Neha Khandelwal, a business analyst at a financial services company, has always wanted to do her bit for a social cause but never found the time.
Starting next month, she’ll find it’s as easy as shopping —literally.
A bunch of former IITians have come up with the Mumbai Community Card, which will allow users to contribute to a worthy cause while shopping for anything from groceries to clothes.
Every time you swipe the card, you get loyalty points that can either be encashed as a donation to a charity, or redeemed in exchange for a range of discounted products at the merchant establishment.
“The focus of our programme is to raise funds for underprivileged children across India, and to make it a self-sustaining model by involving a mass user base,” said Nikhil Dhoka (27), CEO and head of marketing of Unit, the group that has launched the programme.
The card will be launched on September 15 and distributed free at local grocery stores, salons and restaurants.
“This is our attempt to empower consumers to do their bit for the world around them while they spend on themselves,” said Dhoka. Unit has tied up with Child Relief and You and plans to expand to other NGOs.
“I won’t be paying out of my pocket or spending more because of this, so I don’t see any harm in trying it,” says Khandelwal (29), a Powai local.
Powai is home to the sprawling IIT campus, and the IITians naturally know the surrounding township fairly intimately, which is why they decided to launch Unit’s pilot operations there.
Dinesh Aher, the owner of Powai’s Tanisha supermarket, says, “We’re a bit sceptical but if it’s for a social cause, it’s worth trying.”
The Mumbai Community Card is modelled on a similar card in Boston, where it began as a way to combat the growing dominance of retail chains like Wal-Mart, which form more than 90 per cent of retail marketing there, while channeling funds into local projects such as schools and hospitals.
“Unlike the Boston model however, we'll be tying up with local stores as their marketing platform,” says Amit Kumar (27), who heads operations at Unit.
This will include profiling current and potential customers, designing new rebates, and sending text messages and emails on new offers.