Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Anoj Viswananthan: Helping Donors Choose NGOs

Anoj Viswanathan's Milaap helps donors choose the right NGOs

Published: Feb 18, 2014 06:50:03 AM IST
Updated: Feb 13, 2014 03:59:55 PM IST

Anoj Viswanathan  | 26
Co-founder & president, Milaap


Three years into his engineering course at the National University of Singapore, Viswanathan took a year-long break to join SKS Microfinance, working on finding innovative finance models for the poor. He travelled in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, meeting grassroots organisations who provided disadvantaged people access to vocational training or clean water or better sanitation.

“I found that they were severely hampered by the lack of funds and that their main hurdle was their inability to raise resources.” But he also knew that many—especially among the urban working class—wanted to help but did not know whom to give to. He spotted a huge opportunity to change the way Indians give to social causes.

In June 2010, Viswanathan and two friends, Sourabh Sharma and Mayukh Choudary, built Milaap, a platform that allows people to choose Indian NGOs (selected after due diligence) that they want to fund, or rather, give interest-free loans to. Milaap gets a 5 percent cut from NGOs that get funded. The loans can be as low as Rs 500; this, plus Milaap’s open online model, means that it can scale beyond the relatively small number of high net worth individuals NGOs usually rely on.

Says Sarath Divella, CEO of Lionbridge Technologies India, one of Milaap’s longstanding lenders, “The unique thing here is that one can choose the cause and organisation one supports.”

Milaap has raised over Rs 7.5 crore from around 10,000 lenders across the world, which has impacted 40,000 lives across 12 states, often serving people and areas ignored by traditional financing. For instance, they are responsible for the first formal financial services programme, outside of banks, in Mizoram, and have helped Devadasis in South India turn into entrepreneurs.

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(This story appears in the 21 February, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)