Karon Shaiva & Robin D'Souza, Founders, EmpAower, Mumbai
Empower to shop for charity
You buy tea because you like it rather than an act of charity. And the money earned is channelised back to various NGOs. Karon Shaiva and Robin D’Souza have set out on a mission to ask people to shop for charity. YourStory talks to these social entrepreneurs to know more about the activities of their company called EmpAower
Why an entrepreneur? Why didn’t you pursue a full-time job?
Karon- After completing my management education in 1989, I worked for five years in various companies before starting my own dealership in 1994. We were dealers to Wipro and in the very first year, we got the best managed dealership award from Wipro. However, I cd, nt sustain the momentum as I got married and faced few health problems. I had to shut shop in 1997. Later, I also worked for Citicorp in quality assurance dept for four years. However, there was always a strong desire to work for the betterment of the society and in 2006 I joined Kherwadi Social Association, a NGO based in Mumbai, as Operations Director. I saw most of the NGOs’ struggling for funds and people treating them with indifference. That’s where I got the idea of Empaower; marketing and distribution firm, which would sell products made by NGOs’ and channelise the money back to people living at the bottom of the pyramid.
Robin- I am a cost accountant by profession and was always involved in charity work for poor and downtrodden. With the desire to change the world and make it a better place, I even worked in an orphanage for one year in Goa after finishing my education. But, I guess the true calling has come now after spending almost two decades in the corporate world.
What were the challenges and obstacles you are facing now?
Karon- To say that raising funds for a NGO is a challenge would be an understatement. But, the bigger challenge is the mind-set of people, who donate money once, thinking that they have done their bit towards helping others. There is also prejudice and less receptivity towards products or services offered by an NGO. People think it may not be of good quality. Empaower is working towards integrating the products and offerings from NGOs’ into the normal business eco-system-that is supply chain management, retailing and selling it through malls and other outlets and, giving money back to NGOs’.
Turning points in business
Karon-The only turning point is the validation of our idea through action by partners, sponsors, and customers.
Robin- In terms of numbers, we have already sold 1tonne of Mountain Brew tea in just one month, purely on word of mouth recommendation.
What are the differentiators of your business?
Karon-It’s the process of integration of NGO products into the mainstream distribution network without paying any extra buck
What drives you?
Robin- To make difference in the lives of poor and make them financially stable
Karon- We would like to retail our product, Mountain Brew tea , in all major malls and cities across India.
Key requirements for scaling-up the business
Robin- We need trade enquiries, distributors, retailers and funds