The ‘Books for All’ initiative by Guzarish, a Delhi-based NGO, is a crowdsourcing platform that allows one to donate and buy books. It’s mostly aimed at children in government schools.
Twelve-year-old Prabhavathi studies in a government school and has minimal access to books beyond textbooks provided as part of the government’s ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan’ scheme.
Recently, with the help of Delhi-based NGO Guzarish and a thoughtful donor, she received the book, The Enormous Turnip. Written by popular author Richard Johnson, the book took Prabhavathi to a different world where a turnip grows to an enormous size, kindling her imagination and filling her with awe and wonder.
Thrilled, she wrote a letter to the donor of the book expressing her joy. “I like the book because it teaches us that if we are on our own, we can’t do everything we want. I have learnt that we need to be in a group to help everyone.”
Prabhavathi is one of the 25,000 children who has been benefitted by Guzarish’s ‘Books for All’ initiative.
The premise behind Books For All is simple: it is a crowdsourcing platform that allows you to donate and buy books, both used and unused. Started in 2015, the NGO intends to address the need for books beyond the curriculum to children who come from low-income families. The began operations on Rs 30,000, collected from donors.
Though most of these schools are beneficiaries of government schemes and receive school books, their world doesn’t open up to, say, the tales of a Panchatantra or adventures in an Enid Blyton series, says founder Ankit Manchanda, 29, an alumnus of SP Jain Institute of Management.
Ankit’s friends Jaibeer Singh(29), Prachi Luthra (29) and Sanymi Gupta (29), who are all Teach for India fellows, joined the venture.
After completing their fellowship, the trio realised there was a dearth of quality reading material for children in government schools. They came together to start Guzarish to become a one-stop platform where a donor can give away any books that s/he no longer uses.
The non-profit enterprise acts as a catalyst between the donor and the student, through a well-equipped delivery mechanism where the books are picked up from the donor’s house and dropped off at schools in Delhi every week. The school management then filters them accordingly for their own in-house library.
Over the last three years, the non-profit has turned digital where all the books have been allotted barcodes and are featured on their website. The beneficiaries can now pick and choose their books online at Rs 10 per book. Ankit says, “The reason we charge this minimal amount of Rs 10 is to recover our own logistics expenses.”
The initiative functions in three steps:
The intent is noble and Ankit elaborates,
“We believe we are fortunate that we had the resources to get a good education and lead a life full of comfort and dignity. However, our education and progress is meaningless if we do not try to fulfill the needs of those who were not as fortunate. It is our belief that only by working for the welfare of someone else and impacting other lives do we bring meaning to our existence.”
The enterprise is also pro-actively collecting reviews in the form of letters that are sent to the donors.
“A simple message from a kid sharing how s/he is excited and grateful about getting some books to read makes us feel that we are creating a small difference,” he adds.
In the last three months, since the launch of the initiative, Books For All has collected over 15,000 books across different genres -storybooks, comic books, school textbooks, books for competitive exams etc. Some of the most famous books are, - Goosebumps, Panchatantra, R D Sharma for all classes, Lakhmir Singh, and NCERT course books for all classes.
Apart from individual donors, it also works with corporates like TCS, JK Lakshmi Cement, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Makemytrip, and UC Browser (an Alibaba company).
The social enterprise today works with over 150 NGOs that include Deepalaya, Aseem’s library, Teach For India, Joining hands, Matri Sudha – a charitable trust, AROH Foundation, among others.
An official spokesperson from J.K Lakshmi Cement Limited said,
“We got to know about Books For All from one of our employees. She shared how they collect all kinds of books, distribute it amongst underprivileged kids and finally share book reviews written by kids. We liked the idea, especially the one about sharing book reviews to maintain transparency, and, hence, we called them to our office to organise a book donation drive. This way, all our employees were able to contribute to a noble cause.”
The initiative is also live on several crowdfunding platforms like GiveIndia, Goodera and NGOBox. Recently, it raised support from Chinese mobile internet company UC Browser, which provided 5,000 books to promote readership on UC Browser. With this, Guzarish became the second enterprise after Pratham Books to gain support from the Alibaba Group-owned web browser.
In the next few months, the team at Guzarish intends to increase its online presence.
Ankur says, “We want to take our inventory of books online and enable the functionality of e-commerce so that NGOs across the country can choose and order the books they want from the comfort of their homes. This shall increase our distribution reach immensely. In the long term, once we have perfected our collection model in Delhi-NCR, we want to expand our collection reach to all metros in India and reach as many donors as possible.”
As of 2013-14, the net enrollment ratio in primary education in India for boys and girls was 88 percent and the national youth literacy rate was 94 percent for males and 92 percent for females. This significant progress in the country, and beyond, comes in the wake of the United Nations shifting the spotlight to ‘Quality Education’ through its Sustainable Development Goal-4.
Adding more zeal to this is the centre’s attempt of achieving universal quality through its flagship programme - Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. This improvement in primary education is complemented by an overall effort to improve quality through nutritional support, higher education, and teacher training.
While there are multiple players and thought leaders working for the cause of quality education, Guzarish, through its Books For All initiative is complementing the education process in India by ensuring children also learn beyond the classroom.