Co-operative social Enterprise
It’s May, 2016 end. Now the Blue print of the project is ready and also got a idea on economic model. Now I call myself an `emerging anti-capitalist` after getting a very slight understand of what capitalism is doing to people and environemnt with the `infinite growth policy in a limited planet`. So I definitely dont want to even try for Venture Capitalists or regular investment models. I started exploring on democraic investment systems. Actually, I dont even know what i was looking for. Then I remembered `Loomio`, a tech startup in New Zealand, born out of `Occupy movement`. I started studying about them and was so excited. They define themselves as `Co-operative social enterprise`. Quoting from their site.
Loomio is a social enterprise collectively owned by the people building it. Unlike a traditional profit maximising company, revenue is not an end in itself, but a means towards achieving a core social purpose. A worker-owned cooperative structure is a powerful way to live our values of collaboration and collective ownership.
It was brilliant. Not money centered, but people centered. Wow! I started learning more and more about such business models. Being a simple minded technologist (not an economist), it was hard to understand the concepts. Then I started worrying how much it is legally possible to implement such crazy ideas in India. Started exploring on such business models in India and couldn’t get a single article 🙁 Hard way forward. Should I even do this? I have this problem mostly: My heart gets stuck with something and my mind knows it wont work out. But I can’t resolve the conflict myself. So I let external factors manipulate my heart, which are my friends. So consulted with 2 good friends (Paul and Saravanan). After nearly 4 hours conference call, they clarified me this:
- I am going to do business for first time in life. It’s going to a big challenging, learning curve.
- I have no money in hand, have to fund raise all money.
- Challenging technical problem to solve.
- What I am doing is a completely new vertical in the whole world. (Software for Non-profits in India)
- Challenge in sales (Billing NGOs, who already struggle to run because of lagging in donations)
- After the tech problem of making software is solved, getting it operation / active is a big question mark, which I don’t even know how to plan. It’s going to be trial and error.
With all above points, the probability of failing, is already to high than a regular IT startup. Now I don’t even know Loomio kind of business model is possible in India. Any regular lawyers, auditors wont even understand what I am asking for. Considering all this challenges, I decided not to explore anything on new anti-capilalist economic model at the moment. Thanks Paul and Saravanan for the continuous bashing ,to take things into my heart!
Now I need to form a technical team to execute this. I am sure, I wont have a luxury of hiring only senior developers to execute the project, because of money constraints.
Lucking I had full support of Thina and Think Digital (TD). A team of brilliant students from SRM, with whom I executed many social projects before. So I planned to train them on Ionic to take care of mobile development.
We had a meeting in SRM college with TD Team. Our genius programmer, Ritesh suggested that we do a pilot app, SRM Connect, which will be similar to Volunteer app feature wise. But used to connect people and events happening inside SRM. Once the app is done, we can then reuse the code base for Grassroots with much better Ionic experience.
It will be beneficial for me too, as I can show case a completed app to my potential investors, to gain their confidence. In 1 month time, with just the students coding on it, under my supervision, we completed the app and deployed in Play store @https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.think_digital.srmconnect
Investors – A Wow story
I first spoke with some key tech people, whom will be developing on the project. One of them is a IIT graduate, a master mind, excellent programmer who was willing to lead the whole technical process.
I split the investment into 2 phases.
- Phase 1 will cover expenses upto Launch, with foundational modules.
- Phase 2 will cover expenses 5 months after Launch to develop further modules.
My target was getting a commitment/money for atleast Phase 1, before I could initate the development. For Phase 2, I planned to do a 2nd fund raiser after launch. After launch, with a working product, I thought I could get money a bit easier than having only documents now.
By June end, when SRM Connect is 80% done, I started approaching my friends for Investment. From the first person, Rajesh Kanna to all futher people, they totally loved the idea. Of course, how they can’t be. Yes I am bit egoistic about this idea!
I had 5 key advantages:
- A revolutionary Idea.
- A working prototype in hand, SRM Connect.
- Strong tech team – The IIT brain, Myself (yes, I call myself a good programmer) and TD Team and
- My own credibility because of years of Volunteering works.
- Further ideas. Revolutionizing game ideas, that will create strong social impact.
With the above 5 strong points, Everyone is willing to invest the maximum amount in their capacity. In just one week, after meeting some 10 people, I got full commitment for Phase 1. Holy cow! Wow.
For June last week and July I planned to do meet loads of people to get investment for Phase 1. But in just 1 week, I got commitment for complete Phase 1. So I continued further and raised funds for whole 10 months, by the end of July. How lucky, How gifted, I am!
Team formation was also happening parallely.
- My volunteering Colleague in Chennai Social Service, Haribabu is more than happy to take up QA Lead. He actually didn’t want to get paid, as he loved the idea. But I forced a minimum number upon him.
- Arjun Prasath – My colleague in my previous company. Excellent server brainy. He assisted me a little in doing `Online RTI Generator` 2 years back. He joined taking complete responsibility of Server, DB, Backend REST service.
- Sakthi Vel – Another Chennai Social Service volunteering colleague. A super creative real world cartoon character.
- Think Digital team
- Thina – The hyperactive programmer.
- Ritesh and Rohan – The silent programmers.
- Ujay and Jegadesh – Programmers gifted with excellent design skills.
- Gayathri – The crypto girl
- Gowtham Shana – Another Chennai Social Service volunteering colleague. A personal with a long term, very big social vision. A extrovert. Amazing speaker. He already takes seminars on college on the topic `Needs of the society`. We planned to join hands to continue his sessions and also add a bit on the Volunteering app.
- Our brilliant IIT programmer, who will be leading the whole project.
- Other good friend, who is a working as Software Engg in US and committed to support on complete NGO Panel development.
Volunteer App to `Grassroots`
This is the period when the `Volunteer app` turned into `Grassroots` and the website was launched.
To be continued…