According to data provided by the National Organ and Tissue Transplantation Organisation (NOTTO), the number of heart transplants being performed in India saw a 10 time increase in 2018. The number of heart transplantations across India in between 2016 and 2018 was nearly 300 then, compared to the 350 transplants between 1995 and 2015. Incidentally, 2016 was also the year when Milaap, India’s pioneering platform for individual to individual giving saw a 5x increase in medical fundraisers.
When we started the platform back in 2010, it was being widely used by passionate individuals to raise funds for a wide variety of causes. Common themes included education, rural development and animal welfare. In the midst of all this, we saw a tale that touched our lives and changed it forever. It was at the very end of 2015 when some youngsters approached us to raise funds for their friend Abhishek who needed a heart transplant.
Abhishek Dalvi, a Mumbaikar, had only 15% of his heart functioning and was rapidly inching towards death. The only hopeful solution was a heart transplant, still uncommon at the time, and quite expensive (costing a whopping Rs. 30 Lakh) due to the nature of the procedure. While we watched, awestruck, how this group mobilized all their contacts to collect the huge amount within two weeks, the success of this particular transplant, and the immediate spike in medical fundraisers made us realize a few things.
For one, the evolution of crowdfunding was going to be different from what we had envisioned it to be. Backed by a digital boom and the rise of online payments, the Indian market was quickly resorting to this fast and transparent technique to fund personal emergencies more than social issues. Even donors were responding faster and better when it came to helping fund an urgent, life-saving treatment. The biggest of all realizations was however, that we, as a platform were now looking at an entirely different role. We were not only a custodian of funds, but we now also stood between life and death for people. We had to customize our offerings to suit the growing needs of a crowd that needed us in a more sensitive and extremely difficult situation.
It was also around this time that the National Health Accounts, Min. of Health and Family Welfare declared that of the $90 billion spent by Indians on healthcare expenses every year, out of pocket expenses amounted to $60 billion. It was clear that there was a growing need for help from an extended network of friends and family once trapped in a medical emergency. Since healthcare emergencies are sensitive times, it also became important to safeguard the kindness of donors who could now see such fundraisers everywhere on social media.
We revamped our processes of verification, fund disbursal and reworked our features that enabled people to share the fundraiser in the right circles to make the process completely hassle-free and simple for our campaign organizers. People could now share any fundraiser with the hundreds and thousands on their social media pages in one click and raise funds transparently with a live public update on the supporters and amount collected so far.
At the same time, we also had a completely new responsibility towards our donors now. We worked to collaborate with hospitals to hasten the process of getting documents, cost estimates, patient details and even medical expense records to make the process more transparent. donors. We made updates a mandate, especially at the time of fund withdrawal, and added buttons so that people could contact the organizer directly, request an update or even report a fundraiser. Needless to say, we also integrated all available payment modes to make the process more and more seamless, and extended our support team’s service to over 15 hours a day.
The digital crowdfunding space is evolving rapidly today, and people are now using it for a wide array of causes from disaster relief to helping children access better education, sports training or even to help a certain marginalized community wade through a social problem. Yet, about 80% of the money raised through the platform is to fund medical emergencies or life saving treatments like organ transplants, cancer-care and even rare diseases.
On awareness days, we mostly speak of maintaining good health and the prevention of diseases. While I hope everyone is doing their best to secure the heart health of yourself and your loved ones, I would like to also tell those in the midst of an unfortunate cardiac emergency that they are not alone. Even in these tough times, your friends are willing to stand by you. All you need to do is ask for help.
The author is CEO and co-founder, Milaap
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