“I have a dream of building India’s google for volunteering. Today we have Zomato for food search, Uber for cabs, and Naukri for Jobs, I want to have ‘Let’s Volunteer’ for volunteering”, says Deepak.
Hairsh Srigururaju and Deepak Teja Paripati, both 27, have come together to build ‘Let’s Volunteer’, a platform built to take us back to the real meaning of volunteering and even make it lucrative! Deepak works full time as a business analyst for an MNC; Harish currently works with Dasra.
A well-defined problem
Late into the night during his b-school days, Deepak was riding back to his hostel after volunteering at an event. He noticed that most people faced trouble with getting volunteers onboard for their initiatives. He also observed the other side – youngsters who were passionate about volunteering didn’t have a platform to find the right opportunity. Leveraging his background in IT, he decided to build the platform as the bridge between volunteers and organizations.
Harish had been volunteering in various capacities including teaching, career workshops, and organic farming. These experiences changed his outlook and he rethought his career, quitting his job as an investment banker to focus on the development sector. This was the stimulus that led him to build ‘Let’s Volunteer’.
Harish adds, “There are a lot of people in cities who want to get involved in projects around them. Also, based on our research, people want to volunteer based on particular causes like education, health etc. The platform was built to accommodate these requirements to provide convenience and ease to the volunteers. These events also provide a platform to engage with other like-minded people and make it a fun filled experience. The whole experience of fun filled activity to achieve a common community development goal is an exciting opportunity to the youth.”
They started off in August, 2014, with a Facebook page to test the idea which saw great momentum and success. Deepak says, “We had 100+ volunteers who took part in 5 events we organized in Mumbai, generating close to 300 Volunteering hours.” In February 2015, they launched the first version of the website. The response has been great again. He adds, “After the launch of our website, we have 100+ volunteers registered with their email ids on our website, with 20+ organizations registered conducting 13 events organized in Mumbai and Bangalore and have generated about 105 Volunteering hours.”
The platform for volunteers and organisations
Let’s Volunteer is a completely technology driven product with a lean team. The platform requires only one administrator to handle the platform end to end.
Organisations can sign up with their emails free of cost. The organisations are required to fill in their profile, which then is submitted for the administrator’s approval. The administrator does a sanity check and then delves into the background check. Once the administrator approves, the organisation’s page is up and running where they can post about events, initiatives, and call for volunteers. The organisation receives automated emails from the system every day with the number of volunteers registered that day for any particular event.
Volunteers need to register on the website in order to get involved with events that are aligned to their interests. The volunteers can search for the events based on the location, cause, and the date. Volunteers also have the option of viewing other volunteers registered for an event.
On the day of the event, the organisation host meets the volunteers in the event place, conducts the event, and marks the volunteers’ attendance on the system. The volunteer is also assigned “secret” points.
Keeping volunteers excited – Secret points
Once the event is over, a volunteer is given points. The final points is a cumulative number based on many variables – Rating given by the host organisation (on a scale of 5), the number of hours put in by the volunteering and a multiplier of a base.
But how will these points incentivize the volunteers? Deepak and Harish are in talks with various startups and organisations to provide them with discount coupons, which can be used against these secret points. Let’s volunteer even has tied up with a salon in Bangalore that gives volunteers 50% discount.
Smileys India aims at bringing a smile to the lesser privileged
Let’s volunteer is bootstrapped. For the next 6-8 months they are not looking for any kind of revenues. But they do have a revenue plan in place.
- Membership fees for organisations to be in the network and post events. Different schemes will be made available depending on the duration of membership and number of events an organisation can post.
- Third party partners with whom they will be tying up to convert volunteer points to discount coupons. Deepak explains, “Suppose, we generate sales revenue of Rs. 10000 with partners on a particular day from the items bought by the volunteers. Let’s Volunteer plans on taking a 5% cut of the revenue from the partner. For example, Rs. 500 in this case.”
The duo state that their current challenge is to increase the number of organisation and individuals registered with them. They’re in talks to partner with organisations that can expand their base.
Signing off, the duo say that they’re different. Unlike other platforms, they are not raising funds or asking for donation on their website. They’re consciously working to bring about a change in the mind-set around volunteering. Harish adds, “Volunteering is not just for NGOs or social causes. Making the audience realize and recollect the original definition of volunteering. We’re doing this by providing volunteering opportunity across the board – right from animal welfare, art, culture & heritage to sports, recreation, trade Events, women health and safety, etc.”
They plan to launch Let’s Volunteer’s mobile app soon and move one step closer to getting every kind of volunteering opportunity under one-roof, promoting volunteerism among the urban youth.
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