It happened in March this year. The National Ice Hockey team was on the verge of pulling out of the Asian Championship despite putting up a good performance, all due to paucity of funds. That is when they did a campaign with BitGiving, one of India’s biggest crowd-funding platforms and believe it or not, there was a huge turnaround. Within 20 days, they were able to raise a whopping Rs 6.5 lakh. It was a huge amount given that this team did not have a single sponsor till then.
After that, there was no looking back for the National team. Bigwigs like Anand Mahindra, leading telecom company Micromax and even the Sports Ministry took interest in the team and the players left for Kuwait to participate in the Championship by the end of March.
“It was the Vice Captain of the team who told me at their pre-departure press meet that it was for the very first time that they felt like a national team. I personally hold this campaign very close to my heart,” says BitGiving’s 26-year-old Co-Founder and CEO Ishita Anand.
To Ishita’s surprise, there was a huge level of curiosity built on the social networking sites around the ice hockey team. “People didn’t even know that such a team existed till that point and suddenly it got humanised, such is the beauty of a crowdfunding platform. The campaign started trending on Twitter 20 hours after it went live. Suddenly people started talking about it and everyone got engaged in their own way,” says a visibly proud Ishita.
For someone who embarked on her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 22, Ishita thinks she has come a long way to be at the helm of affairs at BitGiving. She started out as the design head for their newsletter ‘DU Beat’, during her graduation at Lady Shri Ram (LSR) college. Given that it was a small team which was behind the newsletter, Ishita pretty much gained the experience one would have at a startup. “That experience stayed with me,” she says.
Ishita then started dabbling with a host of career options, from film-making to animation before she realised her true calling – to become an entrepreneur.
At that point, the entrepreneur bug bit me and I started putting together a platform for artists,
says Ishita. Inexperience and lack of technical expertise at that time perhaps didn’t take that venture far but Ishita was determined. A trained animator, she then dedicated herself to learning technology and worked on a lot of collaborative projects with banks etc to get a grip on it.
By the end of 2013, she founded BitGiving.
The entrepreneur in Ishita, humble start at BitGiving
In the initial days, BitGiving worked a lot in the social space. It was a lot of fund-raising, working on different projects involving a host of strategies that they started off with. “Given that crowdfunding itself was a niche concept in India then, people were not aware of the kind of effort that goes into building it,” says Ishita.
In the days to follow, BitGiving kicked off some very interesting offbeat campaigns, one involving an endangered Fishing cat in Kolkata. The lady behind the campaign is overfunded right now. Though the progress has been slow, Ishita is confident of her crowd-funding concept picking up in the next few years.
They have done a campaign for the Nepal earthquake and managed to raise Rs 60 lakh.
There was a lot of urgency in that campaign and people on social media reacted accordingly. It was a transparent platform where the younger generation, in particular, knew where and how the money was being utilized and they loved contributing to the cause,
Sibling duo as entrepreneurs
Though Ishita’s father always had a job and she grew up seeing her mother in the role of a housewife, it was her older brother Varun Anand who passed on the entrepreneurship traits to her, she feels. “Though at the time he was starting up, I didn’t understand the concept of a startup but today he is the go-to person for all my problems,” says an amused Ishita. Varun works in the healthcare sector.
On being a woman entrepreneur
Ishita says she always found the eco-system very inviting for a woman entrepreneur.
Just that it takes a lot of internal fighting like I did when I thought of starting up. No one will deny you that first chance just because you are a woman,
says Ishita. When she started out, she says, she wasn’t aware of too many woman entrepreneurs and even if there were few doing beautiful work, they denied themselves the due respect, feels Ishita.
She says she knows many women coders who don’t value their work and would have given up after a point.
The challenges that Ishita faced were of a different kind.
It is rather difficult to make a bunch of techies believe that a woman understands technology!
she says on a rather humorous note. And then at the end of the day, like any venture, one needs to meet the numbers and make the business work, irrespective of being a man or a woman, she says.
A person who believes in entrepreneurship
Besides her stint at BitGiving, Ishita is also associated with the Lean In Foundation, a not-for-profit online community dedicated to helping all women achieve their ambitions. She heads the India Chapter and is representing women entrepreneurs in San Francisco next week. “Close to 50 Chapter Heads have been invited to share the experiences, learnings of entrepreneurs in their respective area,” she says.
Ishita is greatly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, who she got a chance to meet as part of a Lean In Foundation’s meeting recently. “She inspires me at multiple levels. Apart from that, it is my brother Varun who I trust to be completely upfront with me on any issue I go to him with,” signs off Ishita.