Archive - April 2014

Zaheer Adenwala: Merging Social Cause And Technology


zaheer adenwala

He has a strong background in product development and a yearning to constantly innovate, adapt and move forward. That is why Zaheer Adenwala co-founded Ketto along with Varun Sheth and Kunal Kapoor. He wanted to  help bring charitable giving into the virtual space. And keep it simple, safe and fun.

Having previously worked on the development of search engines and crowdfunding platforms at respected Indian advertising agency Affinity, Zaheer’s interests and skills are both varied and dynamic. When he is not busy making charity cool, Zaheer spends his time preparing for marathons.

Here’s more on how Zaheer brought the spirit of giving online, his thoughts on the role of technology in crowdfunding and how you can give back to society.

What role has technology played in effecting social change in India and the world?

Technology has made the world a smaller and a more easily accessible place. I believe that the biggest change in social activity due to technology is yet to come in India, whereas it already exists in western countries. But the change has begun and it’s growing at a rapid pace.

In India, charity largely exists in the offline space where people conventionally make donations via checks and cash, within their comfort zone. But since the emergence of e-commerce platforms, the users’ apprehension in making transactions online is continuously changing and people are gradually getting more comfortable with this concept. The increased size of the audience also helps in achieving large numbers, even with really small ticket sizes. For example, ten people donating Rs. 10,000 each is equivalent to 1000 people donating Rs.100 each.

Technology gives all NGOs and other organizations looking to raise funds for projects an excellent platform to showcase their work. It also gives access to over ten times their target audience, which until sometime back was limited to previous donors and a select set of email databases they owned. With Ketto, they can potentially reach out to every individual who is looking to give, since we run extensive marketing campaigns not only on their existing network but on Google, Facebook and other social media platforms as well. These are not limited to the Indian audience alone. We are currently getting 50% of our donations from the United States of America.

What was your vision for Ketto when you started and what is it today?

The vision for Ketto has been simple: make existing causes accessible to all internet users in a fun way. We strongly believe that donations should be driven by empathy and not by sympathy. The conventional methods work in quite the opposite way. Giving in India is viewed as serious and a duty due to the nature of the process. At  Ketto we are looking to change this mindset by making it lighter and fun.

The vision hasn’t changed much in terms of the beliefs. However, we now plan to offer rewards and giveaways to donors. It’s not just about the feel-good factor of contributing towards a good cause.

What is your vision for Ketto in the coming years and how do you see it growing?

The vision for Ketto’s future is to make it a one-stop solution for every individual who is looking to give back. We intend to partner with large organizations and are looking at working with them to help channel their Corporate Social Responsibility funds in the right direction.

In addition, we would also like to open our platform to anybody with a compelling cause who is looking to raise money for their cause, be it a short film, music video, sports team, etc.

Kickstarter, the biggest crowdfunding platform in the world, raised $480 million in 2013. In India, as the number of internet users increases (it’s growing exponentially each year), the crowdfunding pie is going to become bigger. At Ketto, we are looking at establishing ourselves by contributing over 30% of total funds raised.

How has the crowdfunding landscape changed in India?

The crowdfunding model is evolving in India and Ketto is one of the players trying to create this change. From raising money via known sources and networks to reaching out to people who have no association with the project whatsoever, we have come a long way. With technology, people have access to more campaigns being run in various parts of the country, giving them a wide variety to choose from. As mentioned earlier, this is applicable to the huge number of non-resident Indians living abroad as well.

What role has Ketto played in changing the dynamics of giving in India?

It’s extremely early to gauge Ketto’s impact as yet. However, we have conducted a few extremely successful campaigns that we believe are our first steps towards establishing Ketto as a strong crowdfunding partner for organizations.

Giving in India is linked with certain inhibitions that Ketto is looking to eliminate:

1. Credibility: We do thorough due diligence on every non-governmental organization before they are part of the system and a detailed report on fund utilization is created post the completion of the campaign.

2. Giving is a slow process: Through Ketto, it is literally a two-step process – choose the cause and NGO, and make a donation. It is really that simple.

3. Giving is only for the super rich: Small amounts of support also make a difference on Ketto.

We encourage individuals to not only give but also start campaigns for causes of their choice, where they leverage their personal and social networks to raise bigger sums of support than they would not have been able to afford alone.

What steps can individuals take towards contributing to a social cause?

Ketto makes finding a campaign extremely easy for the user by giving them multiple filters to zero-in on what they’re looking for. For users who are not entirely sure about this data, we also have a business team that features campaigns every week that we feel need the most attention.

We believe that even a small amount like Rs 100 counts, so we are constantly trying to motivate individuals to give, as opposed to focusing on the amount given.


KT Irfan: The Malappuram Express


KT Irfan is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, under the aegis of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds and compete with  his international counterparts.  Learn more about the speed walker in this in-depth interview.

KT Irfan is fondly known as Malappuram Express, a moniker inspired by the name of the small Kerela town that he hails from. He became the pride of the nation after finishing 10th at the London Olympics in race walking, a sport rarely heard of in India.

