Phani Deepak Akella is one of Milaap's champions. During our "Adopt an Entrepreneur" campaign, he decided that he would like to fundraise for a deserving entrepreneur who wanted to educate his children, Ramappa, and he formed a team with some of his friends to do this. They called themselves the "Changemakers" and they were able to raise the full amount for Ramappa by August 15th, successfully completing our challenge! Here is his story.
How did you get to hear about Milaap?
I heard about Milaap through Facebook sidebar ads. I was already a fan of Rang De (an organisation that does crowd-funded microfinance too). I guess the targeted marketing worked for Milaap. :)
Is there any particular cause on Milaap that is very close to your heart? If yes, why?
Apart from poverty alleviation, I am a sustainability enthusiast so the areas of water, energy and sustainable farming are particularly close to my heart.
You recently completed our “Adopt an Entrepreneur” challenge: to fundraise fully for an entrepreneur so that he/she could expand his/her business. What motivated you to do this?
My motivation was to create livelihoods for small groups of people and in all honesty 35,000 loan when we divide among 17-18 people is nothing much per se. However, this microfinance model has had great success as demonstrated by Dr. Yunus. I do donations and the like but this helps people get self sufficient and this was my primary motivation.
How did you go about fundraising? What was your method?
My method was to :
a. Educate my friends about Microfinance and Milaap through Facebook messages.
b. Talk about the fundraiser and its implications on people's lives.
c. Involve my friends in choosing the entrepreneur by conducting polls on Facebook.
d. Send reminders and also substitute people who sat on the fence and who didn't move towards making a loan.
e. Volunteer to make payments on their behalf if they didn't have net banking/ credit cards.
Any special secrets/tips that you can pass on to our community so that they can one day fundraise the way you did?
Tips would be to educate people about the success stories in the form of photo/video blogs. Get people interested in the content first and fundraising will be automatic. Please don't ignore word of mouth advertising too, it is more personal and effective. :)
Tell us more about yourself. What do you do day to day? What are you passionate about?
I work for a social media promotions firm, I work as a programmer and we do social media promotions on Facebook, Youtube and so on. One of the primary reasons why I liked your side bar ad maybe! I am more exposed to Facebook marketing. I am passionate about poverty alleviation and I will eventually start a social enterprise in that direction. My short term passion has been the social media and mobile marketing.
Who/what inspired you to do now?
My inspiration for volunteering my time/money was Oliver, a Spanish dentist whom I met when i went on an internship to Panama City. He travels extensively and spends his money providing dental treatment to the poor in countries such as Cambodia, Nepal, Panama and others. The way he leads his life has been an inspiration and I met him in 2009. Ever since I am doing my best in everything I can to help the less fortunate.
If you were to change it, what would you do instead? Why?
If I would change anything, it would be the education system, where I would teach problem solving with the help of a language and web search. Right now the emphasis is too much on cramming syllabi rather than learning how to look at problems.
Any question for us?
Q. What is your inspiration in starting Milaap?
A. The inspiration for Milaap came about when Anoj, one of our co-founders, saw the difference solar lighting made to underprivileged households in Orissa while he was working at SKS Microfinance. He realised that one of the reasons such products failed to make a bigger impact was because loans for these were unavailable at low interest rates. He teamed up with Sourabh, who had sold the product of his first startup was looking to build a consumer-facing internet startup for social impact, and Mayukh, who was trying to build loan programs for small scale retailers and kirana shop owners selling lighting products in rural Uttar Pradesh. They started Milaap in June 2010.
Any thoughts or interesting thing you would like to share with us and our supporters?
I look forward to seeing you in my state Andhra Pradesh!
Thank you so much for your time and insights Phani!