Blood ties: Karthik Naralasetty, saving lives by finding donors

Karthik Naralasetty's app connects blood donors with those in need

Published: Feb 19, 2015
Blood ties: Karthik Naralasetty, saving lives by finding donors

Karthik Naralasetty | 25
Founder, Socialblood
Category: Health care


Blood wasn’t always Karthik Naralasetty’s business. Six years ago, he dropped out of a computer science course at Rutgers University in the US and returned to India to start Redcode Informatics, an information technology (IT) services company in Bangalore. For two years, it followed the trajectory of most successful IT startups, but in 2011, Naralasetty, 25, read a newspaper report about a thalassemic girl and her search to find blood donors. “I felt that as an entrepreneur, I should have a solution to this problem,” he says. It was not a fleeting thought.

The businessman started reaching out to blood banks in Bangalore, but was told that though people were willing to give blood, they didn’t know how to go about it in a safe and organised way. That’s when Naralasetty got the idea to start Socialblood, a social media application that connects patients to compatible blood donors through Facebook. He started building a network of donors, hospitals and blood banks. “Initially, I didn’t shut down Redcode because I did not want to pursue Socialblood full-time. I thought of it as a side project.”

But later that year, in November 2011, Naralasetty won the Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur award for his work with Socialblood, and was invited to Tucson, Arizona where he got to meet Sean Parker (co-founder of the once-popular Napster) and Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo!, (at the time she was still with Google). “This interaction made me realise that if I pursued Socialblood as a part-time gig, I would be doing injustice to the idea and its potential impact,” he says.
 
By 2012, Naralasetty stopped taking new projects for Redcode and began devoting his time upgrading Socialblood. But to make the cause sustainable, he had to build a revenue-generating model. “I realised I couldn’t do it in India because here, most hospitals leave it to patients to find donors. In the US, blood banks help patients find donors,” he says.

Naralasetty decided to shift his base to New York City, and in a happy turn of events, Rajan Anandan, head of Google India, read about Socialblood and reached out to him. “We connected over email and Skype, and he agreed to fund my company with his partners, Ramesh Kumar Shah and Ravi Gururaj (of Harvard Business School Alumni Angels) and Karthik Reddy (co-founder of Blume Ventures). Together, they invested Rs 17 lakh in the startup.

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Socialblood is slowly expanding its reach, and has partnered with seven blood banks in the US. For a monthly fee, the company helps banks find donors. According to Naralasetty, there are 43,000 users of which 35 percent are from India. The startup now relies on a team of five in Bangalore, four employees in the US, and about half-a-dozen volunteers. “In the US, blood banks spend money to recruit donors. We are going to reduce it by a third,” he says, adding that his company is growing 15 percent month over month.

Hyderabad-based Sanjeev Chowdary Kosaraju, who used Socialblood in July 2014 when his sister met with an accident, says: “Earlier, we found donors by sharing requests on Facebook. It worked, but Socialblood is more effective because it has a list of donors along with their blood type and features such as a location finder.”

Naralasetty is now looking to raise about $7,00,000 from two investors and has recently partnered with Facebook. “We have a deal with Facebook which will help us grow our business in India, Bangladesh and Africa.”

Here is the full list of 30 Under 30 for 2015 and its methodology
 

(This story appears in the 20 February, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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