The Better India to bring about large-scale and sustainable change
Please introduce yourself and your startup The Better India to our readers!
We are Dhimant and Anuradha Parekh. We are both graduates from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and have been married for 11 years. The Better India is an impact company that started in 2008. As the name suggests, we are seeking to create a better India, and that means involving everyone to create large-scale positive social impact. The way we do that is we work as an amplifier of impact. On the one hand, we do a large amount of content on all the good things happening in the country which are often skipped by the mainstream media.
This demonstrates to our audience that there is a change happening and inspires them to be a part of it. On the other hand, we are directly working with small businesses, village artisans, farmer self-help-groups, and environmental entrepreneurs to collate a marketplace of eco-friendly and socially impactful products. Each of the products and vendors we curate has a story of making a positive impact on the environment and one’s community.
How did you get the idea to The Better India?
The Better India, or TBI for short, really came about as a response to the negative portrayal of the country in mainstream media. It just left us so bothered and depressed, and we felt that not enough limelight was being given to the good happening in the country. So we set out to do it ourselves. Now, the response was something we never expected. After reading these stories, people wanted to contribute in some way. It seems that people want to do good, but they often don’t know how or are just wrestled into apathy by the apparently discouraging situation. But as soon as they get some direction our outlet for their desire to do good, they act on it.
This made us realize that we are not just a storytelling platform, we are really an impact platform! Through the stories we were telling, we realized there was a large sector of unserved people who are making products that could potentially save the world by impacting the environment and the communities making the product. This led to the birth of the e-commerce wing of our company.
How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
It was very difficult! We were alone in our determination to change the narrative about our country that was being so badly represented in the media of the time. Everyone we spoke to told us that no one would care about what we were trying to do. It sounds like the beginning of so many stories of big things. Needless to say, we stuck to our guns. In the beginning, only Anuradha was working on collecting “positive stories” that we collected on a simple blog site.
Very slowly, people started to pay attention and impact started to be created. Dhimant eventually joined the initiative full time. In those early days we had to do everything. Imagine—2 engineers and management graduates who had no idea about media were running a blog! We had to write, edit, source stories, post on social media—everything! We experimented with various content formats, we were experimenting with social media in various ways, we just didn’t have any outside expertise. Dhimant even designed the logo himself.
Slowly, the team grew. We got some freelancers on board, we got a sales team in place to bring in revenues, and we got a round of seed funding in 2015. That really allowed us to expand the team and bring it to the stage it’s at today. A further much larger round of funding in 2018 allowed us to build a massive e-commerce team to serve the many impactful merchants we are working with.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is anyone who wants to make positive impact! In this way we cut across all demographics and cohorts. That really sets us apart. Obviously we are based in India, so our audience is largely Indian, but about 30% of our visitors are Indians in other countries, mostly the USA, Canada, and the UK.
We don’t have a target age group. And funnily enough, our gender ration is split just about down the middle. We are read by a wide variety of readers from Indian politics, media, and entertainment (including major Bollywood stars like Dia Mirza and Shah Rukh Khan!).
Although our audience has largely been English speaking from the metropolitan cities, we have begun branches in Hindi (national language) and Malayalam (a regional language), and they are getting very good traction.
What is the USP of your startup?
At TBI, we are “Turning Inspiration Into Impact.” The inspiration is out there, in the form of people going above and beyond the call of duty to do something for society. It is in the innovative people who are coming up with solutions to some of our most pressing problems. And most important is the inspiration that lies latent within every citizen, waiting to come to light. We are the one who channelizes that inspiration and gives it direction. Whether it is by highlighting the excellent work of others and getting people involved, or giving people the tools to contribute directly, we want to turn that inspiration into actual impact that everyone will benefit from.
Can you describe a typical workday of you?
A typical workday for us involves immense multi-tasking and looking into the various aspects of the company. These largely fall into the two main categories of content and commerce. On the content front, we ensure that the editorial team is functioning effectively, that the story selection criteria are not getting diluted anywhere, that all important metrics are improving, that media sales is growing, and the focus on impact is not compromised along the way. Since e-commerce is a relatively new part of the company, there is a lot more focus on setting processes, recruiting, marketing, new customer acquisition, partner (seller) acquisition, especially with our rural partner outreach program. Since we are trying to bring about a change in consumer behaviour, a lot of our efforts revolve around creating more awareness about the impact of the products we bring to our platform.
Where do you see yourself and your startup The Better India in five years?
We have very high ambitions for ourselves as a team, and for each of us here as individuals. In five years, we want to have curated 100 000 merchants, and have made them hundreds of thousands of rupees in revenue. All the revenue we make for our merchants will go into growing their businesses, sending their children to school, and raising the condition of their entire community by creating employment opportunities. We want to create jobs for hundreds of villagers and farmers. We want to bring enough income to thousands of people so that they become completely self-reliant.
But that’s not all. TBI is part of a movement to change society for the better. Each purchase of one of these products is a step in that direction, because it is supporting the movement of upcycling, using sustainable materials, and creating a sustainable mindset. We would like to see the conversation of sustainable living really entering the mainstream, being fuelled by a plethora of sustainable products, and TBI leading the conversation.
What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
We would advise start-up founders to always be in an experimental mode and be open to exploring new opportunities. While something you are currently doing is working very well, it is always a good idea to think of innovative business ideas that might help you chart new courses or tap into new markets. We would also advise other founders to spend a considerable time in their early start up career to focus on the talent you are hiring, because that can potentially make or break the company. The third important to remember is that no matter what the pressures you are facing, staying true to your vision and ethos is crucial in building a solid enterprise, set for the marathon, not just a sprint.
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Thank you Dhimant and Anuradha Parekh for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.