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.


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