'It just takes Re 1 to make a difference in someone's life'

Even the lesser fortunate have aspirations and should be given a chance to enjoy the goodies, says Farzana Cama Balpande, Head of BookASmile, a charitable initiative run by BookMyShow

Based in Delhi, I track developments both in corporate and economy sectors. In a career spanning since 2003, I track developments pertaining to M&A, PE/VC, startups and healthcare. Prior to joining Forbes, I have had stints with The Economic Times, Businessworld, India Today and Indian Express. I am also a guest faculty at The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (Dhenkenal) where I deliver part-time lectures to young aspiring journalists and teach them the practical side of reporting and editing. And when not working, I love to travel and spend time with my fawn Labrador.

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Image: Abd. Halim Hadi / Shutterstock.com (For illustrative purposes only)

Aspiration should not be restricted to the affluent section of the society alone. Even the lesser fortunate have aspirations and should be given a chance to enjoy the goodies, says Farzana Cama Balpande, Head of BookASmile, a charitable initiative run by BookMyShow, that provides opportunities to the underprivileged to experience a world of entertainment, music, theatre, arts, sports and culture.

“Since there are NGOs galore that work towards critical areas such as health, nutrition and education, we thought of bringing art, culture, sports to the under privileged,” she told Forbes India. Here are the edited excerpts.

Could you throw some light on the kind of work BookASmile has done since its inception in November 2014? How is it different from other non-profit organizations that run in the country?

BookASmile, the social initiative of BookMyShow, was conceptualised a few years ago. We wanted to do something distinctive in the charity space by lending our arm to an area where we already have a strong foothold. We wanted to provide opportunities to those from the disadvantaged sections of society to experience a world of entertainment, music, theatre, arts, sports and culture - things that you and I usually take for granted. This stemmed from the observation that there are already plenty of organisations that are working towards other critical areas such as health, nutrition and education but we felt that entertainment and culture were something as important and but their importance is largely undermined. We through BookASmile connect with kids, senior citizens, physically/mentally challenged individuals or even the armed forces. We actively work with over 100 NGOs across India so far.

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What are your expansion plans going forward?  Any kind of initiative you are planning to undertake apart from connecting culture, art, culture, sports to the under privileged?

We are also exploring other avenues but core of purpose is to work within the entertainment space. Take for instance some of the work we have done so far. We have done mega movie screenings for thousands of children and even adults with special needs. This apart, we have also organised special movie screenings at various old age homes. We try and make these screenings as memorable as possible. For example, we invited Salman Khan for the screening of Sultan in Mumbai. We at BookASmile support many literary, theatre and musical concerts. To give you a recent example, we supported Kathakar, an international storytellers’ festival, where we invited 20 kids from a Delhi based NGO to perform the opening act of The Global Citizen Festival India 2016. We also host sporting events and matches and curate celebrations of special days like Children’s day, World Smile Day, Independence Day, among others. We cater to children who are battling cancer or are mentally challenged children. We also fund sports programs and training camps for girls/para sportsmen/children from disadvantaged backgrounds on a national and International level.

Do you have any plans to introduce formal education to the under privileged children in the country?

Education is the information we remember after we forget what we learnt in school. It must not only be the transmission of information but also a provider of alternative views. We strongly advocate alternative education molds that impact lives not only of children, but people of all levels. India is extremely diverse - we want to reach out pan India. We have already made inroads into places like Balmer in Rajasthan, Leh, Jammu and Ranchi and want to continue treading on this path.

Since it’s a charitable initiative run by BookMyShow, how does the donation work?

BookASmile believes in the “Power of One” - it just takes Re 1 to make a difference in someone’s life.  The users of BookMyShow across 400 cities have been actively contributing, anywhere from Re 1 to Rs 5 to BookASmile every time they transact on the platform. Alternately, if anyone wants to donate larger amounts, they can always visit our website for details. To increase the BookASmile corpus, we have also begun to bring about different strategic changes to fundraising which has helped us scale vertically as well.

Could you throw some light on philanthropic work in India? A lot of for-profit organisations and impact funds have also come up in this area? How do you create your own niche in this sphere?

For many years now, there are plenty of individuals, trusts and organisations in India that are doing fantastic philanthropic work. They have been largely successful and continue to positively affect thousands of lives. Over the years, many more people have got sensitised towards the issues that hamper the growth of our country and have come forward to help. Impact funds and for-profit organizations are thereby an extension of philanthropy in a way.

Of late, a lot of NGOs have come under government scrutiny. What is your view on the same and could you throw some light on the overall sector?

Generosity is an attitude that should feel right and be true for all the right reasons. It is important to continue doing exemplary work in the space that you operate in while remaining absolutely transparent. Having said that, there are always a few bad eggs in a basket and while most NGOs continue to bring about a positive change, there are probably a few who are using the crisis as an opportunity. The work we do at BookASmile is completely online and therefore totally transparent and it does not come under CSR activities.

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