With an experience of 10 years within the NGO sector Dhaval Udani has interacted with hundreds of NGOs and practically all the major intermediaries/aggregators. He hopes his relations with them will help this enterprise to grow; his deep understanding of products, technology and payments will help build the platform that will provide a delightful experience to the donors and NGOs; and having been the CEO of an organization for four years will help bring an understanding of strategy and management to the organization.
He forms this productive partnership with Rahul Moosad who plans to utilise his experience and in client relations and client servicing for 10,000 NGOs that Danamojo has put forth as their goal but while doing so provide them with the best possible experience.
How productive will this partnership prove? Read on to find out-
Dhaval - “We believe that the NGOs working directly with the underprivileged sections of society have the most inspiring stories of human achievement and social transformation. These stories are key to inspire retail individual donors, engage them and retain them to increase their giving over time. Retail donors, indeed, are key to an organization’s success, not only in fundraising but in achieving social change by impacting the hearts and minds of hundreds, thousands, millions and billions!
The most efficient and convenient for retail donors to give is online through a payment gateway. Yet we have observed that NGOs face tremendous obstacles in getting a payment gateway from payment aggregators and banks. Even if they get a payment gateway they have to pay a premium to other merchants as they are classified as “high-risk”. In addition, they struggle technologically to integrate (which is an additional cost as well) and manage the same in full compliance with the law. We strongly believe that non-profits must have access to the same set of payment options to collect donations as a for-profit has to maximise revenues. We found it unfair that this was not the case. Indeed it is imperative to provide this superlative experience to today’s customer to build a loyal supporter base over time.
What are some things you considered that you feel all start ups should consider before launching?
Dhaval “So we did a few things that could be useful for others before starting out:
Knowledge of the Market – Having been associated in this sector for more than 10 years helped us since we had a basic understanding of the needs of the market, the difficulties it faced and what solution could possibly be of value. However this was our belief and at best anecdotal. Thus the market survey was important to validate the same.
Market Research – We did primary market research by meeting about 50 NGOs across key urban cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and a secondary research through a survey where we got responses from 600+ NGOs. We spoke with people who headed intermediary organizations and thus were in contact with hundreds of NGOs. This helped us identify not only the need of the product but also helped us further refine the products that it should have.
Business Model – We built a business model to determine the viability of the plan and to understand the scale of investments required, payback period and return that can be expected.
Finding your initial employees/co-founders – I think this is critical. Because no matter how small one’s venture is and how one estimates the quantum of work, very soon one realizes that the work required is much more. Also it’s a great way to brainstorm ideas. So I think the best decision anyone can make is bringing a person on-board right at the beginning. I am happy that I found someone like Rahul to come on board as we started out. It is imperative for a Founder to build a team such that everything that he or she is going can be done by someone else. That way you will be able to focus on the more important things that need to be done.
Scalable – I think in a country as large as India, it is important to build something that is scalable if you want to make a big impact. Thus it is important you think of scale as you start out and build it into everything you do – the product, the people and the processes. For example we want to build a platform that will eventually have 10,000 NGOs. While this may seem very large given that the biggest platforms in India today will be barely 200 NGOs, it’s yet only 1% of the NGO ecosystem. So while we have a long way to go, we also will yet be very small in the larger scheme of things.”
How will you ensure that is something an NGO should opt for?
Rahul “We are ensuring that if NGOs didn't opt for a payment gateway as the process was compliacted, that is no longer the reason that stops them.
Registration – Registration forms are extremely user-friendly providing suggestions for each answer, tool tips for each entry to help NGOs fill the correct data, validations which prevent them from filling the wrong data and created best practice presentations.
Integration – We are assisting NGOs with the integration and in fact even doing it for them when they can’t do it themselves.
Fundraising – NGOs will be encouraged to NGOs get funds, by sending mailers their supporters about their work and thus receive donations. We will in time provide more tools and training on this front.”
How have you planned to make it sustainable?
Dhaval “We retain 4.9% (+ service tax) on every donation that is made through our platform. However we charge no setup fees, integration fees or annual maintenance fees. And this is due to one of our core beliefs that we should be truly adding value in the system and all our incentives should be linked to the same. So when we link our revenue to the donations flowing through the system and nothing else (from the NGO), we are clearly focused on ensuring that we work in all possible ways to increase the amount of donations by enabling NGOs with the right tools and processes.”
Do you think NGOs in India are sustainable? If yes, what do you think are the factors? if no, why do you think so & what are your suggestions/solutions?
Rahul “I believe NGOs in India are sustainable, however their reach is limited due to shortage of funds. The NGOs are able to do the amazing work currently purely due to the determination of their founders who have the passion and will, to make a difference to lives of the underprivileged. However to improve their reach and help many more, I believe they need to work towards increasing their funding and also use technology to their advantage, this will help them reduce costs and improve their efficiency”
Dhaval “I fundamentally believe that all NGOs are systemically sustainable but internally unsustainable. Let me explain these 2 terms – If you see the value that an NGO adds to society by providing education, skilling a youth or providing eyesight through the increase value that such beneficiaries add to society through increased wages, increased output, you will certainly find the work that an NGO does to be sustainable for the value that it adds to society. However if you only look at this from the internal books of the NGO it can never be sustainable – for example how do you find sustainability in educating the poorest of the poor tribal children in Bastar, or providing quality healthcare in rural Jharkhand or water to parched lands of poor farmers in Maharashtra. However if you think about lifetime earning of such a child, ability to work of people after receiving good treatment and benefit to families of farmers and the nation on account of better agriculture production, you will certainly find sustainability.
However there is a category of NGOs that can be sustainable and should strive to do so – these are the various intermediaries which provide services to NGOs. I think the value and import of their services can only be judged if NGOs are willing to pay for them. If they are not, then they must truly question what it is they provide and if it has benefit to society if the people for whom the benefit is meant are not interested. There are many ways to do this, but for that a mindset shift from short-term grants to long-term revenue-based sustainability is important. Everything else is easy.”
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