A young entrepreneur, Japman Kaur Sethi, started her home-based bakery in 2017. A Political science graduate from Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi, while pursuing her Masters decided to try her hands in baking and became a certified craft baker.
1. How was the response from people in the initial phase of your cake making? Do people prefer buying home-based bakery items?
As you know, every startup takes time, and so was the case with me. At the initial stage, people were attracted to my cakes, but it took me a while to get connected with more customers as there is much competition in the area of home-based baking.
In general, people do prefer home-based bakery item because it can be customised as per their requirement. Besides, people find home-based bakery more hygienic and trustworthy.
2. What about the varieties that you offer and what is the secret ingredient in the menu that attracts people?
We have a wide variety to offer such as sugarfree cakes, vegan cakes, eggless cakes, fruity flavour cakes and chocolate cakes.
Freshness is the secret ingredient which attracts people. I don’t make and store cakes. Each cake is made the same day and delivered that very day.
3. We have heard that you have specialised in eggless baking and you make vegan cakes too. How is the demand for vegan cakes?
Vegan is not an Indian concept. We have borrowed it from western culture. I think in India we have only 5% of the population who has given up dairy products and turned vegan. So the demand for eggless is more as compared to vegan cakes. I do have orders for vegan cakes very often, but it is restricted to the same people ordering again and again.
4. Who or what inspired you towards baking?
I always had an interest in cooking. I loved making desserts, too, since I was 15 years old. I used to help my mother to prepare sweet dishes whenever there used to be dinner or lunch for guests in our house. Soon after graduation, I came across an advertisement in the newspaper for a baking course focussed on empowering women. I thought of trying my hands on baking, and thereafter magic began, which led to the emergence of SugarArt.
5. SugarArt is a different name. What made you choose this name for your startup?
I chose this name because my art is not restricted to baking cakes. I love working with Sugar and creating desserts of every and any kind.
6. Where do you see SugarArt in next five years and how do you plan to achieve it?
I see myself as a better and improved baker in the next five years as I believe learning never ends be it any field. I have plans to do a couple of more courses related to baking in the near future to enhance my skills further.
7. What all hinderance you had to face during the initial stage and has it reduced?
My cakes were a little expensive due to fine ingredients involved. This created a slight hindrance in my career growth as the price of a product always plays a vital role in its sales irrespective of its quality. However, with time this hindrance became a strength as people realised the worth of my cakes and were ready to pay even a little more for freshly baked cakes.
8. Who has been your backbone throughout the journey?
My sisters and friends have always been my backbone. They have always promoted SugarArt and motivated me to do better each day.
9. Any tips from your end for people aspiring to enter cake baking?
Practice and patience are the keys to success in the field of baking. Also, an excellent baker never compromises on the quality of the cakes he/she bakes. True magic begins when quality combines with the love for baking.
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Amcha Ghar: Providing A Home For Orphaned Girls
1. Please tell us your journey so far, and what challenges did you face?
Amcha Ghar has been a brainchild of Ms Agatha Susheela. Since she was young as she was on a mission to serve society, she was young and full of zeal to serve the society hence, While working she registered the organization with committed social workers and well-wishers on dated 14th of April, 1996, in a village named Uttan in the city of Bhayander (W), a committed team of social workers, attorneys, doctors, and well-wishers joined Mr and Mrs Dias to give birth to Amcha Ghar. Initially, providing a home to three girls has grown to a place that caters up to 25 girls and is still growing. They have rehabilitated many girls back into society by providing them assistance for higher education, and jobs at reputed companies.
As on date, Amcha Ghar has been a catalyst in creating social impact & contributed towards sustainable development goals (SDG-2, SDG-4, SDG-5, SDG-6, SDG-8 and SDG-17) through its flagship programs. In the last five-year Amcha Ghar has transformed lives of 33,689 beneficiaries.
Amcha Ghar has been working since 1996 and impacted more than 12,543 direct beneficiaries under each of the thematic areas:
1. Nutritional Aid-13,400
2. Access to Quality Education and Gender equality-12,489
3. Improved healthcare, WaSH and Sanitation-9,660
4. Sustainable livelihood through Skills -120
We feel that resource scarcity has been a constant challenge to implement the programs in terms of challenges.
