Four years ago when Chennai was hit by a flood that killed 500 people, I happened to be the first volunteer for Goonj helping with their relief operations. Goonj is one of the most reputed charities in India, focusing on disaster relief among many other activities, and donors from across the country started sending relief materials to us immediately. My work was to sort out the material and then distribute it to the villages that were intensely affected by the floods.
One of the things that struck me during my stay in Chennai is that a lot of people were sending us food, clothes, and water, but they were not the necessary supplies we needed on the ground. That is when the idea of Donatekart was born. We wanted to convey to donors what exactly is needed in affected areas so that they can meet the needs of the areas they want to donate to. Thanks to Raj Jaswa, a Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur who taught us entrepreneurship for a year in college, I was able to take the plunge and start Donatekart right after college with his mentorship.
India has always been a generous country since ancient times, with the highest form of charity being traditionally donating food (Anna Daan). However, it is worrisome to see that this has changed for the worse in the past few decades. Individual charity in India is now among the lowest worldwide, in spite of the widening gap of the income disparity between the rich and poor. If you look at the individual charity as a percentage of GDP, it is less than 0.05% ( ~$2.7B) in India, compared to 1.7% in the US ( ~$250B).
This speaks volumes about the current state of the Indian philanthropic sector. How many times have you come across an NGO and wanted to help them out, but hesitated due to the lack of transparency of the process? Here are some of the reasons why Indians are not giving confidently to charities:
1) Strong distrust in the social sector due to lack of transparency & accountability
2) Lack of convenience to give
3) Inability to determine how the funds are utilized
4) Inefficient impact resulting in only 60-70% of funds reaching the end beneficiary
We set out to solve these issues through Donatekart. The lack of transparency in the social sector is a major deterrent when it comes to making a donation, which is why we only on-board reliable NGOs after doing a background check. Through Donatekart, making a donation has never been easier. Consider an orphanage launching a campaign on Donatekart where they list items like notebooks, school bags, uniforms, etc. Donors who wish to contribute can now easily browse this list, and similar to online shopping, they can now shop for the NGO by paying for these products. Donatekart will then deliver these items to the NGO, who can then send updates with photos and videos of distribution.
A hundred percent of the products donated go to the NGOs on the platform, as we generate our revenue from the vendors from whom we buy the products. Since we purchase in bulk, we always leverage on the wholesale value of the purchase, thus sustaining the business without taking fees to run a campaign or make a donation.
Donatekart is a return to the traditional Indian way of giving, using the marvels of technology. We have started making people ‘donate in kind’ again, with the help of concepts like crowdfunding and e-commerce.
Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I was invited to the Greater Giving Summit in Seattle in April, where I had the opportunity to visit the US for the first time. I visited major cities in the U.S. and met with the Indian diaspora, who I noticed were passionate to give back to India. Over 35% of our donations currently come from this group, and it is growing exponentially.
So far, 50,000 donors have used the portal, assisting 700 NGOs. We have delivered $1.2M worth of products, and we’re just getting started. We are now expanding this model into Indian religious giving, as well as trying to expand to US and UK markets. We plan to reach a million donors and raise $15M in the next three years.
Anil Kumar Reddy started Donatekart, an online donation platform with a vision of bringing transparency to the Indian philanthropic sector. Anil received his B.Tech in NIT Nagpur and started Donatekart right after college with his friend Sandeep Sharma. Donatekart is a team of 12 people based in Hyderabad. It has won many awards like Nasscom Social Innovation Award and 40 Under 40 by Indian Express. Recently they have raised over $350,000 as a seed investment by Letsventure to reach a million donors & raise $15M for charities.