Crowdfunding's tryst with success

Crowdfunding is about storytelling, communication, technology and consumer behaviour coming together. It’s not the amount of money raised that’s important but the impact that it creates. India has several success stories of crowdfunding.

For Mark Dharmai, an international para badminton player and World No. 3 in Men’s doubles and Mixed doubles category, it was a dream to win a gold for his country. But being a fisherman’s son, he had limited resources to fund his coaching, travel, etc. A campaign on crowdfunding platform Fuel A Dream helped him raise close to Rs 8 lakh. It also increased his popularity and got him a chance to do a TV commercial for Brooke bond. Plus, he was selected for ASIAD and invited for TED Talk.

This is just one of the many success stories of crowdfunding in India. While still at a nascent stage, crowd-funding has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. As per Statista, the total transaction value of crowdfunding is projected to reach $9.4m in 2021 in India. While equity crowdfunding is still not allowed in India, the other forms of crowdfunding – donation-based, reward-based, debt-based and peer-to-peer – are gaining steam. “Crowdfunding is about storytelling, communication, technology and consumer behaviour coming together. It’s not the amount of money raised that’s important but the impact that it creates,” says Ranganath Thota, Founder and CEO, Fuel A Dream.

One of the early success stories of modern day crowdfunding in India is of Adhitya Iyer, author of The Great Indian Obsession: The Untold Story of India’s Engineers. Back in 2014, Iyer started a campaign on Kickstarter to fund the book he wished to write on India’s obsession with engineers. Himself an engineer, Iyer had realised there were many more like him, working in a field that wasn’t their true calling. “Crowdfunding was unheard of in India back then. Yet, my campaign received $14,000 as funds. The biggest advantage of crowdfunding is that it’s a great marketing tool. Even before my book was published, there were people who knew about it and wanted to buy it,” says Iyer.

Valued at $50 million, HoloSuit, is another example of crowdfunding success. Founded by Harsha Kikkeri and Shwetha in 2016, Holosuit is the world’s first affordable, bi-directional, wireless and easy-to-use full body motion capture suit. It allows users to point, touch and feel 3D objects and helps in creating a complete immersive experience. The campaign was one of the most successful ones on Catapooolt – an entrepreneurial crowdfunding platform. “The domain experts part of the crowdfunding platform showed a lot of interest in our technology. It allowed a lot of exposure, and media coverage and helped build strategic partnerships,” says Kikkeri, Founder and CEO, HoloSuit. The education vertical of the company also won the National Startup Award in 2020.

Experts suggest that building a culture of trust is essential for the funding of companies. While crowdfunding is still largely a developed-world phenomenon, its potential to stimulate innovation and create jobs in the developing world has not gone unnoticed. It has also turned to be a boon for creative artists. When Kenny Basumatary planned to finance the release of his second film — Local Kung Fu 2 – he chose crowdfunding. With a budget of just Rs 90,000, he created an action comedy that won over Assam – his home state. Kenny, till now, has directed four films – most of them crowdfunded through Wishberry — a reward-based crowdfunding platform for creative artists. He, recently, also acted in Yaara, a ZEE5 original film directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and has just finished directing his first Hindi web series, tentatively titled Kar Gayi Chul, for Eros Now. “Crowdfunding helped me achieve my dreams but it isn’t as easy as it looks. People should go for crowdfunding if (a) they already have an existing fan base, or (b) they have a network of generous friends and family, or (c) their project is in a niche likely to have people already interested in it,” he suggests.

Crowdfunding has emerged as a great tool to fund social causes. It’s hard to believe that an online campaign can not only raise lakhs but crores. 25-year-old Jasper Paul, an engineer by profession, left his corporate job to start a foundation for the destitute. He launched a fundraiser on Ketto – a crowdfunding platform – for his foundation The Second Chance. Within 72 hours, the campaign crossed the Rs 2 crore mark. “Crowdfunding is one of the best ways to achieve your fund-raising goals. The concept of more people donating smaller amounts helps in two ways – raise bigger amounts and get millions of people to know about the project/initiative,” says Paul. He plans to raise about Rs 10 crore and build a home for the ones in need.