2. What loopholes in the existing socio-economic framework of our society are you trying to cure?
In our opinion, education is the most imperative segment out of different segments of a social foundation. Despite government, NGOs and corporate interventions, there are a series of issues that need attention to ensure that every child has access to quality education. This includes following:
1. Lack of access to quality education
2. Absence of proactive, skill-based and practical learning for children
3. Imbalance gender-based ratio of enrolment in education
4. Malnourishment and hunger in society
We at Amcha Ghar have been putting our efforts together with our dedicated team of experts and resources including infrastructure, science lab, computer lab etc. to resolve the listed issues in a more strategic and organized manner through a series of interventions that we implement Amcha Ghar.
3. Please tell us more about your groundwork (Impact stories)
Since inception, the Organization has directly reached and impacted about 35,669 beneficiaries through different programs and will continue to co-create a larger impact on the ground going forward.
Going forward, Amcha Ghar planning to scale its program offering Children, Youth, Women and Senior Citizen and create impact at scale across India. AG wishes to directly impact about 50,000 beneficiaries through access to education, WaSH, access to sustainable livelihood, rehab interventions of senior citizens and healthcare interventions by March 2025.
Story 1-Empowering Girls to be better citizen and brighter their future
Sristi was only three years old when she came to Amcha Ghar. Her mother was a commercial sex worker, and eventually both her parents lost their lives due to HIV. She was brought to Amcha Ghar for care, protection, and education. She has seen a lot of darkness in her life, losing her mother at such a small age, completely shook her. She is an emotionally sensitive girl and never stopped thinking about her parents.
She grew up with love and care. She was very active in extracurricular activities, such as singing, dancing, card and jewellery making. She always aspired to be a great singing artist. She has completed her IATA course (travel & tourism). Currently, she is finishing her third year of a Bachelor of Arts. , at Mumbai University and is working as a receptionist at a reputed pharmaceutical company. The journey of her life is very remarkable and memorizing.
Story 2 Global pandemic and Amcha Ghar Contribution
A global pandemic has pushed children, women, and adults to go hungry as many of them have lost their employment. As per UNDP’s recent report on hunger, nearly 151 million children under five are still stunted, 1 out of 8 adults are obese, 1 in 3 women in reproductive age is anaemic hence intervention is critical.
A global pandemic has enforced all the world leaders, Government, Civil society organizations and common man to rethink about future and reset instead of just working on short term remedies to address the deeply rooted problems with respects to education, hunger, poverty and unemployment and move towards integrated and inclusive development by adapting mode strategic approach to everything.
As a rehab strategy, Amcha Ghar has provided dry ration to more than 5000 families during lockdown and still continue to support the most affected families in future. Organization also made education accessible for 800+ Children from primary and secondary level supported education of 800 plus children between 1st to 10th Standards.
4. What are your thoughts on the current situation of child labour laws and rights in India, and how do you see the narrative shaping up with the right level of altruism and government interventions
The international community has established a global consensus against child labour through a series of widely-ratified conventions and national laws. The legal framework is in place; however, the magnitude of child labor is huge and hence integrated approach to children’s welfare is critical and need of the hour. According to data from Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million, of which 5.6 million are boys, and 4.5 million are girls. Hence Government, Civil society’s, corporate and other stakeholders including Destitute homes, CWC and JJB and police system will have to work in collaboration towards, welfare initiatives, advocacy for policy changes and integrate those changes into the program is way forward to build a safe and secure future of these children in India and overseas going forward.
5. Ever since the lockdown, the school dropout rate has increased exponentially, young girls who have stopped their education during this difficult time might never be able to return back to school. How do you think we as a society must mitigate this problem before it snowballs into bigger one?
Well, It’s true, and hence we as civilised society needs to understand the magnitude of the problem and work in collaboration is key to address those problems. While addressing these problems, technology will play a very important role in making the impossible possible for every child to access quality education at his/ her home.
Few companies like MI and others have shown interested under their corporate social responsibility initiative to provide mobile phones to children to access education even during lockdown.
Along with this government, civil society and individual will have to take responsibility and be the catalyst and ensure that every child has access to technology and so as to education.
6. Years of living in destitution can often condition one into a victim mindset, which ironic is still harboured in women despite belonging to the elite class. How can we ensure that girls today have accessibility to all resources and opportunities to become bright leaders of tomorrow
As an organization, we needs to work towards gender balance and educate, empower children Girl child to have access to resource as equal to boys. At school, we do provide them equal opportunities to achieve their dreams and be independent in real sense in the future.
At government-level work around gender budgeting, advocating towards girls’ rights, having specialised schemes to promote girl-child education will be way forward to ensure that Girls are independent in every form.
