If there is one thing that I have learnt in the last one year, it is – “Beyond your comfort zone, lies your growth zone”!
Divya Singhal, whose volunteering journey with Indus Action inspired her to start a crowdfunding platform of her own! She writes on her journey from a volunteer to an entrepreneur who aims to create change.
Let’s back up to June 30th, 2020. It was regular Tuesday afternoon. Like every day, I was aimlessly browsing through the internet looking for some inspiration to stay positive despite the coronavirus situation. It led me to Hitesh Kukreja’s article on the Indus Action blog highlighting the impact created by its volunteers in the lives of the lesser privileged during the pandemic. Titled “Of Privilege, Passion, and Perseverance: Redefining the ‘Action’ in Indus Action”, the article conveyed a simple message: recognise that you are privileged but don’t miss the chance to help others.
The message hit home. I reached out to Hitesh immediately seeking to volunteer with Indus Action and within a week I was plotted on a month-long project. Indus Action was doing a survey along with the Delhi Government to understand the challenges being faced by students admitted in private schools under the 25% quota for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) community. The 100+ calls that I made in July-2020 gave me a first-hand account of the people’s hardships and I wanted to do more than simply record their answers to help them. That volunteering project transformed me. It made me realise the privileges that I took for granted — a loving family, a good education, an easy access to food, a secure job.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
An economic divide is unfortunately created at birth. It is a well-known fact that the struggles of those born in a rich household are drastically different from the struggles of those who are not.
The pain point that I wanted to address was how people from low-income communities could be empowered. How could I possibly enable them to overcome their economic hardships? After extensive research and introspection, I knew that the answer lies in access to good education. Without good education, the children from these families could not increase their bargaining power, which meant working for a lot more years to attain financial freedom. The added challenge was the education sector was badly disrupted due to the pandemic. While this gave a massive boost to Ed-Tech companies, the masses did not have access to technology.
The inception of my journey as a co-founder
In Pictures: Trishla (left) and Divya (Right), Co-Founders of a
Crowdfunding Organization – Share A Little.
The business model was simple: ShareALittle would partner with authentic NGOs that genuinely needed funding for specific projects, and market those causes to donors and raise funds for them.
The primary focus was on:Transparency – Building a real-time and seamless donation platform to receive funds
Integrity – Carrying out a through due diligence of the NGOs that we work with,
Reliability – Forging long-term relations with donors who trust us, and
Altruism – Providing a direct feedback from beneficiaries about the impact
Both Trishla and I are Chartered Accountants. Making the difficult decision to leave our corporate jobs and carving a niche in the (difficult) crowdfunding space meant — high risk of failure, low financial independence and high reliance on word-of-mouth marketing.
The stakes were high and running such a business required high innovation and constant reinvention aka stepping out of our comfort zone. But as long as we were able to empower people through our efforts, it was worth it.
Our impact and value-add
We started our work in early September-2020. Within just 5 months, we managed to set-up a nonprofit, collaborate with 2 NGOs, raise INR 300,000 of funding from 60+ donors to buy 35 digital devices for children. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms where the onus of raising funds lies on the campaign owner, ShareALittle is much more involved with each of its fundraiser. As co-founders, Trishla and I personally market the cause to donors as if it were our very own and deeply immerse ourselves in the fundraising process.
Our first initiative was called “DigiKit” aimed at providing digital devices for students studying from home. We created an animated movie (with the help of our film-maker friend, Navjot Kaur) to showcase the mammoth gap in educational opportunities for the privileged and underprivileged students, curated fundraiser-specific content/videos to tell a compelling story about the difference our partner NGOs were making, designed creatives to market the cause and also organised a live bake-along class to raise funds.
Entrepreneurship — A beautiful yet challenging uphill climb
It’s true that entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, one that involves overcoming big obstacles. The last six months have been nothing short of grueling aka the growth zone. But I have never been happier professionally.
Research shows that giving makes us far happier than receiving. So, giving is a rather selfish than a selfless act. I have ‘unconsciously’ chosen a challenging path that involves a deep inner cleanse lending a cathartic nature to the process. This brings me to my original conclusion that beyond your comfort zone lies your growth zone. If someone asked me in July-2020 whether I see myself leaving my job and starting a non-profit a few months down the line, my answer would have been a resounding NO! But here I am today — defying the norms and making a difference in my own unique way!
And this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to find out the adventures that await me as a start-up co-founder. My simple objective is to create and nurture an environment conducive of giving back. Here is hoping that we achieve the best intended results.
A big thank you for Indus Action for providing me the trigger to start out and cheers to never looking back!
Post script: We would welcome your contributions for our active fundraisers listed below-
1. Catalysts for Social Action: The NGO works with orphaned/neglected/abused children to create and ensure a brighter future for them under institutional care. In FY20 alone, they partnered with 87 Child-Care Institutions and supported 4,500+ children.
The Mumbai-based NGO provides nutritional support, safe living conditions and education to children till they attain 18 years of age. As part of their ‘Aftercare’ program, CSA provides financial aid for skill-building to get them job-ready after the young adults move out of the child-care institutions.
We are fundraising to sponsor the higher education tuition fees of 12 young adults, which costs INR 25,000 per student. You can contribute/read more about the cause here.
2. Every Infant Matters: Founded by Dr. Radhika Batra (Paediatrician and 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 Asia Honoree) in 2017, Every Infant Matters aims to provide last mile healthcare solutions to the underserved communities across India, Kenya, Nigeria and Dominic Republic. Within India, the NGO operates in Delhi, Maharashtra, U.P., the North Eastern states and Orissa.
Every Infant Matters (EIM) is currently distributing 1,200 daily meals across 6 of Delhi’s slums. Their food partner is Zomato’s Feeding India that has pledged relentless support for providing freshly cooked, nutritious meals on a daily basis. EIM helps with last mile delivery and wants to raise INR 705,000 in funding to sponsor the fuel cost/worker salaries for distributing 150,000 meals over the next three months. You can contribute/read more about the fundraiser here.