In May 2018, while star-struck Indians were going bonkers over photos from the wedding of Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor, the frenzy was inspiring a business idea in one of the attendees at the event.
What if India’s obsession with Bollywood could help the less fortunate?
For a while, actor Sonam Kapoor’s cousin, Anshula Kapoor, was toying with the idea of a venture that would also give back to the community. But the 26-year-old couldn’t wrap her head around a model that would work.
But looking at the attention the wedding received, a lightbulb switched on in her head: “I put two and two together and thought of how social enterprise and fan love can marry,” Kapoor, daughter of Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor and sister of actor Arjun Kapoor, told Quartz.
And that’s how Fankind was born.
Launched earlier this month, the online fundraising platform allows users to buy “entries” to meet celebrities. At the end of each campaign, a winner is chosen through a lottery. Most of the funds raised in the process are donated to causes of the celebrity’s choice.
“India is a film-obsessed nation and this model makes a lot of sense. The interesting thing would be how this is executed and the experience of the early donors and the impact they would want to see,” said Yugal Joshi, vice-president at Texas-based consultancy Everest Group.
The two campaigns that have so far gone live on Fankind involved Bollywood stars Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, playing a game of paintball and baking a cake, respectively, which are open for 45 days each.
To get the word out, Fankind is carrying out social media promotions and putting out Google ads, besides getting celebrities to tweet and post about the campaigns on Instagram.
“Internet is the most powerful tool to create awareness for a social cause,” said Roma Priya, founder of Burgeon Law, which caters to the startup investment ecosystem. “Government bodies, NGOs, non-profit organisations have been leveraging on the celebrity-fan dynamic online in a classic way to garner donations as they command a huge fan base on social media, which acts as a great tool to attract a larger target audience.”
Where’s the money?
Every transaction of Rs300 ($4.19) counts as one entry for a user looking to meet a celebrity. Users can transact in multiples of Rs300 to increase their chances. For example, Rs900 donation will count as three entries for the lottery and have a higher probability of getting picked in the draw.
The maximum amount is capped at Rs300,000 so no one can buy more than 1,000 entries.
Effectively, 70% of the transaction value is donated to an NGO chosen by the celebrity. The remaining 30% goes to operational expenses and taxes. “The money is not going to broad concepts like ‘helping a girl child’ or ‘helping a hospital.’ The end use of money is defined, like ‘this is the girl child I am helping’,” Kapoor said.
Dhawan’s campaign proceeds will go to Manavlok, which works for the socio-economic uplift of farmers in Maharashtra, funding a specific horticulture programme, which lets them grow crops that have a higher market value. “It’s a long-term solution of self-empowerment (rather) than a handout in one bad year,” Kapoor added.
The money Bhatt raises will go to World for All Animal Care and Adoptions to help them run their shelter for injured and homeless animals in Mumbai.
Fankind has roped in the 20-year-old online donation platform GiveIndia as its philanthropy partner, which makes all contributions eligible for tax deductions under section 80G of India’s Income Tax Act.
GiveIndia will also monitor the charity’s progress on the ground and make sure the contributions are accounted for. After each campaign, it will publish an impact report that will be updated on Fankind’s website and e-mailed to donors.
And Bollywood’s bigwigs are only the beginning.
Seeing suggestions coming in on the website, “my definition of who is considered a celebrity in India has opened up by leaps and bounds,” says Kapoor. “Even if I couldn’t see the directions I could manoeuvre the word celebrity, India has helped me.”
Lots of sports teams, YouTubers, TV personalities, reality stars, and singers have been requested for. There are entrepreneurs like Le15 patisserie chef Pooja Dhingra who were mentioned, too. Some fashion designers also were listed.
“Now if I do approach a person whom I would maybe not have considered bringing in so early, I not only know that people want to meet them but I also know what they want to do with them,” Kapoor said, adding the example of “co-creating a TikTok video with a TikTok influencer.”
Kapoor’s next focus is to open up the platform to people outside India. Then, she’ll consider other verticals such as selling merchandise, too.