7. How can we instil the notion of gender equality in young children so that they become more conscious and responsible citizen of the community in future
It’s possible at different levels wherein every stakeholder will have to play a key role in achieving it. Parents will have to ensure equal treatment, resources, and opportunities made available for both siblings without bias at the family level. At the government level, each political party needs to ensure that women will have equal representation in politics. When there is equal and fair representation by women in politics of all forms, there will be more coalition and power while representation the issues around women, issues of girl child for access to school, equal opportunities at the workplace and equal pay.
8. What policy interventions/ amendments or initiatives are required to be set in motion to change the current state of affairs
To identify and address any social problems, all the stakeholders need to integrate their efforts in individual and united capacity to resolve the social issues around us. Following could be key strategies that could be adopted:
1. Strategic collaborations with Government, civil society and society at large, frame policies and programs that ensure the welfare of all children and no bone left behind, Increase government spends on educational reforms and reforms around child labour and destitute children
2. Inclusive education system –One needs to adapt an inclusive education system to ensure every child have access to education
3. Reforms in Policy-As per new education policy; there are provisions of practical and experiential learning needs to be strengthened going forward.
4. More stringent law and its implementation would be key to address major social problems in India
5. Empowerment through Educational investments for all, awareness at different level for stakeholders and advocacy at central, state and district level with government, civil society, corporate and society at large would be key in addressing these social problems more efficiently and effectively for inclusive and sustainable development for all.
ImpactGuru: Crowdfunding Primarily For Medical Relief Of Poor
Think of an easy-to-use platform to transform individuals into Impact Gurus, who will lead the world to goodness. Well, you don’t have to ponder much as there is an “ImpactGuru” that made this thought into reality.
If, you ask what is Impact Guru? In simple terms, an Impact Guru is someone who envisions change, finds solutions to social problems, steps up to support another change-maker, makes kindness a habit, dares to follow his/her dream, or simply helps out a friend in need.
Today, News Aur Chai introduce you to the mastermind behind the tech-for-good platform “ImpactGuru.com“. In a candid conversation with Falguni Chaudhary, Piyush Jain explains about his brainchild.
Tell us about your background education and experiences.
I am Piyush Jain, Co-Founder and CEO, ImpactGuru.com, a crowdfunding platform in India with a significant focus on healthcare.
I was previously an M&A investment banker with J.P.Morgan (New York, Hong Kong, and London), management consultant with BCG and EY (Southeast Asia and India).
I have an undergraduate degree from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, where I was a Joseph Wharton Scholar and a graduate degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. At Harvard, I assisted Professor Thornburg in teaching a class on Financial Management in Non-profit Organizations. I co-authored a paper at Harvard Business School on innovative ways to finance entrepreneurial and social ventures.
What was the moment which made you rethink your life’s discourse as an investment banker and instead choose to utilize your domain knowledge to a greater good?
The strong passion for making a difference in the lives of people and saving more lives inspired co-founder, Khushboo Jain and I to start a fintech company focused on making healthcare more affordable. We thus co-founded ImpactGuru.com with a mission to help India’s people find crowdfunding solutions primarily for healthcare as well as social change. The company was incubated at Harvard Innovation Lab in the USA in 2014.
Initially, ImpactGuru.com focus was to raise funds for non-profits. After being in business for about 18 months, we realized that while we would want to continue serving non-profits, there was an even bigger opportunity helping patients raise money for their out of pocket hospital expenses. We thus pivoted towards making healthcare as our primary focus area.
We were able to persuade the Senior Management of Apollo Hospitals Group to create a transformational partnership for the first time between a crowdfunding platform and a large hospital group. Not only did they invest in our company and led our Series A Round, but they also agreed to offer our healthcare financing solution to thousands of patients in their 70+ hospitals across the country. This has been a very successful partnership with great results produced for both sides in a short amount of time.
Mumbai resident Amit Shenoy, who was admitted at Apollo Hospital Navi Mumbai raised Rs 45 lakhs in 7 days through ImpactGuru for his Allogenic Stem Cell transplant. Amit and his wife Gopi belong to a middle-class background, in times of financial difficulty due to medical expenses, crowdfunding came to their rescue.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business? How have you innovated yourself to overcome the current challenges?
During this COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, ImpactGuru has emerged as a digital warrior – corporates/CSR, philanthropists, are big-heartedly contributing to the large pool of ImpactGuru COVID-19 related fundraisers and do good citizens, NGOs are actioning this financial support by distributing food, medical supplies, PPE to daily wagers, elderly and healthcare workers.
