It is not only about making a difference but to be able to make a sustainable and a long-lasting one that will leave a positive impact on the world and benefit both the receiver and the giver.
Meet 25-year-old Kalyan Varma, a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications Engineering from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Warangal, and the founder of SocialHeart a unique social organisation that started out as ‘an idea, an inspiration, a movement and finally an online marketplace’.
Every purchase made by you on their portal contributes to a social cause directly and that’s why it has been named as Social Heart as it is based on the concept of financial sustenance which Kalyan considers vital for the survival of a social organisation.
With the aim of being financially independent both for themselves and the NGOs, SocialHeart strives to bridge the gap by reaching out to NGOs and socially responsible organisations to promote their crafts and products created exclusively for them.
So the next time you go shopping during the festivities or a birthday, just login to SocialHeart and pick exclusive gifts like bags, accessories, organic toys, candles – the works and light up the lives of many!
When did it all begin?
Kalyan who had been interested in ‘for-profit social ventures’ had taken an active part in starting an NGO called The Lakshya Foundation while studying at NIT Warangal where he mainly worked on fundraising projects.
“I have always been passionate about starting something on my own; maybe it’s come from my family who are all into business. I noticed that the non-profit model had many flaws, as it is not sustainable and scalable. I strongly believe that social ventures need to make money and be more financially sustainable in order to scale and create larger impact,” says Kalyan.
During his stint at Goldman Sachs Kalyan used to volunteer with NGOs where he realized that there is a huge need for technology to play a vital role in supporting these organizations.
Spreading the word
“There’s been a tremendous response and a lot of repeat purchases as well. We have not yet reached out to a lot of people with heavy marketing but we get a lot of repeat orders from our existing customers. There’s also a lot of positive feedback from them and they have even gone out of their way to help spread the word about Social Heart. There’s no better way for us to market than by word of mouth through happy customers. Especially people working in the social sector recognize us as a brand that is here to support them in a sustainable manner,” beams Kalyan.
As a social venture SocialHeart’s measure of success will not only be a factor of the amount of sales they make. As Kalyan puts it, “We measure success by the amount of impact we create through our various activities.”
That’s how the idea of SocialHeart as a technology platform that supports social organizations began; and he started it by launching the e-commerce portal with an initial investment of 10 lakh on 9th February 2012.
How it works
Kalyan explains, “Every purchase made on the portal will contribute to a social cause. That is the primary criterion for organizations to list their products on the site. We approach new NGOs and also receive a lot of calls from NGOs wanting to list their products on our website. We carefully select products that our customers will like and also help NGOs decide what kind of products to make in order to appeal to the customers in return.”
SocialHeart also advises NGOs on production procedures to ensure that the quality of products is never compromised. This way, they ensure that when a customer buys a product from SocialHeart, they deliver a good quality product to the doorstep apart from the satisfaction of contributing to a cause.
SocialHeart as an idea
SocialHeart as an idea is to imbibe the power of technology and social media to create a web platform that makes contributions to social causes simple and fun!
There are some basic misconceptions that many of us have about social contributions such as – contributions are not for everyone, I cannot contribute because I don’t have the money to donate, I do not have the time to understand what cause I should support etc.
Contribution can mean something as simple as spreading the word about the organization and the work they do. It could be volunteering, buying their products, raising funds for them, donating etc. All of these are common ways of contributing to these organizations and any kind of help is always welcome.
“We believe that by making contributions simple and accessible, we can get a lot of people to contribute in small and simple ways. Our belief is that these small contributions at scale will multiply to create a large impact,” adds Kalyan.
Kalyan explains, “SocialHeart is a ‘for-profit social venture’ and not a ‘non-profit organization’. Currently, we have a service to market products made or promoted by NGOs through our e commerce website and deliver them to a customer’s house. This is a simple business model; we charge the NGOs a commission on each sale we make. These NGOs understand the value of our service and therefore are ready to pay the commission. We don’t charge any money for them to list their products on our website. Eventually we will enable other forms of contributions including volunteering, donations etc. We have different ways of revenue generation for each of them. Essentially our clients are social organizations, and they will pay us for the services we provide them. The details of the exact revenue models will be worked out as we enable other forms of contribution.”
Apart from this, SocialHeart intends to partner with corporates to plan their CSR because that is becoming increasingly important for corporates recently and in most cases is not done in a planned manner.
He further adds, “We intend to help them plan their CSR better and effectively contribute to the society. This will form another stream of revenue. We also have other plans like sourcing products in bulk from NGOs to corporates but that will be done only after we have established a strong brand name.”
“There is enough scope to make a profit in this business but we understand that this is never going to be the next big thing in terms of profits. It is a social venture that is going to be profitable enough to sustain itself comfortably, and attract the best talent to work for it,” adds Kalyan.
Main NGO tie-ups
Some of the main NGOs that have a tie-up with SocialHeart are:
- Diya Foundation – Provides vocational training skills to differently abled adults allowing them to live fulfilling and productive lives.
- Let’s Live Together – Supports adoption of homeless puppies instead of buying dogs.
- One Billion Literates Foundation – Imparts good quality education with a strong focus on computer literacy to children, women and unemployed youth.
- Association for the Mentally Challenged – Educates, trains and rehabilitates mentally challenged individuals and their families.
You can support all these causes by buying products from SocialHeart. “Apart from these NGOs, SocialHeart has quite a few NGOs in the pipeline and I am quite excited by the new set of products that will be listed on our website in the next few weeks,” smiles Kalyan.
Products on sale
SocialHeart sells various kinds of products within the price range of Rs. 100 – Rs. 3,000. You’ll find an interesting mix of products ranging from merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, bags, cushion covers and calendars from Let’s LiveTogether.
One Billion Literates Foundation sells exquisite women’s accessories through SocialHeart. They include earrings, necklaces, fashion bags etc.
SocialHeart also provides homemade chocolates and candles made by students at Diya Foundation. You have to taste these chocolates once to know how good they are and they are also available in various designs from Santa Claus, Love Bird etc.
“Apart from these, we sell paintings, cushion covers and some home decoratives on our portal. In the next few weeks, we are adding other organic products too,” adds Kalyan. Also before signing off, Kalyan adds, “We urge customers to try out this unique way of contributing to social causes and give us feedback about their experience of buying from our website.”