Our dream is to see 1.5 million schools in India getting better facilities, meeting the scarcity of over one million toilets, and enrolling the eight million students in the age group of 6–16 entitled to free education,” says Radhakrishnan Ram Manohar, Co-founder of Azadi.in.
Founded in 2014, when the Centre had made CSR activities mandatory for companies, this Kochi-based startup has made its presence felt. Soon after they were incubated at IIM-Bangalore, they took their first leap of faith that revolved around rural education. Azadi.in provides an online platform to raise resources for legal fees through crowdfunding in order to empower millions of ordinary citizens by taking up their issues legally.
The startup is led by Radhakrishnan Ram Manohar (29), SidharthVijyan (28), and Praveen Paul (35), all of whom hail from families with not very strong entrepreneurial backgrounds. Backed by an NGO — Common Cause — which shot to fame through its interventions in the 2G spectrum case and coal scam.
With their roots in Kerala, they started small by planning and designing of CSR campaigns for organisations, which was then made compulsory for all organisations.
Organisations have already started identifying that good CSR can bring them a huge boost.
Among their many projects, the CSR managed for Indian Oil gave them much needed attention, and the revenue generated was invested into smaller tech projects and establishing themselves as a startup. Considering the humongous reach of online forums, they built a citizen action platform which helps citizens to crowd-fund.
They were soon recognised by Nagaraja Prakasam from Microsoft Ventures and were incubated in NSRCEL, IIM-Bangalore in 2015 . Soon the idea reached top Supreme Court lawyers including Prashant Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani. Vipul Mudgal, director of Common Cause also appreciated the idea and sent the team a message saying This was the missing piece in the puzzle.
Team Azadi intends to be a one-stop reliever for all the trouble caused due to the ignorant behaviour of people in power. Radhakrishnan says,
We want to be the torch bearers for citizen action. Anybody who wants to make a change can approach us and host their campaign on our platform. After we vet the issue with our legal team, if it is of public interest and a serious cause which falls in line with our vision, we take it up.
In an interview to Press Trust of India, Vipul said thousands of schools in the country lacked adequate teachers, classrooms, toilets, drinking water, books, uniforms, libraries, mid-day-meal kitchens, and playgrounds.
Despite a constitutional guarantee, millions of children are out of school, or without quality education. We thought instead of running after limited funders, we should collect small funds from a large number of people and decided to partner with Azadi.in, he said.
The team has set up an online portal where people can play their part. Post the investment, one can track and analyse the targets reached. The startup has already raised more than Rs 50,000 and intends to reach a target of 5 lakh.
Since incubation, the team has chosen to keep aside the funds raised at IIM Bangalore, deciding to bootstrap instead. Radhakrishnan says,
Bootstrapping is like having a baby. All the trouble starts when the wait is over. We have seen startups receive early funds and fail; we did not want to be another fish in the pool.
If you have an issue you feel passionately about, this startup lets you contribute to that change. While most startups are battling to prove which one of them is the best, here is one that lets you make a tangible change. By empowering the common man to invest in game changing ideas, Azadi.in aims to fill the gaps the concerned authorities have been unable to.