You might be an innovator with a revolutionary idea in your mind; you might have a terrific subject to make a film or a documentary; or you might even be willing to take up a social cause in your hands and bring about a positive change. The one factor which is usually a hindrance to achieve the above mentioned dreams? A lack of funding! But with the practice of crowdfunding steadily gaining prominence all over the country, including Chennai of late, people now have a new and feasible avenue to explore.
The past few years has seen everyone from entrepreneurs to filmmakers, chefs and students take to the idea — be it for social causes, sporting needs, health reasons, and more. With several Indian crowdfunding platforms providing a much-needed avenue for people to seek funds, nowadays it is all about pitching ideas the right way.
Sometimes, people with deserving ideas/ causes might not have been able to raise funding due to their campaign pitch sounding drab, while others have succeeded with impressive promotional strategies.
So, what does work and what doesn’t? Experts and those who succeeded, and more importantly — those who failed — talk to us about the anatomy of the growing trend. Care to take note?
Varun Sheth, the founder and CEO of popular crowdfunding website Ketto.org, says, “Basically, crowdfunding has three main verticals — raising funds for non-profit, for personal needs and for creative causes. If you ask me how to go ahead with your campaigning, all of the above mentioned verticals have different strategies.”
The young CEO suggests, “The basic thing is to keep in mind is that, your content should be very good — you have to be crystal clear on why you’re raising funds and how you’ll utilise it. It should be clearly written and communicated effectively. And most importantly, good pictures and videos always help — they play an important factor.”
Varun, based on his experience, also says, that people new to crowdfunding should not be complacent with their campaigning — “I’ve seen a lot of people, who just think that crowdfunding is free money. They have a very wrong notion that their job is to only put their information onto a crowdfunding website — and that others will just come and start contributing money! I would again like to reinstate that pitching your idea on a crowdfunding website is just the very first step of a long journey.”
When we asked him to pick some of the well-thought out campaigns on Ketto, he says, “There was a campaign for a food company called Bakeys, which produces edible cutlery. The campaign was done by its founder Narayana Peesapaty and he ended up raising close to Rs 25 lakh! Another campaign, which is currently being carried out is Smart Pan (a device to avoid milk overflow) — it has been garnering fantastic response as well.”
Even before crowdfunding platforms started to gain prominence in the country, Malayalam director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan successfully raised funds for his film Oraalpokkam through online campaigning.
Shedding light on how he managed to do it, the director says, “It was mainly done through social media posts and blogs. Online friends of mine were of huge support,” he says, and adds, “When I announced my project and asked my friends to collaborate, I didn’t even secure all the funds before the shooting started. The shoot was going on and simultaneously, I was updating people about the money that we required at every stage!”
The Sexy Durga director goes on to say that once you’re transparent in your approach, people would be willing to help you. “To succeed with crowdfunding, you need to have a lot of trust from the people and you’ve to be transparent in your approach. According to me, people are always happy to help you out — their only concern is whether you’re capable or if you’re genuine,” he states.
A few months ago, cinematographer Juhi Sharma from Chennai made news when she raised money via a campaign to afford a film direction course at the renowned Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, New York. While many were supportive of her aim, she also received her fair share of abuse and brickbats. In an earlier interview with DC, she had stated, “I approached many banks, but they were not willing to give out loans for studies on films. Even a national award-winning cinematographer, I know of, couldn’t raise money to make his film! Our society refuses to see cinema as art; something that can bring out a change,” she said.
Juhi nevertheless stated that many responses were heartwarming — “Most of the contributions were from the Indian diaspora, people I don’t even know of. A person in Bengaluru, who I didn’t know personally, went out of his way to help me. He put the word across about this initiative to numerous people. These are the people who keep me going.”
Not all campaigns to fundraise are successful, though. A travel documentary called Send It Sideways was set to be made by a bunch of youngsters from the city through crowdfunding — but they were not able to generate enough money through it. Speaking about their experience, Arjun Kamath, the executive producer of the film says, “Unfortunately, our crowdfunding project wasn’t a success. Our initial project, Send It Sideways, was a film about travelling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand from India. But through crowdfunding, we only managed to rise about 1/6th of the required amount. So with that amount, after informing our funders, we decided to go ahead with our second project, Send It Upwards.”
Sharing with us on why it didn’t work out, Arjun says, “I think it’s a combination of a couple of things. We didn’t know anything about crowdfunding back then. For any campaign, pitching is very important and ours was very good — in fact on par with a few other successful pitches. Somewhere along the line, I think we didn’t crack it properly communication-wise. A lot of people thought that we were essentially crowdfunding for a trip! But that’s not what it was — we needed the money to produce the whole film, buy a bunch of equipment and stuff like that. Another reason was — at the time of campaigning — Nepal experienced a terrible earthquake and we decided to stop our efforts to go ahead with the project because it would’ve been insensitive to do it.” Fair to say any such attempt must be approached with a pinch of salt!
(With inputs from Kirubhakar Purushothaman)...