“When I was an M.Tech student I watched a Telugu movie that inspired me. The protagonist of the movie, a wealthy man, decides to give away half of his earnings to the needy because, according to him, society was as important as family and he loved both equally,” says Dileep Ravada, Senior Manager – CRM, at Flipkart. Dileep was among the many employees, sellers and customers who helped make The Big Billion Days 2019 not just the biggest shopping festival, but also a festival of kindness. This year, for the first time ever, Flipkart tied up with GiveIndia to participate in Daan Utsav, a yearly event that invites individuals and organizations to donate to a cause of their choice.
“Most of our efforts in the past have been towards disaster relief or in response to an unfortunate development. We wanted to scale our social efforts beyond that with an objective to promote the idea of everyday giving,” explains Mahesh Pratap Singh, Head of Sustainability and Social Responsibility at Flipkart.
Currently in its 11th year of existence, Daan Utsav aims to encourage selfless giving among citizens. What started with a handful of volunteers has now become a national phenomenon that takes place every year from October 2-8. Last year, Daan Utsav saw participation from more than six million participants from over 200 towns, cities and villages across the country.
At Flipkart, Daan Utsav coincided with the six days of The Big Billion Days sale. Each day featured a different NGO, giving employees the opportunity of donating to a cause that they felt most strongly about.
“For Daan Utsav, we were keen to democratize the giving process by offering a variety of causes with ease of participation. That’s why we decided to run six different campaigns for different but equally important causes and let everyone pick and choose the cause they relate to,” explains Mahesh.
On September 29, 2019, amid the mad rush of the first day of The Big Billion Days sale, a number of Flipsters queued up to contribute towards environmental conservation through their donations to Haritika. The Jhansi-based NGO helps farmers address issues that affect the rural poor, from water scarcity and afforestation to education.
“I donate to multiple NGOs that plant trees. I love nature and in my own house, I grow some organic vegetables. Climate change is a massive concern right now and afforestation is the need of the hour,” says Neha Agrahari, Associate Director, Books and General Merchandise, who donated to Haritika.
For Bijoy Venugopal, Associate Director of Internal Communications, it was Haritika’s commitment to helping farmers that convinced him to make a contribution during Daan Utsav. “There’s a lot of pressure on farmers to grow what is profitable, which means it takes a strong will to get into sustainable farming. The fact that there is an NGO willing to help and support farmers through this appealed to me,” he explains.
Along with the environment, a number of pertinent causes were represented during Daan Utsav. Flipsters also had an opportunity to donate to Goonj, an NGO that was raising money to prepare menstrual kits for women in rural areas, and Udayan Care, which works towards upskilling and uplifting women and girls from underserved communities.
Improving the quality of life for women remains one of India’s top priorities as a developing country. A 2014 report by the NGO Dasra found that nearly 23 million girls drop out of school annually due to lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities.
Simonetta D’Souza, Senior Manager, Learning and Development, contributed to Goonj because women’s health is a cause she cares deeply about. “It’s an issue that doesn’t get much attention. If the woman is healthy, the children will be healthy and the family will be healthy,” she explains.
Software Development Engineer Rajesh Chowdary, who also chose to donate to Goonj, did so to increase awareness about menstrual health in rural areas. But that wasn’t the only thing that convinced him to participate in Daan Utsav. “One reason why I donated was that there was some amount of credibility that my money was going to be well utilized. India’s rural population doesn’t have sanitary pads, and I believe contributing to this cause will help people in the long run,” he says.
For Gaurav Pandit, Director – Talent Management, who donated to Udayan Care, helping the less fortunate is a cause that is close to his heart. “I grew up in a modest household. The only thing that made the difference for me was my education. In my opinion, the place of your birth shouldn’t decide the quality of your life. The girl child has a double disadvantage because gender also adds to the challenge. This is the least I can do,” he explains.
In addition to Udayan Care, Goonj and Haritika, Flipsters also had the option to donate to Magic Bus, an NGO that helps donors sponsor a child’s education; Uma Educational and Technical Society, which helps disabled people lead normal lives; and CARE foundation, which rescues and rehabilitates stray animals.
Over the course of the sale, a number of Flipsters stepped up to donate to all of these causes and make Daan Utsav a huge success. “The Social Responsibility team at Flipkart worked very closely with us,” says says Ujwal Rajamanindra, Head of New Partnerships at GiveIndia. “Typically there are two questions that make people hesitate to give. Often, people have a cause they support but they don’t know where they can find a campaign to give to. The second one is that they don’t know if that money is being utilized efficiently,” he adds.
GiveIndia works to minimize exactly these anxieties. While it is a platform that helps individuals pick the causes that are most important to them, GiveIndia also does a random sampling of the beneficiaries at the end of every year to make sure that they have actually been receiving the benefits of the contributions made.
In addition to the in-house Daan Utsav festivities, the campaign was also externalized on the Flipkart website so that 160 million Flipkart consumers and lakhs of sellers also had a chance to contribute to a cause of their choice.
“Through this alliance with Flipkart, we are accelerating towards our aim to simplify giving at scale. Not only are we supporting Flipkart in their giving journey by connecting them with trusted non-profits, we are also reaching out to their millions of users and contributing towards the building of an everyday philanthropy ecosystem,” explains Atul Satija, CEO of GiveIndia.
The success of Daan Utsav at Flipkart is evidence of the fact that you contribute to meaningful change with ease and even from your desk. Ujwal explains this with an example from his own life. “I used to work in the e-commerce sector as well. I wanted to help people and GiveIndia gave me a platform where I could utilize my skill set to do that. It’s not necessary that all of us have to pull up our sleeves and get our hands dirty to make a change. You can be at your desk and make a meaningful difference to somebody,” he says.
For Flipster Dileep, work and giving go hand-in-hand. “I made a vow to donate 50% of my earnings at some point. I donate 10% of my earnings right now, but when I get a promotion, I’m planning to increase it to 15%,” he says.
Also at the Festival of Kindness: