myShare – Innovation for a Social Cause
MyShare is a wonderful initiative that allows you to make a donation every time you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Hari Vedadri, who is one of those responsible for taking myShare from a concept to reality, shares his experience of the past few months.
I have been working in IT for many years, for large companies as well as start-ups. During a discussion with like-minded friends about bringing out a loyalty card that would unify the many existing loyalty programs into a single card, the idea shifted to using a loyalty card to raise funds for charities. My mind went immediately to Isha, because for the large meditator base that we have, who may have the heart but may not have the means to support Isha with larger donations, this is a great opportunity to contribute while doing their routine shopping.
We discussed our proposal with the ashram, and after the evaluation process, Sadhguru gave his blessings on 23 September 2012, his enlightenment anniversary. For me, this was a great moment, and I decided that I will never give up, no matter what the challenges, because this project has the potential to change the way philanthropy is done. Less than 6% of people in India gave money to charity in 2013, while Indian consumers spent close to 35,747 billion rupees on shopping. This project has the potential to drastically increase the donor base and help people contribute to the social sector on a regular basis just through their daily purchases. In addition, members can benefit from income tax deduction under section 80G for their contributions.
We pooled money from our savings and from friends and launched myShare on Mahashivarathri 2013 at Isha. Since this is a very novel concept, we had to put in a lot of time and effort to introduce it to the different stakeholders, especially the retailers. We soldiered on and we now have close to 350 retailers covering 500 outlets. And Isha helped us to reach out to meditators who were more than happy to be part of the program. The number of members from Isha is increasing – close to 20,000 are participating as of now.
There is still a lot more potential. While until 2013, the online market accounted for just 10 % of the retail sale in India, the year 2014 saw a paradigm shift to and large-scale acceptance of online shopping. To take advantage of this development, we started affiliating myShare to online retailers. Currently, we have close to 40 online retailers as part of our network, including India’s largest ones such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Jabong etc.
Beyond that, we have been able to forge links with a number of corporate houses, who are happy to spread the concept amongst their employees, and also explore the possibility of gifting memberships to their customers, vendors, and others in their sphere. Some of the corporate entities that already promote myShare or have expressed interest in doing so are Sutherland, TicketGoose, TCS, Apollo Hospitals, HCL and CGI. We are seeking cooperation with other providers and retailers who have loyalty points in order to establish the optional provision for members to donate their points through myShare.
Many Isha members regularly make it a point to do their shopping – whether it is for groceries, medicines, or anything else – using myShare to be able to contribute to Isha. Their commitment to the cause and willingness to help has been truly heartwarming. Some literally go out of their way to buy from those retailers that support myShare. As a way to thank them and fuel their motivation, we created an Augmented Reality of the Dhyanalinga on Android. When you download the myShare Dhyanalinga App from the Google Play Store and point it at the Isha myShare card, a three-dimensional image of the Dhyanalinga will spring out of the card with the Nirvana Shatakam playing in the audio.
In the past six months, memberships have grown exponentially, just by the power of the concept. In order to increase the reach and impact of myShare, we are currently establishing contacts with social impact investors to invest in this project so that we can step up our marketing and sales efforts, reach out to more people and tie up with more retailers and shopping hubs in order to expand our network.
From the very first discussion about the project, Isha never once asked me how many donations they could hope to raise through this platform. The response was typical for Isha: “Let us work on the process sincerely and see what comes out of it.” This is what we have been doing at myShare for the past 18 months, and we will not stop until we make it a huge success.
Awards and Recognitions for myShare
Most Talented Marketing Professional 2014 – These awards are presented by the World Marketing Congress and endorsed by CMO Asia and Asian Confederation of Business. The awards seek to identify and recognize those companies and individuals who have had a positive impact on our environment and society as well as their business.
myShare has been shortlisted for round two of the TOI Social Impact Awards, as one in 75 out of 1100 applications. myShare will be competing with large corporations in our category. After a jury review, the awards will be finalized in January.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to support Isha’s social projects through myShare, register and select Isha Foundation’s projects as the beneficiary. Choose from over 350 retailers, including Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra, Jabong, Homeshop18 and many more, use your myShare card and support Isha without spending an extra rupee.