of Crop Protection Products in Developing Countries”, CABI Publishing, UK.

  • A KABP study on AIDS in Myanmar. Commissioned by UNICEF, this study sought to understand and map attitudes to the AIDS threat.


Books and papers published

  • Diarrhoea in Rural India - Vision Books, 1988

  • The Rural Private Practitioner - Oxford University Press, 1995
      - Both these were co-authored with Dr. Jon Rohde, who was the UNICEF
         Representative to India.

  • Contributed a chapter to “Safe and Effective Use of Crop Protection Products in Developing Countries”, CABI Publishing, UK.

  • Reaching Women: A Study of Unmet Need in Uttar Pradesh, India. Hema Viswanathan, Sona Godfrey, and Nancy Yinger. 1998. Washington, DC: International Centre for Research on Women. AIDS Vaccine Trials – International

  • AIDS Vaccine Institute, New York

  • Immunization - The Effect of Maternal Knowledge and Attitudes on Immunization Coverage. Jon E. Rohde, H. Viswanathan. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, Oct-Dec 1990

  • Perceptual mapping of service providers and contraceptive methods in Uttar Pradesh, India. Storey D; Chhabra S; Viswanathan H; Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs, Population Communication Services, 1995 Apr.

  • Contributed a chapter titled ‘Being a Woman in Rural India’ to “Women’s Global Health and Human Rights”. Published by Jones and Bartlett. Edited by Padmini Murthy and Clyde Lanford Smith - 2009

Papers presented

  • ESOMAR – Stockholm 1987

  • ICORT III in Washington DC, 1988

  • The Fourth Asian Congress on Diarrhea and Dehydration, Colombo, 1987

  • Unmet need for contraceptives - ICRW meeting in Washington, 1997

  • Presented a paper on the Rural Private Practitioner at a seminar titled “A Vision for India’s Health System”, New Delhi, November 2001, organized by the World Bank and the Government of India

  • Presented a paper on the Private Providers of Healthcare at a seminar organized by the World Bank and the Government of India to discuss Health Of The Poor In Urban India, New Delhi, July 2002

  • Chaired a session on at the workshop titled ‘“Making Services Work for Poor People” in preparation of World Bank’s World Development Report 2004 in Berlin, July 2002.

Positions held

  • Founder and VP - Social & Rural Research Institute (SRI) - A division of IMRB International in Delhi, India

  • Country Manager and SVP - Probe Qualitative Research (PQR) - IMRB International

  • Member of the Lok Seva Sanchar Samiti, an advisory group to the government of India on public service communication. 1992-1997

  • Member - HP Labs Advisory Committee - 1998 - 2000

  • Member of the International Steering Committee for the study on ‘Safe and effective use of Crop Protection Products’ for the Novartis Foundation for Developing Countries, 1993 - 1999

  • Has taught market research at the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA) for several years, and other institutes including the IIM-Ahmedabad.


  • Independent Director, Swadhaar (a micro-finance company).

  • Global Market Research Director, Baird’s CMC, UK.


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