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We have seen four times growth in fundraiser campaigns during the lockdown: Varun Sheth

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With increasing internet penetration and the rise of online payments, the crowdfunding market in India is witnessing considerable growth. Varun Sheth, CEO and Co-founder Ketto.org explains how the crowdfunding platform has helped needy people during COVID-19. In an email interaction with Usha Sharma, he also mentioned that the number of donors returning back to the Ketto platform has increased significantly against the previous year

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted medical crowdfunding platforms?
The unfortunate event of the COVID 19 pandemic has left millions of people from the underprivileged communities vulnerable. Not only are they easily susceptible to the deadly virus, but they have been hugely affected economically. In the past five months, Ketto has not only doubled up on our efforts to cater to the medical needs, but has also served the underprivileged communities with food and essentials items.

We have seen four times growth in fundraiser campaigns during the lockdown. Our team has worked round the clock to support the campaigners and the cause. We have also hired nearly 25 people in the last three months in various departments to enable our campaigners an uninterrupted customer support. We have hosted over 2500 medical campaigns on the Ketto platform during the pandemic and raised over Rs 20 crore to support over 1000+ health and frontline workers with PPE kits and essential medical supplies.

What are the key initiatives initiated since the start of the pandemic? How much funds has the platform raised, how many patients benefited?

Ketto has proudly hosted over 30,000+ campaigns in the last five months from which 30 per cent were COVID-19 campaigns. We hosted over 11000 fundraisers and raised over Rs 115 crore during the pandemic, helping and supporting more than 10 million people in various capacities.

In March, we created a micro site for our initiative – ‘Let’s Fight Coronavirus Together’ in which we waived off our platform fees for the campaigns centered on fighting the pandemic. The initiative not only concentrated on helping daily wage and migrant workers with essentials and community kitchens, but also supported underprivileged communities such as manual scavengers, transgenders, rag-pickers, rickshaw pullers, tribals, street vendors, sex workers and farm labourers.

How is medical crowdfunding bridging the affordability gap? And what are the challenges?
With around 80 per cent of the population without any form of health insurance, and 63 per cent of all medical emergency costs being out-of-pocket expenses, most families exhaust their entire savings and additionally borrow money at high interest rates to finance their medical costs. This alone drives millions of families into the depths of poverty every year. In recent years, medical crowdfunding has played an instrumental part for such families, enabling them to afford quality medical care for their loved ones.  We are constantly endeavouring towards bridging the affordability gap and making quality healthcare accessible to all. Ketto has hosted over 20,000+ campaigns based on facilitating medical needs and raised Rs 200+ crores from 10 lakh+ generous donors in the past year. These campaigns have enabled over 15,000 transplants and critical surgeries.

When Ketto was started back in 2012, it was difficult to garner people’s trust in online transactions. But now, after digitalisation, people do not hesitate for online transactions. It is truly captivating to witness how people from different walks of life unite together for a common good and help a complete stranger with the financial aid required. Since our inception, we have hosted over two lakh campaigns on our platform and raised more than approximately Rs 1100 crores.

What are the verifications the platform carries out, at both the patient as well as the hospital level, before releasing funds?
We believe in complete transparency and follow a stringent verification process. All the campaigns on the platform are authenticated through verified legal identification and medical documents. Every campaigner is required to upload their original medical reports provided by the hospital with detailed information and the estimated cost of treatment. This is the most guaranteed way to establish the credibility of the campaigns.

In addition, the money raised through the campaigns is not transferred to the beneficiary directly but to the hospital to ensure the funds are used for the right cause. The donors are regularly updated and informed of the status of the campaigns and funds remitted to the hospital. This ensures transparency at all levels and also helps in increasing donor confidence. The number of donors returning back to the Ketto platform has increased to 70 per cent as compared to 30 per cent in the previous year.

How do you handle situations when funds allocated to a patient cannot unfortunately be used?

This question reminds me of Nitesh, a bright 28-year old alumnus of IIT-Kanpur and IIM-Calcutta who was battling with final stage metastasised cancer. In 2016, Nitesh was diagnosed with Stage III cancer, and his scan reports showed a development of 12 tumours in his bilateral lungs, pelvis, and abdomen.
While doctors in India have showed less hope of recovery, Nitesh was advised clinical trial as alternative treatment overseas. Ketto helped Nitesh host a campaign for his treatment in the US and raised over Rs 1.30 crore to facilitate the same. While Nitesh did go through the clinical in the US, unfortunately, due to the seriousness and complications we lost a brave young soul to cancer that day.

Which are the medical conditions most in need of crowdfunding campaigns?

According to the study, 2.4 million Indians die of treatable conditions annually. The lack of access and affordable healthcare driving people in the unfortunate situations. Medical emergencies like accident and trauma, organ transplants, cancer, ICU and Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) need immediate medical attention and cost of care is considerably high in private hospitals. Ketto’s medical crowdfunding is an attempt to bridge the affordability gap and make quality healthcare accessible to all.

How successful is the crowdfunding model in India against western countries? And what’s all growth opportunities you see in this segment?

With the global crowdfunding market estimated to reach $ 28.8 billion by 2025, and Asia being the key growth driver, there is a huge potential for crowdfunding in India. With increasing internet penetration and rise of online payments, the crowdfunding market is witnessing major growth in the country.
Today, we see that there is an increased awareness around crowdfunding, compared to what it was a decade ago. Earlier, it was quite difficult to garner people’s trust in online medical crowdfunding campaigns. However, with constant awareness campaigns, successful patient stories and total transparency in funding – we have managed to build a trusted brand image over the years.

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