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Crowdsourcing start-ups for a social change

Crowdfunding, which started in India a few years ago -- a process in which people seek funds in small amounts for their start-ups and projects from a large number of individuals -- is fast becoming an instrument for social change.

delhi Updated: Dec 25, 2016 11:15 IST
Manoj Sharma
Manoj Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Crowdsourcing,Start-ups,Fund raising
Ria Sharma (C) with acid attack victims Mamta (R) and Sapna (L). Ria runs Make Love Not Scars (MNLS), an organization that works for the welfare of acid attack victims.(Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times)

During her casual conversations with domestic helps at her Gurgaon home , Manya Kalra, 17, realised that many of them do not have access to safe drinking water.

“We keep talking about food for the poor but no one talks about water. Access to safe drinking water is a huge problem and I feel strongly about it. I thought I could do my bit by distributing water filters to them,” says Manya.

Manya and her friend Sana Kharbanda raised about Rs 4 lakh on a crowdfunding platform earlier this month and distributed water filters in slum areas at Manglapuri in Delhi and in Gurgaon. “ We have already distributed about 200 filters and we will continue this process,” Manya says.

Crowdfunding, which started in India a few years ago -- a process in which people seek funds in small amounts for their start-ups and projects from a large number of individuals -- is fast becoming an instrument for social change.

Majority of the fundraisers on crowdfunding platforms such as Milaap, Ketto and BitGiving relate to social causes ranging from community development to welfare of solders, animals, elderly, acid attack victims, etc.

The success rate of these campaigns, according to these online crowdfunding platforms, is as high as 70%. The amount raised by individuals and organisations for a cause range from Rs 1 lakh to over Rs 1 crore.

Ria Sharma, whose organisation Make Love Not Scars ( MLNS) works for the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors in the capital, raised about Rs 40 lakh in the past 6 months. She says many of her campaigns have been supported by as many as 800 people.

“Crowdfunding is a great concept. You are not beholden to any particular individual and organisation; besides it is a great way to sensitise people about social causes. You do not have to be a big-ticket funder to support a cause you believe in, people have contributed as little as Rs 12 for our campaigns,” she says.

Every fundraising platform has its own niche. A lot of non- government organisation turn to Ketto, Milaap, and BitGiving, while Wishberry is a favoured platform for the creative community. “Many artists and filmmakers have constantly used our platform for their socially relevant projects. We have a 70% success rate and 60% money come from people’s own networks,” says Anshulika Dubey , co-founder of Wishberry.

Varun Sheth, founder of Ketto, says crowdfunding is an effective way to raise funds for social causes in India because it has a large middle-class . “India has a 300 million strong middle-class, and it wishes to help others. In fact, a majority of donors on our platform are middle-class people from metros such as Delhi, Mumbai , Bangalore, Kolkata,” says Seth. Thirty percent campaigns on his platform relate to people raising funds for medical treatment of friends and family members.

Take for example the case of Rahul Yadav, 31. Currently admitted in a Delhi hospital, Yadav was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Last year, when he exhausted all his savings, his insurance amount, his friends suggested he should go for crowdfunding .

Rahul Yadav, who is being treated for cancer at a Delhi hospital, has raised money through crowdsourcing.

Rashi Yadav, his wife, started an online campaign and was pleasantly surprised by people’s response. “ We were able to raise about Rs 25 lakh last year, though we needed much more than that. But it took a lot of burden off us,” she says. But Rahul’s cancer relapsed and the cost of the required four cycles of chemotherapy with imported drugs is Rs 80 lakh. The fundraising campaign on Ketto started by Rashi raised over Rs 31 lakh by Saturday with 8 days still to go.

“There are some schemes for people living below the poverty line but the middle-class does not have any avenues for medical treatment, except for health insurance that has its limits. The cost of cancer treatment can be anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs I crore, not an affordable amount for the middle-class,” says Rahul, who is presently undergoing treatment at a Delhi hospital.

His wife, a management professional, says: “Our fundraiser has been supported by friends, friends of friends and anonymous people. Crowdfunding can indeed save lives and people from financial disaster,” says Rashi.

But raising funds is not easy as Ritu R Chandra found out. Chandra, who recently raised about Rs 5 lakh to produce Mama Mia! Again, the famous musical, to support an NGO that trains underprivileged women to become professional drivers, said raising money online is hard work.

“We sent hundreds of mails about the campaign and regularly shared it on Facebook. We raised about 5 lakh and the maximum donation we got was Rs 15,000. I realised it is not easy to get anonymous donors. A large chunk of donations come from people you know directly or indirectly. A lot depends on how well you plan your pitch,” says Chandra.

Sharma agrees: “Yes one has to work hard to make crowdfunding a sustainable source of fundraising,” she says, adding that unlike in the West, Indian crowdfunding platforms help one promote the campaign a lot.

But online crowdfunding comes with a price--most of these platforms charge 6 to 9 percent commission on the funds raised. “Crowdfunding is good for smaller organisations like ours who find it difficult to raise money from corporates,” says Sharma.

First Published: Dec 25, 2016 09:09 IST