The last couple of years have seen a spurt in the number of entrepreneurial ventures initiated by fresh graduates or students. It is quite an encouraging sign, but most of the startup’s concentrate on technology or web services. A very small percentage of these student startup’s are inclined towards utilizing technology to benefit the society at large. ngoFuel is one such startup, which is a non-profit social enterprise.
This Chennai based startup was conceived by four VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) engineering students and a student from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. They launched ngoFuel in 2010 with the primary aim to gain meaningful work experience. “Apurv Agrawal and Saswata De founded nF in their third year of under graduation, decided to expand the team in early 2011. That is when various team mates with varied skills and ideas were added to expand the team size to 11”, clarified Ritika Gupta, Executive Director, ngoFuel. Within the first 12 months of the launch ngoFuel was able to attract a lot of attention and the founders have shunned all job offers to concentrate on ensuring that the start-up survives and grows.
ngoFuel provides technology solutions to NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), especially those which are hard strapped for money. They provide services like web designing, web hosting and photography. These services are mostly provided free of cost or at a very minimal cost. ngoFuel also maintains a fortnightly e-journal called nF Spotlight, which features an in-depth coverage of one NGO. “Our blog ( e-journal) will cater to a bigger audience covering more aspects of social needs, showcasing skills of youth and a platform for all of us to be an interface to social needs”, says Ritika. They also dabble in graphic design, content writing, online brand management, social media marketing, et cetera.
Apurv Agarwal, the founder and chief executive of ngoFuel, is also responsible for overseeing the designing of the websites. The content writing services are taken care of by Saswata Shankar De and Aditi Agarwal. Graphic designing and photography is done by P Shreyas and Siddhartha M. Saswata is also the COO (Chief Operational Officer). Since its launch ngoFuel has been approached by a number of NGO’s and this had forced them to temporarily stop accepting new projects.
ngoFuel relies heavily on crowd sourcing in order to provide these services at the nominal rates they do. “The founders recognized it in the beginning and that is when they decided the business model to sustain on “crowd sourcing”, seeing huge potential in the youth of various universities. In fact, this helped us to get some of the very best interns to work on dedicated projects and create a wide spread reach in India in a small span of time”, adds Ritika.
The initial interaction with the NGO’s is handled by founders, but the actual work is done in combination with a number of volunteers, who contribute towards the project at hand. It is a win-win situation for both ngoFuel and the volunteers, most of whom are students. For the students it is an opportunity to work on a live project and gain some experience, which is a great addition to their resume. This allows ngoFuel to provide professional services to the NGO’s at a fraction of the original cost. “We have team of 18 undergrads working with us catering to our requirement of managing, web developing, graphic designing, content development at personal level and filling the void of our interns when needed”, says Ritika.
Many of the volunteers could also be future entrepreneurs and working on a project with ngoFuel allows them to meet new people and build contacts. It also makes the volunteers feel they have achieved something, which improves their self-confidence.
The volunteers who have worked on a project with ngoFuel in turn act as ambassadors in their colleges and universities, thereby drawing the attention of more students towards ngoFuel. In the immediate future ngoFuel is planning to register itself as a trust, which will enable them to give out an internship or voluntary work certificate.
The founders want to be part of ngoFuel in the long-run, at least on a part-time basis. They are working on increasing the revenue to a certain level, which will enable ngoFuel’s sustenance as a full-time business. The strategy they have in mind is to increase the volume of projects as they do not want to charge NGO’s higher. A very miniscule percentage of registered NGO’s in India have an online presence. So the potential for ngoFuel to grow is huge.
ngoFuel has worked with more than 25 NGO’s till date. They hope to work with over 200 NGO’s year-on-year in order to make the enterprise viable. Over 250 volunteers/interns have been signed up by ngoFuel. A recent showcase of the top 30 student start-up’s in India by the National Entrepreneurial Network (NEN) featured ngoFuel. Their business plan was also rated to be one of the top 10 Social B-Plans in India by SRCC, Delhi.
ngoFuel recently re-launched their site, with a more user-friendly interface, in order to reach out to a larger audience. Check it out here.
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