Irfan’s contribution to India and sport is immense, and he consistently proves his mettle at international events and as a part of the Indian army. Irfan holds a national record in the 20 km race walk with a timing of 01.20.21 seconds. It is now time for the country to give back to this soldier who needs a helping hand to recreate magic at the upcoming Asian Games.

Here’s a Ketto exclusive as we talk with Irfan about how his relentlessly training, the costs he incurs and what this country needs to change the landscape of sports in India.

Tell us about your time in the Indian army.

I joined the army as part of the sports quota in March 2010. I trained under Subedar Ramkumar in the Madras Regimen Centre. I participated in the ATNK & K area meet and won the gold medal in 2010, clocking 1:33:12 seconds. In the same year, I won gold at the Services Meet with the time 1:27:12 seconds. In 2011, I started my journey with my current coach Gurdev Singh.

Has your army training benefited your athletic abilities?

After joining the army, I was posted in Ooty where I trained most of the time. The climate in Ooty was extremely effective for conditional workouts. The army facilities were top class. It was a very crucial period in my sporting life.

How were you introduced to this sport?

My entry to sports was accidental. I come from a small village in Kerala. Football is the most popular sport there. I always liked sports. There was one walker in my village named Ribas. He was considered the best walker in Kerala. I used to serve refreshments to Ribas and sometimes note his training timings.  One day, some of my friends suggested I try race walking when I accompany Ribas. I tried it for a few days and started liking it. That was the turning point in my life. After that, I participated in my school meet and defeated the state champion. In 2007, I was called for trails in SAI Calicut and was selected. That marked the beginning of my professional sports life.

Walk us through your training regimen.

My training starts at 5am every day:

Morning training:

  • 1km run warm up
  • 5km walk warm up
  • Full body stretching and then my training work out starts

Evening training:

  • 1km run warm up
  • 1km walk warm up
  • Walking training
  • Ends with stretching

How many hours a day do you have to practice?

Morning – 3 hours

Evening – 2.30 hours

What are the costs associated with your training?

It’s difficult to estimate, but I require a minimum of two pairs of special walking shoes every month. Each shoe costs about Rs 10,000-15,000. Additionally, I need nutritional and medical supplements every month coupled with physiotherapists and a masseur’s fee.

How would you compare the standard of training in India and that which is available abroad?

The standard of training abroad is far better than India. In terms of infrastructure, support staff etc., they are way ahead.

What has been your biggest achievement yet?

Finishing 10th place in London Olympics in 2012 with the time of 1:20:21 seconds, which is a national record.

How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?

Crowdfunding is very helpful for those athletes who want to continue in their respective sports but can’t do so because of financial problems. It’s the main reason why young athletes drop out from sports. Through crowdfunding, people come to know about the sport and the athlete, who are working tirelessly to bring laurels to the country. I am sure every proud Indian wants to see India as a top sporting nation.

Explain Olympic Gold Quest’s role in your life and career.

I signed with Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) after the London 2012 Olympics. It was a very good step for me in my sporting career. I am thankful to OGQ for their full support. The cost of accessories in my sport is very high and for someone like me who comes from a middle class family, it is very difficult to afford it all. But with the support of OGQ I am getting world class shoes, sports equipment and physio assistance. And it is not just the financial support but also the mental support which the OGQ team gives me, which is really beneficial. They are available for me 24×7.

What systems, structures and establishments do we need in India to give Indian athletes a better chance at winning at the Olympics?

Lots of things have to be done. For example:

  • Need to provide world class infrastructure
  • Athletes should be given quality food supplements
  • More international exposure for training and competition
  • Each athlete should have a personal physio and masseur
  • Proper financial assistance as per the need of the athlete

I feel there is immense talent in India. If given proper attention, India can be one of the top sporting countries in the world.


Want to help KT Irfan  represent India and vie for an Olympic medal? Click here to support! 


Varun Sheth: Financier, Entrepreneur, Giver


With a strict, no-nonsense attitude towards making charity simple, Ketto’s Founder and CEO Varun Sheth wanted to cut the drama around charity and giving, to make it fun and accessible to the young, progressive population of India. After graduating from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce & Economics in Bombay and working at leading financial institutions like ICAP and SCPL, it’s not surprising that the idea for starting Ketto came to Varun at a TED conference. A strong background in finance, a passion for crowdfunding and the drive to create something revolutionary led Varun to quit his job and begin laying the foundation of Ketto.

After months of research, Ketto was founded on August 15, 2012 and in a short span of time, has created an admirable niche for itself, helping empower the youth of this country to  effect social change.

Here is Varun’s take on the evolving landscape of crowdfunding in India, the importance of digital media and his vision for Ketto.


How did the idea behind starting Ketto come to you?
The social has always been of interest to me and being a seasoned finance professional, the thought always was how I could marry those two concepts. That’s when the idea of using the internet as a platform to raise funds for
social causes came by. The thought came across while I was attending a TED conference.

What was your vision for Ketto then and what is it today?
The vision has not changed much. The thought was pretty simple: to get the online youth of today to give back but do it in a fun way. The idea was to make giving cool, simple, reliable and easy.

