The story of social entrepreneur who dropped out of three colleges to make a mark with I Impact India
“I had to fight my family, friends and teachers to leave college and pursue my dream. I swear to God it was so hard that I cannot put it in words,” says Onkar K. Khullar, the Founder of I Impact India.
Onkar is a three-time college dropout. First, he dropped out of a private college, IILM Lodhi Road, in 2010. Second, he dropped out Khalsa in 2011. Third, he dropped out of the then top college in DU for business management, SSCBS, in 2013. Onkar says, “I dropped out from my first two colleges in search of my passion since I figured college would not give me the answer. I took up training in stock market and started managing my family business. I was working with a non-profit called Make-A-Wish Foundation and there I got attached to a young eight-year-old girl called Radhika, who was suffering from blood cancer. But after six months, she needed medicine for her chemotherapy which cost Rs 1.5 lakhs to be precise. Her mother went to all the non-profits to ask them for funds but the ones who are doing genuine work didn’t have any funds or always fell short of it. When she asked me I was speechless because in the stock market I was making good money but I knew giving money was not the answer, it’s not her alone there are thousands more.” He started to ponder how he could impact more lives.
He left his family business and started researching about real problems in the development sector. He realized that it was not the funds but the expertise, specifically expertise of communication that was missing. He says, “I had found that my passion in life was creativity. Then the question was do you create an impact to make money or do you make money to create an impact?”
His idea was to create a team of experts with a for-profit business model to provide the best communication expertise in the development sector with the cost and maximum impact. Just like Coca Cola and other FMCG brands have the best team to sell their stuff, why not the best team with at least not great but good salaries to change the world.
Onkar adds, “I needed capital so I applied for angel investment and the only worry they had that I was not a graduate.”
So he applied to the best college in India for management and got through BFIA in SSCBS which has only 60 seats all India. He spent six months struggling in college to get a degree, while participating in business plan competitions in Delhi. He won a few of them and raised Rs 50000 as cash prizes. He says, “One day, I went to my teacher to ask for my attendance regarding the number of business plan competitions I had won. He told me anyone can win a business plan competition but it’s when your plan hits reality that it counts. I launched my organization with some of my best friends and on February 14, 2013, we launched our first campaign, ’One packet per view’, and got clients like Rotary International, National Association for Blind and DLF. But after four months, my two partners wanted to pursue MBA so they quit. I had told them if you are going for an MBA, I am leaving college. I knew our organization won’t survive so I left college and took this role full time.”
Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with Onkar.
The meeting of minds
Since I have told you the breakup between us ended on an ugly note, I prefer not to talk about it. The three of us were childhood friends. But I learnt that business cannot be done with best friends.
In 2013, I launched our first summer internship and we got more than 100 + applicants. I knew that instant that I must be doing something right, and that God is helping me.
When I started this organization (and when I left college), the Company’s Bill and the CSR Law had no future in India. My entire family was worried ‘what will happen to him?’ But it’s actually true when you believe in something it does actually come true. The Bill was passed three months after I started. At present, I Impact India has a team of 25 people now spread across India.
I Impact India’s impact
Onkar wants the reader to Imagine an organization which can create the next Anna movement for brands (movement marketing and cause marketing ), reduce the chances of rape (help non-profits and government devising better security methods for women), increase attendance as well as education system in government and NGO schools , increase funds in non- profits and making them self sustainable. He wants to solve business supply chain problems and create a more impactful CSR as well as solve PR crisis with real tangible work, and not tokenism. He also wants to focus on major disaster management, solving global epidemics to fixing public distribution system. He says, “Social Impact Communication and Social Innovation are at the heart of all these problems which in simpler terms means communication and innovation for good.”
I Impact India deals with complete social impact communication solutions ranging from branding, PR, design, events, marketing, advertising, social innovation and strategy. “Since a non-profit cannot afford different firms but a combination of everything, we created impact consultants who are industry veterans on our board of advisors.”
Onkar has created something called an impact thinking method which allows him to provide any communication solution in 90 days only with the best cost. Check details here on Slideshare.
There are a few misconceptions that require clearing the air; Is I Impact India (III) an NGO? No, it is not an NGO. It is a for-profit organization, as they believe business makes money and best expertise is valuable; Does III raise funds for NGOs? No. III is an institution not committed to fundraise for NGOs; rather it designs effective techniques for efficient fundraising. Unlike regular consultants, it does not believe in charging its clients on the basis of hours spent. Instead, they charge on results delivered.
I Impact India works with international as well as national organizations. From international clients like Swamimusic.com to London-based innovation firm Chakraviyuh to Rotary International to national level non-profits like Prayas and Prabhaav Foundation to corporates like Select Citywalk , DLF and Bharti Foundation to name a few.
“We have done brand revamps to viral social media campaigns to world’s largest marathon for children,” says Onkar. Here are some case studies in its brochure.
In the past two years of his journey, Onkar, has learned a thing or two from the ups and downs of running his business. He tells YourStory, “Entering an industry dominated by people with white hair and traditional models, when you are 23 is very hard. It is difficult to change their mindsets with breakthrough models and ideas, especially, when a youngster comes up to them and tells them that let’s try something new. I researched on 600 non-profits in India and internationally and compiled it in my book called, ‘What’s your cause?’ for anyone who cannot get our consultancy it has all the practical insights I had learnt from 2011 to 2013. It is available on Flipkart.
“The charity model is dead. Non-profits need to be run like business or else they will die. There a lot of fundraising organization which create dependency for non-profits to raise funds on a commission? I hate the model because just imagine the commissions increase to 50 % per donation which means if I donate Rs 10, commission agents take Rs. 5 and admin of the non-profit takes Rs 3 and only Rs 2 actually reaches for on-ground activities.
“Instead, I work with the non-profit in providing them a self sustainable fundraising strategy so they start running like business and then move out of the picture in 90 days.”
What next for I Impact India
The team wants to expand internationally. We are in the process of setting up India’s largest knowledge bank for causes.
We are taking I Impact India into I Impact International by the end of this year with a new process called impact process outsourcing just like KPO or BPO for social impact communication. We will be providing our services to more international non-profits at the best cost.
There are about 75 lakh NGOs functioning in India. It is a number which is expected to increase double fold in no time post the rolling out of the CSR Mandate 2013. Yet, there are millions suffering at the hands of abject poverty. Organizations like I Impact India bring innovation and cause-specific expertise to the development sector.