Birth of the Idea
We at Sneha Karma Foundation always had the vision that we do not only want the underprivileged that we help to become self-reliant and independent but also our non-profit organization to reach that stage so that we do not have to keep asking for donations especially to mange our existing programs, where we have already made significant investment.
We thought about building the E-commerce platform, because it completely aligned with our vision of providing the under-priviliged artisans, a marketplace which will enable them to sell their products.
The Practicality of the Idea
In Mid 2017, As we started the process to validate the idea, we started to make more and more sense that we should build an E-commerce Platform but then the question was how would be get a product being built in a remote village, in some part of the world to be delivered to a customer living in another part of the world. Suddenly we realized the logistical nightmare at hand.
We realized that building a relationship with an underprivileged artisan in a remote village in some part of the world is going to take a long long time and keeping the middle-man out of the process is going to be even more difficult and then what about the logistics of actually delivering the product – how expensive will that turn out to be. The economies of scale issue kicked in.
No, we were not going to give up so easy. We are Sneha Karma Foundation!
Idea is Good but…
Yes, the Idea is good. There is definitely a Need. Sneha Karma Foundation has always believed that we as a non-profit can deliver the maximum value by helping connect the dots. filling in the gaps. there is no need to re-invent the wheel. For example – we do not need to build schools (where not needed). The Problem in most parts of the world is that the kids don’t come to school due to various reasons. Our Goal is to identify those issues and find a solution for them. So, the schools can do what they were build for – to educate the kids.
So, Yes, the Idea is good but how to we implement it. This is where a lot of the on-the-ground exposure and experience kicked in. There are various Non-Government-Organization and Non-Profits all around the world who are doing some awesome work on the ground. The problem they are facing is the same as what the artisans are facing, which is that once they produce the goods, where is the customer ? whom do they sell it to ?
No Human Being wants to dependent on others for their needs. The underprivileged artisans are no different. They might be poor but they do not want to live forever on someones donation and mercy. They just want an equal opportunity.
The long journey Begin….
In late 2017, Our Team of volunteers, started reaching out various NGO in and around India. We decided that we will make a list of 50 preferred NGO whose mission is aligned with ours – to help the under-priviliged earn their lively by enabling them to use their skills to produce product. The ultimate goal is to take the product off the hands of the artisan, give them money in return and then figure out how we (as NGO’s ) are going to sell it.
Anyone who has worked with NGO’s and tried to vet out the authentic ones who are doing real good work on the ground vs others who are just trying to make money by being in the middle, knows how difficult and challenge a task it is to vet out 50 authentic NGO.
By March 2018, we built a list of the 50 NGO’s. Yes, it took our volunteers more than 6 months to do just that. To keep it simple, we decided to focus on India only as part of this phase but to ensure that we included diversity in our product line, we short listed 2 NGO from each state in India. As part of this effort, we also shortlisted about 10 products from each of the NGO that we thought our patrons and supporter in USA would prefer to buy. We also factored in the challenges involved in shipping these products to the USA.
By this time, we become painfully aware that for us to be successful in delivering products made in the remote villages to a customer in USA cities would require a team of volunteers on the ground co-coordinating the various shipping related logistics. I could write blog-after-blog on the challenges associated with this setup :-). but needless to say, we had to do some rethinking and course-correction.
As a Non-Profit, we are constantly faced with challenges. We just come together as a Team and decide on how best we can continue to make a difference. It is better than doing nothing!
Around June 2018, we decided to execute this initiative in multiple phases.
The First phase would focus on building the E-Commerce Platform while we continued to work on Phase-2 to build out the network with the NGO in India and start working out a way to get the products produced by the under-privileged artisans in India (for example) to a customer in the USA (for example).
We started putting together a detailed plan of what it would take to even build an E-Commerce Platform and even if we build the platform what would we sell ? whom would we sell it to ? why would they buy from us ?
The Idea of Sneha Karma Collections is Born…
One thing was clear in all our minds, As a non-profit, we needed to become self-sustaining and self-reliant. The E-Commerce store would be one of the ways in which we could work hard to raise funds by running the store as a Non-profit.
What is in it for the Customer ? The customers would be able to buy the products at the same price they would buy from any other online store and also support a cause that they would like to be a part of. Sneha Karma Collections will give them the opportunity to do just that. They will become a part of the Sneha Karma Foundation Community.
The BIG difference would be that we would run it with a Team of volunteers and 100% of the profit would go towards funding the Sneha Karma Foundation’s Operations cost and also fund some of our ongoing programs on the ground.
So, yes…The team of Sneha Karma Foundation decided that we need to launch Sneha Karma Collections…but How ?
Necessity is the Mother of all inventions. When your goal is clear, you will find a way to achieve it!