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Karon Shaiva, the Chief A Factor of EmpAower, an organisation that focuses on social and environmental products talks about the need for social impact in today’s scenario and her latest project Idobro – an e-commerce portal. Excerpts from the interview:
When did you start EmpAower? What is its focus area?
EmpAower was formed in 2008 and it is a marketing service organisation that focuses on social and environmental products. We not only support NGOs, but also support women entrepreneurs, physically handicapped people who are looking to create their own enterprises, and also senior citizens. We are a ‘for-benefit’ enterprise. The extra ‘A’ in it stands for action otherwise empower is just another word. So it is the extra ‘A’ that converts empower into an empowering process.
What is Idobro?
Idobro is a separate form of EmpAower. It is one of the channels we are going to use to help promote these social products and services. There are various ways that you can market anything and there are various channels you can use to promote any product or services – so Idobro is one of those channels. It’s an e-commerce portal. Idobro is the market place for impact. It is a one-stop-shop to promote or integrate NGO and social products into mainstream—that’s the only way you can create an impact. The product range is from organic food to apparels, handicrafts to accessories, decor and furniture. Idobro is a portal, a destination that’ll allow you to locate any product that you’re looking from organisations or NGOs that are looking to creating a social or environmental impact through their enterprise.
Did you always want to be a part of the social sector?
I’ve always volunteered right through my life so I knew somewhere that I would end up in the social sector. One day I got an offer to actually run an NGO as an Operations Director and through that I got to see the social sector from within. So then I asked myself if I wanted to continue with this or do I want to start an NGO of my own? That’s when I decided that I wanted to do neither; I really wanted to have a normal, sustainable enterprise to create social impact. Because there are enough of NGOs already out there. I’ve lived with the idea for about ten years. I felt there was a need for more professional marketing services for NGOs. The need of the hour was for mainstreaming, integrating, and working in a way that can bridge the gap between the social sector and the business sector. Charity is required in certain cases, but I feel that sustainability is a far more powerful tool to really solve our social issues and take you far beyond than what charity can achieve. We got the Award in December 2008 for the Most Inspiring Social Entrepreneurship Plan, and that’s where I realised I have to chase this dream and translate this into reality.
Did you face any challenges along the way?
People would always say that ‘You’re in the corporate world; you’ve got a great job’, etc. I was the Head of Business Development at GIA. So they’d ask me why I have to give up such a job when I work with an NGO alongside. I felt that it was more like giving good, well-meaning advice which is not encouraging. That was the most difficult thing. I was very clear that if I have to preach or even encourage sustainability with NGO then I only do it if I myself am sustainable. That’s why I took that route and am ensuring that it will stand on its own two feet.
How long did it take to get Idobro on its feet?
The last six months we’ve been working on it fairly intensively. Prior to that, it was more market research and planning. We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg; we’ve got to tap a huge ground-well of NGOs to do things that will help their beneficiaries to become independent. If we can aggregate the needs of all these NGOs, then we have a great opportunity over here to really create an impact. I want it to be the biggest, largest and most effective portal – where Idobro is concerned – for social impact.
How can NGOs come on board?
They have to become our members first. We approach them and explain to them the benefits they can get. By starting with a core group of 15 NGOs who I been working with over the last six months and they have seen that we are serious about what we want to deliver. The money earned will be channelised back to the various NGOs