What has been the impact that GiveIndia has created? What have been some of the key interventions during the current pandemic?
On March 22, three days before the whole of India went into lockdown, we started our first two missions in response to immediate needs of citizens coping with the pandemic, unfolding at rapid speed. One mission was to provide poor communities with hygiene kits, the other was for cash relief to daily wagers.
In the first three days, we received over ₹1 crore in donations, two days later we were able to make our first disbursement to NGO partners who had permission from the government to distribute essentials and hygiene kits despite the lockdown. A few days later, we were able to make the first funds transfer for direct cash relief.
We wanted to harness this outpouring of generosity and scale it. For this we set up the India COVID Response Fund (ICRF) in April.
The ICRF collective comprises corporates, foundations, digital platforms, government bodies, philanthropists, high net-worth individuals, and citizens at large. The fund has supported three key areas of intervention – providing monetary relief to cash-strapped families, humanitarian aid to communities in need, and addressing gaps in the healthcare system in protecting frontline workers in COVID-designated hospitals. We have disbursed ₹190 crore of the ₹220 crore raised, and have supported 56 lakh Indians during the crisis.
What has been the response to the India Covid Relief Fund (ICRF). How is this fund being used? Can you mention a few projects?
We started ICRF in April with initial donations worth ₹75 crore to support the on-ground COVID relief efforts. But the fund quickly swelled, after the `I for India’ fundraising concert in collaboration with Facebook in early May. It was hosted by Bollywood’s Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar and they pulled in other celebrities to perform and appeal for donations from the public.
This concert raised around ₹52 crore and was live-streamed on Facebook globally. This fundraiser brought in donors from every corner including big contributions from Vinod Khosla, Indra Nooyi and Sundar Pichai. Ajay Piramal, Anu Aga, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Amit Chandra were some of the big Indian donors.
Collaborations with 10+ digital platforms including Flipkart and PhonePe also helped get a large number of contributions from their customers.
More than 50 corporates, 15+ philanthropy foundations and over 25 HNIs and 10+ platform partners including Flipkart and PhonePe and their customers also gave generously. Some of the early donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org, HSBC India, Omidyar Network India and A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.
ICRF worked across three key programs: Cash relief, humanitarian aid and addressing healthcare needs for frontline workers and hospitals. For the flagship mission — Support COVID-19 Hit Families we partnered with non-profits across the country to help daily wagers and migrant workers who had lost their means of earning.
For the humanitarian aid effort GiveIndia’s partner nonprofits have served cooked meals to migrant labourers stranded at urban hubs, the homeless and others. The ICRF fund also supported the running costs of six Mobile Medical Units in a couple of Mumbai’s densely populated slums.
What are some of the learning from the ICRF fund? How different was it from any other funds that GiveIndia raised?
Trust and transparency were key in an exercise like this. So on one hand, the team examined and vetted the requests that were pouring in and on the other hand, the advisory board and steering committee members did their best to bring in funds through companies, foundations, CSR funds, HNIs. The Gates foundation wrote the initial cheque and the fund got going.
What are the challenges that GiveIndia faces? How do you plan to address them?
The short-term challenge is that in a short period of time our operations have grown manifold (including ICRF), but our human resource and skills pool hasn’t expanded at the same rate. We are now working at a furious pace to put this right, and be equipped to scale further. The long-term challenge is our purpose – to alleviate poverty in India, especially now in a post Covid world where wealth disparities are only growing.
Covid 19 vaccines might be unaffordable for large sections of the population in India. Do you have specific plans to help such communities get vaccinated?
First we will have to wait for the vaccine to become available and the government’s strategy for inoculating the public. We will work closely with our NGO partners and step into the breach on the ground when needed. We cannot preempt what will need to be done.
You have been actively involved in building, scaling tech companies and also headed business development at Google India. How does this experience help in your current role at GiveIndia?
My engagement with the social sector began when I was 30. I started volunteering with a non-profit in Gurugram as a weekend pursuit and started to find more meaning in it than my day job. At the time, I was heading the Mobile Business, Japan and Asia-Pacific, Google. I quit Google, moved to Bangalore, and joined InMobi. In 2015, I quit InMobi and started a non-profit: The/Nudge Foundation.
After interacting with people living in slums, I identified unemployment and underemployment as big social challenges. GiveIndia happened to me by sheer chance. My previous experience helped me to scale GiveIndia to what it is today. Today it has a large community of donors and corporate partners who have supported non-profits across India.