Thursday, February 25, 2021

Before Bhumi - August 15, 2006

August 15, is an important date for India and for Bhumi. The day in 2006 was not remarkable in any manner, but it's a date we celebrate and cherish … It's the day the idea of Bhumi was born ...

We had planned to celebrate Independence Day at the Pudupettai community centre. A few days before, I was on a call with Soundarya & Jayalakshmi planning the activities. One of them involved a ball and we were wondering, what if the ball fell down from the terrace? I casually told Soundarya that she could go down to pick it up and would lose weight in the process. I realized I had said something inappropriate only when she disconnected the call. ­čś×However, within a few minutes, she called me back on her own to continue the discussion. Over the years, I have made my share of mistakes and grown from them because of people like Soundarya, who have positively influenced me.


Though I was looking forward to the event earlier, because of the events of the previous night, I had to push myself to be there on that day. We didn't take any pictures but someone clicked this one impromptu.

After the activities, we sang the national anthem with the children and wrapped up the event. I left the place deep in thought. As I drove back home in my Hero Honda bike under the hot Chennai sun, it became clear what had to be done to continue the journey ...


Every day, so many people feel pain, so many ideas are born, yet, why do only some sprout and flourish? What's the secret/x-factor? Leave a comment

#StartupStories #Bhumi #StartYourNGO

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Recco: Crowdfunding: The Story of People

Do pick up this book if you are looking to understand Crowd-funding, it's history, why it's needed, what are the various types, challenges and future predictions. It's backed by a lot of data and could be overwhelming at places for a non-serious reader.

While this book has examples of great crowdfunding campaigns, this is not a how-to book on crowdfunding. If you do not understand crowd-funding at all, you will finish this book a believer. I found the first few sections very academic, but largely the book was great to read.

The book also has a section on Non-profit fundraising which covers Bhumi's own experience shifting from smile tickets to Give fundraisers and also quotes me "Crowdfunding platforms are democratic, if an NGO has engaged and communicated sufficiently to build a base of fundraisers and donors, their size doesn't matter" 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Before Bhumi - August 14, 2006

On August 14, 2006, there was a split in the group and the Hyderabad team decided to chart their own path.

In the weeks leading up to that night, many of us in BM were surprised to know that the group in Hyderabad had registered as an NGO in the name of Bhumi. Though I didn't fully understand what led them to the decision to break away; I wanted the group to stay together and felt deceived that the name was being taken away. At that point in time, I was naïve in believing that the domain was also crucial to our further plans.

I remember a really long late-night conference call and the disappointing realization that the Hyderabad group had decided to move on and the rest of us were powerless to change things now. 

The group in Hyderabad was led by someone who inspired his team to do more than any of the other chapters had managed to until then. They continued to do inspiring work for several years and later we also collaborated with them. Earlier that day he had asked me if they could use one of the logos we had shortlisted and I readily agreed. This would add to the brand confusion that continued for several years and I have at times regretted that I agreed.

A few years back they decided to cease operations and I ended up acquiring the expired domain. I often share this Tamil adage with this example "Poruthaar Bhumi Alvar" translates to "The one who waits with patience, will rule the world (Bhumi)"

Have you gotten something you wanted after years of patient waiting? Leave a comment.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Before Bhumi - The Micro Finance Idea

Our meeting used to be a melting pot of ideas, many ideas were proposed, while some proposed ideas and disappeared, some stayed back to execute them.

One of the ideas that would shape the course of the organisation came from a volunteer who was older than all of us…

Anurag Shrivatsava used to then work at a large Multi-National Bank in Chennai and used to frequent our meetings. I first learnt about micro-finance from him. His idea was to identify tribal people in forests and needy people in rural areas and give them small loans to develop trades. We discussed the ideas over a few meets when he suggested we visit the department of Forests and explore the idea further.

We visited the TN Forest Department office at Panagal Building, Saidapet, Chennai where after a long wait we got to meet one of the senior officials. I don't remember him heeding our idea so much. What's etched in my memory is his outright refusal to even discuss with a group that was not a 'registered NGO'.

We tried convincing we were a large group, IIT, youth etc. but he wasn't impressed and told us to come back after we were registered

This was my first exposure to the bureaucracy as a part of Bhumi and I returned dejected

Have you had an experience when someone flatly refused to take you seriously? Leave a comment.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Before Bhumi - A Self-sustainable practice and who I learnt it from

While the weekly classes continued, we continued to meet every month. Initially, our meetings used to be either the Gandhi Mandapam park or on the lawn at the entrance of IIT Madras. This was while Manish, Gyan and others used to host the meetings


As more volunteers who were not from IIT joined us, we started meeting primarily at the Gandhi Mandapam park, once in a while at the Guindy Children's park and stopped having meetings at IIT. While at the Children's park we had stone benches to sit and was suitable for small groups, we used to sit on the floor in a large circle on the lawns of Gandhi Mandapam park.


Meetings would usually be national level updates about BM, some initiatives a few of us were doing. We would then review the projects and discuss any new ideas. One practice which helped us then was every volunteer who was a student contributing Rs.1/day i.e. Rs.30-50 per month and every working professional contributing Rs.5/day i.e. Rs.150 per month. We followed this diligently, during those times it was strongly ingrained culturally. Volunteers who sometimes missed meetings would always pay in for the missed months. This culture helped us be largely self-sustained financially until 2009.


I'm unsure if this was a BM wide process, but I learnt this from Gyan. What I learnt from him, I still believe. You do the work, the money will automatically follow.


Do you agree?


#StartupStories #Bhumi #StartYourNGO