This Digital Startup is Re-defining the 'Impact' of Corporates' Social Responsibility
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Back in 2013 when the Companies Act mandated organizations with the profits of over INR 50 million to spend 2 per cent of their revenues in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, Sudeep Gupta was heading the strategy for SBI Card. He was handed over the reins to establish the company’s CSR department, for which he spent the next two years gaining an in-depth understanding of the sector in India.
After spending a considerable time in gaining the experience through ‘fixing & improving’ systems and processes combined with a wide exposure to different CSR processes, he took the finding to the board, only to realize that ‘the mindset of corporates is very different’. Unfortunately, they neither trust the NGOs, nor the sector. “I had to prove to the board that the organizations are credible and they will not run away with the money,” he told Entrepreneur India.
He failed to convince the stakeholders and money was parked into safer options like PM Relief Fund. However, through his regular interactions with NGOs and internal stakeholders, he identified a major information gap in the social sector only to realize that leveraging the right technology to bridge this gap in the interactions between NGOs and various stakeholders could lead to greater efficiency.
And hence, seed for the birth of Impactify was sowed. Upon discussing the idea with his friend of 25 years, Joy Sharma, who was working with McKinsey & Company at the time in the design and delivery of national programs that were aimed at creating large social impact. Their combined exposure to the social planning space and will to help the space triggered the birth of a full-fledged business.
Sudeep Gupta (left) and Joy Sharma (right)
What’s the Impact?
Established in 2017, Impactify is a digital solutions provider to the social sector including non-government organizations (NGOs) and sponsors. The startup helps NGOs reduce their administrative burden by providing simple tools to streamline workflows, in addition to assisting them with subject matter expertise to help them enhance the effectiveness of their programs.
Driven by a vision of bringing positive change and amplified social impact, Impactify is leveraging the technology to educate both NGOs and sponsors on how to create more positive change with the resources available to them. “Our purpose is to help organizations in the social sector become stronger and bigger and more professionally managed,” Gupta said.
He admitted that despite a few lakh NGOs operating in India, only a hundred or two are professionally managed. We are aware of the big scale ones like Smile, Cry and Goonj but how many have heard of Aastha Foundation? The small-scale NGOs are on the sustenance level and are hardly able to establish themselves due to structural reasons and resource constraint.
“On our platform, we are helping NGOs put their information in a way that the corporate understands and it is also easy for corporate to sort the information,” he stated. The platform is solving two problems:
1) Match-making: Identify partners to work with for specific areas of improvement
2) Mapping: Monitor and report the implementation of progress
The Smart Marketplace
With a potential of INR 587 crore worth of funding across 2,800+ social sector projects listed on its platform, Impactify is bridging the gap between NGOs and sponsors through its smart marketplace model. The recently launched first-of-a-kind digital marketplace showcases projects and pre-vets NGOs on behalf of corporate sponsors.
Once matched, the platform’s integrated project management and monitoring interface reduce the administrative burden for both the NGO and the sponsor. If a corporate selects a project through the platform, it can map the number of beneficiaries, duration, the timeline etc. Gupta emphasized that these are all the parameters that corporate wants to search for.
Giving an example, he stated, “I want to spend say 50 lakh rupees on the environment in some district 100 km outside of Delhi, so it becomes searchable and easy for people to find each other. The second thing we have done is monitoring - that is the money has been given then what is going on, on the ground.” By digitizing the process, Impactify has reduced the burden of creating reports every quarter for NGOs.
“If any deliverables have been achieved then they can attach the evidence available and this sufficient information for a corporate to feel comfortable that the work is going on and they have not run away with the money,” Gupta concluded. Impactify leverages cutting-edge technology to ensure that projects are listed only from verified and credible organizations by assigning them a TRUSTScore the minute they go live.
Having collaborated with 1000+ organizations, the platform is currently piloting with more than 10 corporates with over INR 50 crore of CSR funding monitored through Impactify. It also helps sponsors to manage their entire portfolio of social spend, track project progress and witness the impact achieved through their spending.
Where’s the Money Coming From?
There is no cost for NGOs to register on the platform. However, when a project gets funded, a monitoring tool software as a service is built from the cost of the firm. “The matching tool is free of cost as at this point of time, the NGOs don’t have any additional or spare budget to spend and they are looking at just being able to showcase their credibility and raise funds,” Sharma specified.
Apart from providing a platform to the NGOs, Impactify team also reaches out to these organizations to refine their proposals because these people lack knowledge of what a corporate cares about. “When we talk about the Swachchta campaign, people keep tracking the number of toilets being constructed and how many people are actually being benefitted from it, so these kinds of inputs can be provided to them,” he explained.
The idea behind the creation of Impactify was to provide solutions across the entire value chain of giving. This could be CSR, non-CSR or philanthropy but effectively a chain that works from a donor to a grass root organization and the idea was to solve for any kind of challenges in terms of inefficiency in operations or regulations across the entire value chain.