People can donate essentials such as groceries and food in partnerships with corporates and track their donations in real time; social organisations can also run campaigns
Mohamed Asif MH, Nareshwar Sivanesan and Fahd Khaleel Wallajah were basking on the Marina beach in Chennai (south India) when they saw an old man searching for food in a pile of garbage. Just a stone’s throw away, a seemingly middle-class family was seen tossing their left-overs — a full plate meal that could have fed at least two hungry souls.
“We wondered how people could throw away food so casually when millions of people live in abject poverty with hardly anything to eat,” said Asif. “This was when we thought of doing something to put a check on the food wastage, one of the most pressing problems faced by the world. Tonnes of food are wasted almost every day.”
Without wasting much time, the trio — two of whom are Computer Engineers and the other an Economics graduate — got together and discussed the issue. They realised that technology can be a great enabler to materialise their dream. They pondered over various concepts before zeroing in on an online crowdsourcing platform.
And GiveAway takes birth there.
The Chennai floods
Founded in early 2015, GiveAway started off by collecting extra and leftover food from households, wedding receptions, restaurants and parties from Chennai. The founders personally went to these places, collected food and ensured that it was packed in a safe and hygienic manner before being delivered to the beneficiaries.
“We started taking requests on WhatsApp. In just over five months, GiveAway began to evolve and started to cater to around 500,000 people in Chennai alone. As a result, GiveAway soon started to feed at least 1,000 homeless people every day,” Asif told e27.
GiveAway was steadily growing without much marketing spend. Individual contributors helped the startup stay afloat. The real ‘breakthrough’ for the trio came with the devastating floods that washed out Chennai in December 2015.
“It was during the Chennai floods that we really began to understand the real challenges of feeding the hungry. The calamity left hundreds of families homeless, destitute, helpless, and above all, hungry. We had a bigger task ahead of us. However, we rose to the occasion. We contacted nearly 10 corporates who could come to the rescue of the hundreds of people affected by the floods,” he added.
Thanks to their relentless efforts, most of the corporates got back to the GiveAway team with some form of relief. McDonald’s gave them INR 10 lakh (US$15,500) worth of coupons, which were distributed among the kids and volunteers involved in the relief works. Leading e-grocer BigBasket agreed to launch a crowdfunding campaign on the GiveAway platform for the people of Chennai, and raised essential groceries worth INR 22 lakh (US$34,000) in just seven days of the campaign.
As help poured in, Foodpanda chipped in with a crowdfunding campaign to source biryani for about 20,000 people from various restaurants in Hyderabad, and transported them to Chennai by two flights. Various other corporates sent essentials which could be used by about 5,000 families who lost their livelihood. In total, GiveAway sourced around 200 tonnes of food and essentials, valued nearly INR 5 crore (US$770,000).
“Seeing our dedication to serve the floods-affected people, people from around the world started contacting us. This was when we realised that GiveWay was addressing a global crisis. Our team then decided to work on a platform that would connect donors to the beneficiaries and allow them to donate the bare necessities and essentials that the beneficiaries need,” he narrated the story behind the building of the venture.
GiveAway, Asif claimed, is India’s first and only product crowdsourcing platform to connect donors with verified beneficiaries, where anyone from across the globe will be able to donate a range of essentials for the needy. People can donate groceries, ready-made food, books, education, and healthcare support, in partnerships with corporates. Donors will be able to track their donations in real time. Cash donation is not accepted.
With a strong team of 12 people, GiveAway has been able to reach out to and impact the lives of over 700,000 people across India as of today, Asif disclosed. During its two years of existence, the startup was also associated with various other major causes, including the Maharashtra drought in 2016 (in association with Snapdeal) and Cyclone Vardah in Chennai, in addition to the planting of saplings post-Cyclone Vardah in 2016 in Chennai.
Apart from crowdsourcing, GiveAway is also launching a feature to handle special events. For instance, a person can donate food during special occasions (birthdays, anniversary, etc.) to various homes and orphanages for the needy. “GiveAway has a consolidated a database of 2,000 homes/orphanages and other humanitarian establishments, with an average size of 50 members per home. Most of these homes are spread across major metropolitan cities in India. We receive contributions from our donor base for various occasions towards different homes. These contributions are processed and delivered as food to the beneficiaries through our corporates,” he said.
How the platform works
GiveAway has joined hands with a few corporates such as e-commerce platforms like BigBasket and Snapdeal. These companies can list their products at a discounted rate on the GiveAway platform, and donors can then make purchases of the products they’d like to donate. These products will then be sent to the verified beneficiaries. Nonprofits (homes, orphanages/NGOs etc) can also run their respective campaigns and list the products they want on the GiveAway marketplace.
By registering on the platform, donors with the help of their own personalised logins can then track and measure/compare the quantum of their contribution to the cause and the impact they have made on the beneficiaries. Corporates cover shipping and handling costs and deliver the products pledged by the donors to the location of the beneficiaries.
“We facilitate the successful delivery of contributions through our corporate partners and the support from our beneficiaries. Our access to remote India is enabled by means of strong cooperation with our corporates,” Asif said, describing the modus operandi.
A ‘for-profit’ startup, GiveAway plans to generate revenues by being a facilitator between the donors and the beneficiaries. Neither the donors nor the beneficiaries are charged. “We play the role of a facilitator and connect the donors to beneficiaries through the corporates. We have our commission model with the respective corporate partners as we give them extra sales and boost their business directing towards social causes, thereby creating more value for them. The highlight is that we give our beneficiaries’ the best possible products sourced at a highly discounted price,” he went on.
Asif revealed that GiveAway receives numerous calls every day. Any organisation or an individual can become a verified entity with the startup and can run their campaigns by inviting contributors across the globe. They can raise products at Giveaway through their own campaigns, provided they get verified and approved by the platform. Also, their campaign details will also be thoroughly scrutinised.
“The campaigner needs to provide the details of the campaign, pictures, and a video that provides information on what is needed and urging people to donate via the portal–which is optional,” he added.
Bootstrapped so far, GiveAway is now looking for funding from VCs and impact investors based out of India and abroad. The money will be invested in talent (content-based video making, marketing, awareness for our causes); digital setup for homes, orphanages and infrastructure; and logistics.
Moving forward, they look to get all orphanages, old-age homes, centres for kids with special needs, and centres for animal care, etc., under a single roof and include geo-mapping to filter and ease the entire process of donations within any donor’s vicinity and make it hassle-free.
“The idea is to bring every home/orphanage of this country into one fold and give them a digital voice. Our vision is to create a global platform, which connects every person in need to a person who can address it, through technological and disruptive innovations. We would be looking to expand in East Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries,” Asif concluded.
The world is going through a turbulent period; hundreds of people are being killed and thousands rendered homeless in civil wars and terror activities. While millions of dollars are spent on the rehabilitation of these people affected by man-made disasters, the money and the other essential items do not reach the actual beneficiaries. This is where impact ventures like GiveAway play a pivotal role. The startup, which does not accept cash donations, has the potential to change the destiny of millions of people across the globe. And the trio hopes that their startup gets the backing of renowned impact ventures as they make a change.
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