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How Crowdfunding Helped These 5 Entrepreneurs Grow Their Ventures

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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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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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