How has the crowdfunding landscape changed in India?
Crowdfunding as a term is fairly new to India but the concept has been widely used all over India since centuries in local communities to build temples, schools and hospitals . Over 30 years back in 1976, Shyam Benegal collected Rs 2 lakh from 500,000 farmers to fund Amul’s ad film Manthan. It’s only now has the industry is seen getting relevance as it has become more organized and the internet has allowed it to become more and more global.

What role has Ketto played in changing the dynamics of philanthropy in India?
Ketto has created a unique bridge between the 100 million young Indian professionals who are online and internet savy and the 300 million people in India who don’t have access to basic social services such as education, healthcare, sanitation by using the access of NGO networks and providing these NGOs the necessary funds.

Can you highlight Ketto’s achievements in the past one year.
Raising funds to send luge athlete Shiva Keshavan to the winter Olympics in Sochi this year and sending Shweta Katti, the daughter of a sex worker in Mumbai, to the US for her undergraduation and many more.

How do you leverage your background in finance for Ketto?
It helps creating the right pitches and campaigns, and understanding the customers better on their expectations and how to best manage them. My finance background also helps me in speaking to corporate donors and
creating partnerships with them.


Crowdfunding: Up-Close And Personal


You can help India win a gold medal at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, you can help a woman fight breast cancer, you can even help build a hospital – all with as little as Rs 100. That is the power of crowdfunding. It empowers the masses to be a part of change, of a revolution.

Crowdfunding allows a large number of people to fund campaigns, initiatives and causes, usually via the internet. In an effort to mobilise the active online community of people to donate, crowdfunding engines like ours are created to make giving to charity both cool and easy.

Read the Financial Times article to understand how you can benefit from crowdfunding, how it works, the returns, rewards and much more.


What is in it for the crowdfunding platforms?

They charge a fee, which tends to be a percentage of the amount raised. Seeders, for instance, has a fee of 7.5 per cent of the total. Kickstarter will apply a 5 per cent fee, plus payment processing fees of 3 to 5 per cent, for successful campaigns. It charges nothing if the target is not hit.

How do you get involved as an investor/lender?

Investors can search the websites for projects using keywords. They then click to make an investment, much as people buying something online after completing a sign in and giving their bank details. Money is taken when the pledges reach the target set by those seeking funding.

How quick can companies raise money?

Crowdfunding exercises are usually run over a period of weeks, but campaigns that capture people’s attention can hit their target much more quickly. Kano, the UK-based start-up behind a cut-price computer that is designed to be as simple to build as Lego, raised more than $140,000 in crowdfunding in a matter of hours for its $99 kits.


Read the article in its entirety here.




Kunal Kapoor: Actor, Visionary, Giver

Microsoft Word - Kunal Kapoor Interview_Ketto.docxAmidst the glitz and glamour of the Indian film industry is an actor who has leveraged his popularity and celebrity clout to create awareness about social issues and motivate Indian youth to drive change.

Critically acclaimed actor Kunal Kapoor is one of the three founding partners of Ketto and when he is not working on one of his offbeat films, he devotes his time to inspiring today’s generation to become charitable in a fun and easy manner.

Upon realizing that the only thing stopping people from donating was the lack of a credible platform, Kunal helped create Ketto as a vehicle for moving funds to those in need from those who need to give back.

Keep reading to discover what Bollywood thinks of the spirit of giving and how the renowned actor leverages his goodwill to empower today’s youth.

From Bollywood to charity, how did the idea for Ketto come about?
I was working with a number of NGOs and realized they were always in need of funds and people to help but did not necessarily have access to them. On the other hand, many of my friends, family, acquaintances were looking to donate and help out but were not exactly sure how to and to whom to give these funds to. Also, charity is perceived as serious, difficult and complicated. So the idea behind Ketto was to build a bridge between the people that needed help and those who wanted to help using the easiest possible way, which is technology.

Do you see a huge mind-shift in Bollywood towards charity today?
I think the Indian film industry has always been the first to step up whenever there is a need to raise funds or awareness for a social cause. Today there are so many more avenues that have opened up, which makes it easier for us to reach out to people for charitable causes.

How has the crowdfunding landscape changed in India?
I think it’s growing at a really fast pace. When we started a couple of years back, there was a certain amount of resistance. But over the years I have seen the mindset change. People are realizing the power of crowdfunding. We’ve seen the interest and traffic growing with every passing month.

What role has Ketto played in changing the dynamics of giving in India?

I think it’s too early to say that we’ve changed the dynamics of giving. We have pulled off campaigns that we are really proud of in areas as diverse as education, women’s issues and sports. The larger dream though is to change the mindset associated with giving. People think charity is serious, complicated and difficult. We want them to see that it can be fun, easy and accessible. In the amount of time you take to book movie tickets, you can now change a life, sitting anywhere in the world.

How do you leverage your background in acting for Ketto?
I think that the first step to bringing about change is to create awareness. Being a celebrity helps me create awareness and support causes I believe in. If as an actor I can sell, cars, clothes, watches, then it’s important that I use that reach to create awareness and mobilize people to lend their support.