STANDING OUT IN THE CROWD
Forbes India|December 4, 2020
The culture of giving is picking up in India as crowdfunding platforms flourish and commoners turn philanthropists to help those in need
MANU BALACHANDRAN

August 2020 was an exceptional month for Mumbai-based engineer Mihir Kamat and his wife Priyanka. It began with elation when they became parents to a baby girl, Teera. She was born normal and weighed a healthy 3 kg.

“Three weeks after she was born, her breathing would get heavy while feeding,” says Kamat. “Initially, the doctors thought it was normal and prescribed bottle feeding.” Two weeks later, when she was taken to the hospital, the doctors again proclaimed her healthy.

It struck Kamat during her vaccinations that all wasn’t well with Teera. Unlike normal babies who would cry in pain when given injections, his daughter didn’t seem distressed. “She kept smiling,” says Kamat. “And she wouldn’t push away or show any reflexes.” That’s when they decided, upon their doctor’s suggestion, to take her to a neurologist. And their worst fear came true.

The Kamats’s two-month-old baby was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1, a genetic disease affecting the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and voluntary muscle movement. The disorder attacks the baby’s nerves and muscles, and as it progresses, makes it difficult for them to carry out basic activities like sitting, swallowing milk, and even breathe. SMA affects one in 10,000 babies and is the biggest genetic cause of infant deaths worldwide.

Thankfully, by the time the disease was confirmed, Mihir had already read up about the potential cure. But it would come at a staggering ₹16 crore. Zolgensma, a one-time gene replacement therapy that targets the genetic root cause of SMA and replaces the function of the missing or non-working survival motor neuron with a new one, needed to be imported to India. Globally, only some 500 children have been treated with Zolgensma so far. “We knew we had to move quickly since this is a fast degenerating disease,” says Kamat. “If I have to raise ₹16 crore, it will take me 16 lifetimes. That’s when we decided to look at crowdfunding.”

Crowdfunding, essentially, is the use of small funds from a large number of individuals to meet any financial requirements ranging from medical emergencies to higher studies. In early November, the Kamats raised a funding request on ImpactGuru, one of the many crowdfunding platforms in the country. In five days since the movement started, the family managed to raise ₹72 lakh from some 1,600 donors. It’s only about 5 percent of the target, and Mihir knows he has a long way to go, but through crowdfunding he’s taking baby steps towards a goal that, otherwise, would seem impossible.

“Every minute, almost 100 persons are admitted to hospitals and 30-odd health insurance claims are filed,” says Piyush Jain, co-founder and CEO of ImpactGuru. “What usually happens is that these treatments end up draining people’s resources severely and put them at the risk of debt. Crowdfunding provides a platform that doesn’t come with any payback liabilities while serving the purpose.”

CROWDFUNDING TO THE RESCUE

Today, crowdfunding in India is spread across numerous areas ranging from health care, education, and arts and culture, to animal welfare and entrepreneurship. Earlier this year, Kamal Singh, a 20-year-old son of an electric rickshaw driver from New Delhi, managed to raise ₹15 lakh for his tuition fees at the English National Ballet School in London on crowdfunding platform Ketto. Kamal was the first Indian to be selected to the illustrious institution.

“My father did not have the means,” Kamal tells Forbes India from London, where he is studying now. “My entire requirement was around ₹25 lakh. Within two weeks, we raised ₹15 lakh. And, so far, we have raised ₹18 lakh.” That was good enough to send him to London. “Of course, living expenses are very high here, and I am still dependent on the funds,” adds Kamal.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES INDIAView All

Selfless Service For Minimum Pay

ASHA workers such as Vinimol and Indu in Kerala have been the foot soldiers in the fight against Covid-19, and yet not acknowledged enough

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

The Way We Shot (From Home)

With barriers to film production brought in by the pandemic, filmmakers came up with creative ways to tell and shoot stories

7 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Lending A Helping Hand

Billionaires, CEOs, philanthropists and celebs went out of their way to help citizens deal with the pandemic

10 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Will The Pandemic's Lessons Go Viral?

Besides scaling up the health workforce, infrastructure, equipment and management systems of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities need to be strengthened

6 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Heroes Behind The Wheel

Ambulance drivers have transported those who succumbed to Covid-19, regardless of risk to their own lives

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

A Tailwind For Digital Transformation

Across sectors in India, the Covid-19 crisis pushed businesses to embrace technology at a rate they wouldn’t have thought possible otherwise

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Friends on the Frontline

Cops and municipal workers ensured humanitarian help and essential supplies were readily available during the lockdown

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Eye For Innovation

Five companies launched and modified products to address health care needs and simplify treatment during the pandemic.

8 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Lessons From Lockdowns

Industry leaders from across sectors talk about what their learnings—professional and personal—have been through the Covid-19 pandemic

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

10 Big Questions For 2021

The Covid-19 crisis wreaked havoc on the economy. Will the New Year herald a much-needed recovery?

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021
RELATED STORIES

YOGA & PEACE

DEEPAK CHOPRA speaks with DAAJI about the role Yoga has to play in bringing about world peace. This is an excerpt from their conversation broadcast on International Day of Peace, September 21, 2020. That documentary is available at https://heartfulness.org/en/international-day-of-peace/.

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
January 2021

Create the habit of meditation

CHIRAG KULKARNI, Co-Founder and CMO of Medly Pharmacies in the USA, speaks with RISHIKA SHARMA about creating a regular meditation practice, so as to make it a habit. He also shares how meditation has benefited both his personal and professional life.

7 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
January 2021

SHIA'S PRIVATE TEMPLE OF DOOM!

Indiana Jones gig derailed by abuse scandal

2 mins read
Globe
January 11, 2021

Let's Dish

"Food Raconteur” Ashok Nageshwaran wants to tell you a story.

2 mins read
DesignSTL
January/February 2021

THE MAKING OF A MODEL MINORITY

Indian Americans rarely stop to ask why our entrance into American society has been so rapid—or to consider what we have in common with other nonwhite Americans.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
January - February 2021

Interconnectedness

In 2017, DR. VANDANA SHIVA spoke with KIM HUGHES about the sacredness of the Earth, the work she has been doing to bring awareness and change in the field of sustainable agriculture, and the importance of understanding our interconnectedness with Nature, and how we can change the way we eat.

8 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2020

DIAMONDS - A Luxury Gem Steeped in Fact & Fable

The diamond is one fabled gemstone! For example, google “Hope Diamond” to see all the legends associated with just this one stone said to bring misfortune to its owners.

2 mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
January 2021

Women's World

Brown Sugaa and Medusa

2 mins read
Born To Ride Southeast Magazine
December 2020

Women's World

Brown Sugaa and Medusa

2 mins read
Born To Ride Florida
December 2020

CHINA DEMANDS INDIA RESCIND APP BAN AMID BORDER TENSION

China on Wednesday demanded India rescind a ban on more Chinese mobile phone apps amid tension between Beijing and other governments over technology and security.

1 min read
Techlife News
November 28, 2020