Over 800 fundraisers are running on ImpactGuru to support daily wagers, elderly, healthcare workers, animals, all hit due to the COVID-19. Large corporates such as Ford are fundraising on ImpactGuru to support their driver partners through the Office Ride Driver Fund. Besides, from Indian online supermarket majors such as BigBasket, Grofers; restaurant tech platform Dineout; to online medical stores Netmeds, PharmEasy have also partnered with ImpactGuru with the mission to extend support to the needy.
NGO KVN Foundation spearheaded ‘FeedMyCity’, an initiative which is providing freshly cooked nutritious meals to needy families in 5 cities – Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Noida and Chennai. KVN Foundation has already served over 4,60,000 meals in 10 days! In a quick span, these campaigns have cumulatively raised over Rs 40 lakh on ImpactGuru.
Yash Charitable Trust (YCT) has initiated a crowdfunding campaign on ImpactGuru.com to sustain operations and ensure salaries are paid to the workforce of Juhu based Café Arpan and their other livelihood programs. In a swift span, YCT’s ImpactGuru fundraiser received tremendous support from donors and well-wishers across the world; the campaign overall raised Rs 26.15 lakh.
Can you share some impact stories and metrics with us?
ImpactGuru.com’s core mission is to work tirelessly to ensure that no one dies due to lack of funds for their healthcare expenses in India. We seek to help patients in India from below-poverty-line backgrounds suffering from critical illnesses and those middle-class patients, who have drained their finances sustaining long-term treatments (such as cancer, organ transplants, accidents) fund their out-of-pocket medical expenses through crowdfunding.
Here are some of our healthcare crowdfunding record cases at ImpactGuru.com:
- 15-Year-old Deekshit required funds for his mother’s rectal prolapse surgery. A fundraiser for his appeal was put up on our platform. In 3.5 hours, Deekshit’s fundraiser surpassed the target goal of Rs 15 lakhs on ImpactGuru and raised nearly Rs 16.10 lakhs in total.
- 33-year-old Nushafreen Palsetia, a software engineer based in Mumbai, was recently diagnosed for relapsed Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), a very aggressive form of cancer. CAR-T Cell therapy treatment was recommended, available only in the USA, UK, Israel, and a few European countries. Nushafreen’s family reached out to Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, estimate at 200,000 USD (approx. 1.5 crore Indian Rupees).
An ImpactGuru crowdfunding campaign was initiated, as Nushafreen’s family couldn’t afford the high medical expenses. In 2 weeks, Nushafreen’s ImpactGuru Page raised over Rs 1 crore from 1,750 donors.
Can you relay some critical milestones in your journey so far?
Recently, ImpactGuru.com received a Rs 40 lakh grant in the form of matching funds from The Action COVID-19 Team (ACT), to scale fundraising for Personal Protective Equipment for doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers across India. The company added up to 20 per cent in matching donations via the ACT Grant on every single donation for selected Public and Private Hospitals on its platform.
Do people have any trust issue in signing up? How do you provide and ensure end to end safety to your users?
We have a dedicated batch of Campaign Managers assigned to fundraisers of each category (Medical, NGOs, Personal/Creative causes). These representatives check on the credibility and authenticity of the Campaign by evaluating the documents shared which support the case (hospital bills, official documents from authorities, ID proof etc.) and coach such customers on how to fundraise effectively.
For medical fundraisers –
- We verify each patient case with the concerned Hospital.
- Documents, hospital bills are a mandatory upload on the fundraiser page.
- As a practice, we transfer the amount raised directly into the account of the Hospital.
For fundraisers put up by NGOs–
- We do a basic check on registration documents such as Section 12A/80G and FCRA.
- We check if due diligence specialists have accredited the NGO, or social sector intermediaries such as GuideStar India, Give India, Charities Aid Foundation, Dasra, and Samhita.
- We also look into the background of the management/trustees of the non-profit and their financial and impact reports.
To summarize, we ensure every fundraiser goes through a special Due Diligence process and is vetted by our Team.
We ensure each Donor that has contributed to any fundraiser, regardless of the amount, is updated on the progress and the outcome of the fundraiser. Be it a patient’s health status or an NGO/individual’s project activity status.
We regularly post Testimonials of Patients/NGOs/Individuals/Organizations who have crowdfunded on our platform:
8-year-old Ahanti was in-need of funds for her heart transplant. In a fleet span, Ahanti raised Rs 26.68 lakhs from 738 donors, through crowdfunding on ImpactGuru.
