Arise Bharat — Dusting & RevivingA basic conviction I carry is ideas are cheap and you need to build products that express you ideas. And that is not easy. I’ve been building AriseBharat, first as an idea and then partly a product since the start of Jan’2019. Right now it’s been mothballed. But I’m about to revive it back. So I thought it will be a good idea to revisit what I was thinking.
First WaveOriginally, around 2018 I was involved with Vaidika Bharata in a manuscript scanning project that funded and it was out come out as The Takshashila Project (more on that product later). As we found first thousands and soon tens of thousands of manuscripts , the project ballooned and quickly the money I was pouring was not sufficient and we thought of crowd funding. The several sites that we found like https://milaap.org/ , or https://www.ketto.org/ nauseated me (even right now , as I went on those sites to get these links) because they just peddle sick people and kids pictures to crowdfund sympathy. The charity is ephemeral , feeling is ephemeral only the commission is real.
The GapWhat I was looking for was a Project Funding , the crowd for supporting long term oriented projects on ground that have measurable impact, projects that can be audited and funded in tranches upon measurable outcome (unlike sickness loans). The belief was with more transparency and control over where exactly the funds go , the hidden donors and the size of donations will expand and we’ll be able to contribute to New India.
Initial Minimum Viable ProductWe built the first version of the product that made it possible for user to signup , fill a few details and send in a project from a chosen category they want to or are already executing, it arrived in an admin dashboard and upon review was published. People could start donating to the project in two modes- One Time or Periodic Regular Donations. When I say it was quick and dirty, it was not quick but dirty sure it was. We faced additional hurdle with RazorPay not supporting PRDs through netbanking but only credit cards. We even onboarded a project for Vaidika Bharata on the platform, but the product had no ownership and fell victim to over thinking and other issues.
Back To DesignBoardWe went back to design to fulfill the original goal — creation of projects, indication of timelines, definition of tranches, outlining goals for each phase and attaching it to the tranches, making proof of goal achievement available , audit mechanisms for the proofs submitted, onboarding the final beneficiary of the payouts into the project for a direct-to-beneficiary payouts from AB’s systems and design of an app with certain features that ensure the audit process can be given out to local volunteers with certain tech checks that ensure we can’t be beaten without significant effort to cheat and one last feature of inviting public/donors of the project into the audit committee and making next tranche subject to clearance of audit committee — both proof of digital trail like bank accounts, compliance proofs and on ground proofs like pictures taken on location etc.
The designs shaped up pretty well.
How will you distribute it?All startups must answer that clearly before building a lot of product. A distribution of a platform of this type would require onboarding donors — the personas included well meaning professionals, activist individuals, small corporates with intent, family offices, companies falling under CSR Act compliance. This meant a B2B onboarding plan and B2C purely digital marketing outreach. Both this required ownership. Who’s gonna do it? I certainly wasn’t gonna do it, because I was doing other things (bread and butter) and so needed a co-founder. I looked some, gotta a couple of leads but nothing seemed to work. There was a fundamental question.
Why are you doing it?Is it a business model? Well I know there are platform products for running charity but taking away a piece of charity didn’t feel right. I was doing it because I believe such a long term funding platform is required to support projects that take 3–10 years but needed for creating a New Bharat. Also nobody was doing it. But I also knew nobody is going to do this. Because it’s hard. And so I could always do it later, while I fought other fire. That is how that product idea fell through the cracks.
Time To Arise AgainCovid lockdowns have been a great time. You can’t hire new people (because on boarding them is difficult, even if you easily hire) , so you can’t take new projects. Existing client business is more than enough to handle and there is a significant effort to executing those too because of work-from-home-issues. We’ve been a good product design and development firm. We’ve made great products for other founders. We’ve a great tech stack , good engineering experience and a team that’s now pretty good a building out great products and so one thought that crossed was — Let’s take a 6 months break from new client business and build our own products. Until the office restarts and people are back working together on the same table , can’t take the responsibility of client projects. Let’s work on our own.
AriseBharat Version 2.0The new version is more ambitious and long term oriented. It is about impact. A few generic principle it intends to follow are :
- The donors exercise choice on precise what cause they contribute
- They can distribute their annual charity across causes (pie-chart)
- Donors commit , donation is called only when tranche is called
- Explore Structure — donors contribute to structure, only returns from the structure go towards specific cause.
- Sub-structures for specific causes and separation of funds
- A legal structure that complies with such structures
- Structures that support perpetuities
- Peer to Peer & Open Audit processes
- Making endowments attractive for donors
Arise Bharat — Dusting & Reviving was originally published in Prodio DesignWorks on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.