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Crowdfunding For Social Causes

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Piyush Jain, Founder and CEO of Impact Guru

Piyush Jain, has over 7 years of M&A, investment banking, management consulting, Silicon Valley, non-profit, and public sector experience working with J P Morgan, Boston Consulting Group, Ernst & Young,, Instiglio, and Govt of India-Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Jain has also co-authored a paper at Harvard Business School on innovative ways to finance entrepreneurial and social ventures and did his graduate capstone exercise at Harvard on crowdfunding and CSR.

His company, Impact Guru is an online fundraising or crowdfunding platform that empowers anyone to give to nonprofits and social causes in India. It is a daily struggle for 3.3m non-profits in India to find alternatives to traditional forms of fundraising, which are often inadequate and quite expensive. Impact Guru was incubated at Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Initiation Program and is currently part of PACT Incubator Singapore. In conversation with Dominic Rebello, he reveals how his business model is a winner for both the investor as also the borrower, while fulfilling a major lacuna that exists in the system

What is your major driving force?
I believe everyone has the desire to give, the problem is, many don’t know how? I recall one defining moment, when I decided that I wanted to give back to the society when I volunteered for an orphanage in India. That experience taught me that I was lucky to be born with some privileges – to have a family, to live in a home, to go to school, while a significant section of society wasn’t so fortunate.   

My dream was simple, to enable people, to give. To empower individuals to support their favourite cause by engaging their family and friends…this dream catapulted, into the conception of Impact Guru, a crowdfunding platform.  For me, Impact Guru is a constant reminder to myself, of that one defining moment.
How big is the potential for a business like yours?
The potential for crowdfunding is immense in India for many reasons: First, the total size of philanthropy and personal crowdfunding market is estimated to be greater than $60bn. India has the highest number of NGOs in the world at 33 lakh and less than 1% of their fundraising is completely online as compared to 9% in US. Secondly, India has about 350 million people who indulge in giving to various religious and social causes every year, which is the largest in the world. Thirdly, internet penetration and credit card penetration is increasingly rapidly, bringing more and more people online.

Impact Guru has already partnered with nonprofits such as World Vision India, Oxfam, SOS Children's Village, Habitat for Humanity; CSR departments of Tata, Godrej, and Wockhardt; impact focused organizations such as Dalberg and Asha Impact; international Indian community organizations such as TiE in a relatively short span of time since its launch in August 2015.
How do you plan to scale up?
Well, I would say both. We have successfully managed to raise a seed round of US $500,000 (Rs 3.3 crores) so far from RB Investments, a Singapore based venture capital firm, and Fundnel, a private investment platform based in Southeast Asia in April 2016. Since our launch in August 2015, Impact Guru and its partners have raised more than Rs 56 crores (US$ 8.5 million) to support more than 100 causes and organizations, which has accelerated our revenue growth. We will continue to seek more investment funding given the large market opportunity in front of us while identifying new revenue streams and accelerating revenue growth to achieve break even as soon as possible.

Who would primarily be your consumer audience?
As a crowdfunding platform or marketplace, we have three distinct set of customers. Firstly, campaigners are typically individuals with strong sense of purpose who want to mobilize friends, family, colleagues, and the “crowd” at large to give towards a cause they are championing. Secondly, beneficiaries are usually nonprofits, social enterprises, or people with need eg; patients suffering from cancer, or students seeking scholarships. Thirdly, donors are typically individuals resident in India or abroad (eg. Indian diaspora) who want to make a difference by giving online to causes they associate with.   
Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
My main goal over the next 5 years is to make Impact Guru, India’s #1 fundraising platform for nonprofits, social enterprises, personal causes, and startups. We will look to achieve that ambition by expanding in new markets, developing new products and services, and having relentless focus on execution.

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