Here is a collection of Customer Testimonial Videos on ImpactGuru.com YouTube Channel
ImpactGuru.com has now extended free fundraising to all causes by offering 0 per cent platform fee. Free fundraising is made available to all types of fundraisers hosted on the platform – whether it’s for patients facing medical emergencies such as COVID-19, cancer, organ transplants, or for non-profits fundraising for their programs, or for individuals raising money to fund animal causes, education expenses, or any other cause they are passionate about.
Through this new initiative, ImpactGuru is waiving off its platform fees so that fundraisers can receive maximum funds for the causes they support. To help sustain the platform to provide a free fundraising option, donors will be asked for a voluntary tip, which is optional, used to fund costs relating to technology infrastructure, dedicated staff, fundraiser outreach, due diligence, vetting and other functional activities of ImpactGuru.
In a joint statement ImpactGuru.com’s Co-Founders Piyush Jain and Khushboo Jain said, “In the last 5 years, crowdfunding on ImpactGuru has now become the preferred way for people to finance critical illness bills at hospitals given the low level of insurance penetration in India. With the extension of our free fundraising options to all fundraisers, we hope to accelerate our ambition of helping finance the critical illnesses of over 1 million/10 lakh patients over the next decade.”
Find more such inspiring startup stories at News Aur Chai’s – STARTUP CONNECT
Introducing Dina Udupa; Sustainable Fashion Brand Based In UK
“Sustainability is the way forward for any fashion business to survive and thrive in this day and age. Consumers are conscious and asking questions on the provenance of raw materials and the ethics behind the manufacturing of products. We cannot fool our consumers anymore with a greenwashing facade, they are very aware, switched on and clear about their buying needs,” says Dina Udupa, Founder of the luxury label brand by the same name.
Alumnus of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, Dina studied fashion buying and merchandising.
She aims to educate her consumers about the importance of slow fashion and the need to buy less. She advocates the ethos to buy quality over quantity by using ethically sourced sustainable materials for her apparel. “My aim with every collection is to use natural fabrics as much as I can. Apart from this, I use organic cotton and ethically sourced silk.“
Sharing her origin story, she says, “I have been designing and making clothes for myself for a very long time. Friends and family over the years would prod me to start my own business as they liked my designs. I also felt there was a gap in the market here in the UK for sustainable sourced minimalistic Indian clothes and accessories catering to the discerning western clientele who love Indian fashion but with toned down and pared-back aesthetic. Hence, I decided to take the plunge and launch my brand online in December 2019.”
Dina further shares her design philosophy saying “ I am very inspired by the minimalistic design approach of Scandinavia; which is in stark contrast to the maximalism of India. So, the focus for me is more on fabrics and patterns; I tend to lean towards clean lines, simple silhouettes, and a muted color palette. I try to blend this design philosophy in my clothes and accessories; marrying western sensibilities with Indian silhouettes.”
Pricing for accessories start at £35 and go up to £55, and clothes start from £75 to £375. Based in London, the products are available only online in the UK and globally.
Talking about the challenges she faces as a leader with the malpractices happening within the fashion industry, Dina expresses her concern saying, “The term ‘Greenwashing’ is being rampantly used these days in regard to the big high street fashion businesses. It is giving many businesses a facade of being environmentally friendly which is a principle I don’t believe in. I feel the big giants have a global influence to create real change within the infrastructure of the fashion industry and encourage the same concerning consumer habits on an unprecedented scale.”
Being an advocate of slow fashion, she aims to create timeless designs and garments that can be treasured for years to come, reinterpreted, and restyled; thereby promoting the longevity of the lifecycle of my pieces. “My use of natural and organic fabrics in the collection also goes a long way in fighting the issues of environmental damage,” says Dina.
COVID-19 disruption has been extremely challenging for MSMEs, and the recovery can take some time, Dina shares her challenges saying,” I rely heavily on pop up events and fairs to showcase my collection especially as I don’t have a physical store presence.
COVID-19 has put a hold on these events for now. In conjunction with a few other small local businesses, I have formed an online platform wherein we can continue to showcase our products to a live audience via Zoom video presentations. Every participating business at the event gets a stipulated time to showcase their product and services. We have been doing this event over the lockdown period, heavily promoting it on social media. We started with five local businesses and now have over 200 businesses and an audience of approximately 800 viewers.”
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