“My first start up never went beyond the drawing board as I didn’t know where to start without money in the bank,” says Ishita Anand. She then started BitGiving, which is a platform where people can not only raise funds online, but also build an engaging community that echoes with their idea. Ishita saw the necessity of a crowd-funding platform which could raise investment for people’s ideas in the Indian market.

Ishita Anand of BitGiving is crowdsourcing for campaigns & communities

The idea of BitGiving resonates with the idea of compassion and the belief in someone else’s dream.  “I think every startup is built over the need to make something better. For me it was the realisation that brilliant initiatives and start ups weren’t being able to go to the next step due to lack of funds. We started out with the belief that if the story of these change-makers went out, the crowd would back them or not. Stories like the Ice Hockey team or Friendicoes or even Anusheela’s dream of bringing her light bags to life are examples of how the stories on BitGiving mobilized the crowd to make their dreams come true,” adds Ishita about the things that triggered her to start BitGiving.

BitGiving helped the Indian Ice Hockey team to participate in a tournament in Kuwait through crowd-funding

Ishita’s stint with entrepreneurship goes as long back as her graduation days at Lady Shri Ram College of Delhi University around 2008. She started out as a graphic designer and kept working in that direction until July 2013. That is when, Ishita realised that what actually is an untapped market is a crowd-sourcing place could offer India. And in December 2013 was born BitGiving.

Ishita Anand, Founder at BitGiving
Ishita Anand at Lean In Conference

Share with our audience on how BitGiving works and is there a constant verification on how the funds are used?

It’s simple, if you have an initiative or a product that you need funds for, you can straight away build your campaign on the website and submit it for approval to our team. Then the BitGiving team takes over, a campaign buddy is assigned to you who help you campaign and raise funds for the project. The basic idea behind BitGiving is to create a campaign page where people can not only contribute to the project (and get rewards in some cases) but can also engage and take the action in a collaborative way.

At Bitgiving, every campaign goes through a diligent check before its gets published on the platform. Every campaign has to match the set criteria and the campaigns which do not provide sufficient information are asked for better clarity before their campaign can go live. There is a KYC process for the campaigners as well.

Once the campaign is over, the campaigner can keep posting updates on their campaign page and the campaign page is kept open for engagement in the event any of the contributors has any questions.

“Crowd-funding for entrepreneurial ideas is something that is just waiting to go big in India”

But was it easy for Ishita to explain her concept to the general public who knew little about this concept? Because let’s face it- it is India’s first notion, while being very common in developed countries like US and European countries.

“When we started out, Crowdfunding was in a very nascent stage in India. Crowdfunding was a little known term. I remember explaining the concept numerous times and trying to create analogies for the lack of use cases in the Indian context. While it was tedious, it was exhilarating. We were building an ecosystem which didn’t exist and we knew it was going to be a crazy ride.

Having said that, the concept picked up phenomenally and we saw all kinds of campaigns raise funds through us.

The last one year in particular has been a big win for us. Every campaign, every story on BitGiving was special and I was fortunate enough to see the impact we made up close. When the Ice Hockey team ended up raising the funds it needed to represent our country in Kuwait, I remember sitting alone, reading the comments on the campaign page and smiling to myself. We had made more than 400 people relate to a story and take action and each one of them had shared a small story of their own. It was the first time I realised the power what we had put together.”

Just recently BitGiving has raised funds from angel investors, tell us was it a challenge for woman to raise funds? How has been your experience?

Raising funds is always challenging – especially when you’re trying to navigate through the process for the first time. I was lucky to have great mentors to help me through it.

I don’t think I faced any challenges particularly because I am a woman. It was more personal than anything else. The fundraising process makes you question a lot of things and I think it takes a bigger toll on women because we probably tend to double-check ourselves and question our merit a little more than men.

 So BitGiving raises funds for various categories like entrepreneurial ideas, social issues, and creative minds. Which one is the closest to your heart and why?

Every campaign on BitGiving is special to me – it’s a story coming to life.

But considering a major motivation behind BitGiving was not being able to raise funds for my first idea, I feel that crowd-funding for entrepreneurial ideas is something that is just waiting to go big in India. A lot of entrepreneurs are now realising how crowd-funding not only helps them raise funds but is also a great way to get a proof of concept and it’s just getting started.

Ishita Anand at Lean In
Ishita Anand with Sheryl Sandberg

We have some amazing ongoing entrepreneurial campaigns on the platform like Project DEFY, where Abhijit is raising funds to redefine education and bring a new generation of schools without teachers. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

Talking about women entering entrepreneurship, she thinks that crowd-funding gives women amazing opportunities to raise funds for their ideas. Giving few examples, Ishita further spoke about the popular Stop Acid Attack started by Laxmi. Stop Acid Attack materialised through Bitgiving. Also, “Anusheela’s campaign to raise funds for her Solar-powered Light bags – one of our first entrepreneurial campaigns on BitGiving, which came from a fellow woman entrepreneur.”

Ishita definition of entrepreneurship comes from its thrills and challenges which she says she won’t trade for anything. She signs off by saying entrepreneurship is empowering in its essence.

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