We at YourStory met woman entrepreneur Harsha Mukherjee at the Techsparks Round Table in Hyderabad and found out more about her social enterprise, Ekjaa.
Harsha, introduce us to the business idea behind Ekjaa.
Ekjaa connects individual donors with the right end-beneficiaries, does social monitoring thereby building a trustworthy framework and provides humanitarian support whenever possible and helps celebrate the impact that the individual creates.
So you find donors, social investors and link them NGOs and other social organisations to fund their projects, right?
Why should people donate money, if they can also invest?
You can donate money for orphans, differently abled people or environmental causes. But you won’t do so for a 20 year old fit person who requires some financial support to become self-sustainable. That’s when you lend. Thus, you can make a choice in terms of the philanthropic gesture that you would like to do.
How is Ekjaa different from a crowd-funding platform or online MF-platform Kiva?
Ekjaa brings MFIs as well as NGOs both on the same platform unlike other models, which concentrate on only one aspect. By doing so, Ekjaa serves for diverse causes as well as helps people become self-sustainable.
What is is the process for somebody who would like to invest or donate?
Somebody who would like to donate can choose from the wide number of projects undertaken by us. After the donation is received and disbursed, we do ensure social monitoring on the project, thereby giving updates on the money invested for the cause. If a person wants to lend some amount to the projects, he could do so and we repay the money on the basis of the term loan. In the lend process, Ekjaa gives loan at 0% interest rate.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have, with NGOs and sponsors/investors.
Our regional allies are divided into NGOs and social investing organizations who work to provide relief to the poor. Our NGOs range from Naandi, a nationally renowned organization involved in mid-day meal activity, child education, self sustainability of farmers to Abhoy Mission, NPdO and Shekinah Foundation, dedicated to serve the differently abled community. We have SSVK and AIF working for education and some very innovative projects Greenlife and GUESS Foundation doing environment-related activities and APOWA, which is into animal welfare activities. We are in talks with some organizations who work against pedophilia and human trafficking as well.
Our SIOs consists of Mahila Sanatkar which works in the form of Mutually Aided Cooperative Society for the upliftment of women living below poverty level and are skilled artisans. Apart from that, we are collaborating with Nirantra, an MFI serving backward areas and villages specially farmers and we are finalising the projects which align with the objectives of Ekjaa.
We have media tie-ups with IndiaCSR and Youth Ki Awaaz. Presently, Ekjaa does not have a sponsor or investor and is a self-funded project. We are looking for investors in this project.
How do you partner with sponsors to raise money?
We target the CSR divisions of various corporates to raise funds, apart from crowd-funding mode. We provide CSR packages and solutions to various companies in different sectors.
What is your business model?
We have a nominal service charge which is required for the operational expenses of the organization. It is a success-based model that is only if we raise the funds would we charge and it is transparent to the donors and end-beneficiaries as well.
Why did you start the project?
I was always passionate to serve the society in my own small way also which utilizes my skills while making an impact on my surroundings. Through Ekjaa, we want to have maximum social impact within our reach and streamline the usage of funds in the social sector.
What is the amount of money you would like to raise in the first 12 months?
We aim to raise at least 1CR in its first year through our various modes.
How do your beneficiaries benefit from your service, apart from the funding?
Ekjaa also provides humanitarian support as and when feasible by our volunteers who could be anyone from students to corporate employees. Our volunteers go and teach in the NGOs we have collaborated with or do consulting for people who have taken an amount via the lend model to setup a small business. Through our social monitoring, we also make sure that the funds have been received by end-beneficiaries and there is some social impact.
You are an engineer by profession, what made you work in the social space?
I am in the self-actualization phase going by the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the social space motivates me. On a lighter note, there are many engineers working in MNCs. But there is a dearth of people in the social space, which, by the way, has a lot of demand.
Let us know a little more about the expansion plans. Where do you see Ekjaa in 3 years time?
Within 3 years, we see Ekjaa serving an international market with solutions for more diverse and sensitive causes.
To donate or lend through Ekjaa, check out www.ekjaa.org.
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