How Crowdfunding Helped These 5 Entrepreneurs Grow Their Ventures

Posted on September 6, 2016 in Entrepreneurship

By Rajkanya Mahapatra

You may believe that crowdfunding is a new concept and a product of the 21st century. Not true.

While the 1970s were known for many things – The Emergency, Sholay to name a few, it was also the decade that saw India’s first crowdfunded film.

Shyam Benegal’s Manthan based on Operation Flood, chronicled how the late Verghese Kurien’s ideas transformed India from a country deficit in milk production to the world’s largest milk producer.

What made Manthan even more special was the fact that over 5 lakh farmers in Gujarat were the film’s producers, each contributing ₹2 each, to raise a sum of ₹10 lakhs (considered a lot of money back then).

Fast forward to the 21st century, crowdfunding has gained popularity to help fund social causes, films, travel, events, et al.

Even entrepreneurs are tapping into this concept and using it to finance their dreams. Let’s explore how five enterprising people pulled it off.

1. Desia Tourism Camp

The Desia Tourism Camp in Odisha is a one-of-a-kind initiative taken by Yugabrata Kar, a traveller, social entrepreneur and ‘special interest tour’ operator by profession.

With his expertise in ecotourism, Kar felt the need to create a space in the valley; wherein tourism could be effectively used as a tool by the local tribal communities to preserve their culture, crafts and the environment, and generate livelihoods, all in one go.

Kar was keen to add an art lounge to the already existing centre to offer visitors a unique travel and cultural experience. So, he ran a crowdfunding campaign on Wishberry and raised a sum of ₹3.5 lakhs, to fund the lounge.

A video on the campaign page transports you to the beautiful place that’s Desia and gives you an insight into the lives of the locals.

On offer were some very interesting rewards for backers depending upon the denomination pledged. Some received a beautiful tribal Dhokra turtle, while others were invited for lunch. Those who pledged ₹32,000 or more, received an all-inclusive stay at Desia.

2. The Yellow Chair

Ever wondered where all your pens go, after you’ve used them? Well, they find their way to landfills, incinerators, several water bodies and sewage. Made up of different grades of plastics, ink and metal – pens fall into the non-biodegradable category, meaning it’ll be a few decades (underestimation) before they finally decompose.

Prakshal Mehta and Wricha Johri, founders of World Around You, attempted to understand the problem of waste pens at the local level.

They went to schools in Ahmedabad and collected over 500 kgs of discarded pens in just eight months! It was after this collection drive that they came up with the PenPals project, the first ever upcycling project in the world to reuse waste pens in their original forms and transform them into daily-use designer products, for a “Litter Free- Literate World”.

They now aspire to launch a full range of products, and to secure capital to launch the enterprise; the duo ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 called The Yellow Chair.

They successfully raised ₹5 lakhs  through 98 backers. The rewards included Rainbow Lamps, Black Box chairs, PenPal tea coasters and folding book stands.

3. Kanabis

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” said Mahatma Gandhi.

There are very few people who actually do something about the things that bother them and Devika Srimal, a Chartered Accountant by profession, is one of them.

Having given up leather due to the cruelty involved in the making of leather-based products, it upset Srimal deeply when she couldn’t find good non-leather shoes.

So she launched her own brand Kanabis to produce quality non-leather shoes that are also high on style.

To kick things off, she did a crowdfunding campaign, launched with a compelling video showing the brutality involved in the leather trade.

Hosted on the international crowd funding platform Indiegogo, her campaign managed to raise ₹4 lakhs INR, and she used the money to expand the product range and build up her business.

Perks for contributing, ranged from customised shoes to having a pair of shoes named after the backer!

4. Nohbo

We have a lot of young innovators, today, channelling their energies into creating sustainable products.

17-year old Benjamin Stern, who founded Nohbo, the world’s first eco-friendly single use shampoo ball, is one of them. The shampoo balls are paraben, sulphate and plastic free, and are packaged using plant-based materials, making the product 100% waste free.

Stern’s campaign on Indiegogo raised a whopping $27,111 via over 700 backers. Over $20,000 or about ₹13.30 lakhs (more than double the initial goal) was raised in just 31 days!

The campaign page is a clever mix of illustrations and information that holds your attention and pushes you to read more.

Packs of Smoky Sandalwood, Cherry Blossom and Unscented shampoo balls were on offer as perks. And with the increase in the denomination, the perks kept getting exponentially better – from a gift bag full of goodies to the opportunity of becoming a Nohbo distributor.

5. Maker’s Asylum

Vaibhav Chhabra, a mechanical engineer by profession, spent two years of his career at Eyenetra, developing eye diagnostic devices. But when his office’s ceiling collapsed and broke all the furniture in 2013, things changed after that.

He decided to fix all the broken tables on his own, and was joined by his friends and DIY enthusiasts.It was the start of a new journey. Soon, this activity developed into a community and was christened as Maker’s Asylum – India’s first open makerspace, equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, prototyping tools for woodworking, robotics, and other tools needed to create a product from scratch.

To help fund a physical space for the initiative, Vaibhav launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, where they have been able to raise over $10,000 (Around ₹6 lakhs).

A cool video gave backers an insight into what the makers’ space looked like (I’ll have to admit, it looks absolutely amazing!). Rewards ranged from beautiful laser cut clocks, jewellery and 3D printed toys, to a three-month membership to the place.

As we can see, not every startup needs angel funding or an enormous amount of capital to get started. Crowdfunding is an option, and as of 2015, the method of crowdfunding was used across the world to raise as much as $34.4 billion. The key is to get people to believe in your idea and then turn it into reality!

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Banner and featured image source: Maker’s Asylum/Website, Kanabis/Video

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