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Blog - Hope Collective - An eCommerce Platform for Merchandise Produced by NGOs and Social Enterprises | Hope Collective

Hope Collective - An eCommerce Platform for Merchandise Produced by NGOs and Social Enterprises

Posted in News By

Devakshi Nayar

3/23/2017 2:26 PM

Hope Collective is an online marketplace where each purchase pays out as hope to a social cause. The startup provides an eCommerce platform for merchandise produced by NGOs and social enterprises. It not only aids the NGOs by enabling them and reducing the dependency on charity, but it also supports and provides a voice to various social, economic or environmental cause which do not generally find place in traditional marketplace.

Shubhangini Aggarwal Interacts With Devakshi Nayar, Co-founder, Hope Collective and Spoke To Her 

How did the idea came to start?

Having a masters degree in Sustainable Development, and having spent the last three years working in the development sector, I had seen a number of good social organizations, facing problems such as paucity of funds and dependence on donations and charities. During the course of my career, I also came across organizations where I would see subtle misappropriation of funds, a practice that didn’t work well with the fundamentals and values I grew up with. It is then that I decided to help these organizations increase their visibility and create a market for their products. I became a serious advocate for profitability in the development sector and the importance of clean and positive balance sheets. I wanted to help products with causes grow to be market competitive and reduce the dependency on charity for NGOs. I finally put to use my innate entrepreneurial skills to start Hope Collective, and introduced a for-profit model for changing the way the development sector raises funds.

About Hope Collective

We started working on Hope Collective full time in December 2015, and went live with our website on February 2016. The venture was initially started by Devakshi Nayar, and was later joined by Shiva Dhawan and Joe Sebastian. Devakshi (26), the brain behind the venture, holds a bachelors in commerce from NMIMS University Mumbai and a Masters in Sustainable Development Practice from TERI University, the mix of the two making her a perfect social entrepreneur. Shiva Dhawan (23), is a graduate from IIT Delhi, is an ambitious IIT Delhi graduate who wears many hats. Apart from being one of the biggest pillars of our operational support, he has also co-founded Consulting for Social Good, a not-for-profit that provides pro-bono consulting to NGOs and Social Enterprises. Joe Sebastian (28) is the Chief Technology Officer who handles the website and online orders. He is also the co-founder of his own technology solutions agency, and has worked with multiple large clients, helping them create a digital footprint.

How does Hope Collective work?

Hope Collective is an online emporium/marketplace that finds products made by NGOs and Social Enterprises from all across India. The portal is a step towards revolutionizing the Social Development sector by decreasing dependency on charity and by promoting the concept of 'Conscious Consumption' amongst customers.

Customers tend to have pre-conceived notions that social products are either of poor quality or are heavily priced. A socially conscious citizen may want to support causes close to their heart, but are not able to without stepping out of their comfort zones.

Hope Collective helps customers understand the entire supply chain behind each product, and help them see how social organizations suffer due to lack of volumes. It is only when the customers start purchasing more would the costs be able to come down. Thus each purchase helps these organizations become more market competitive. We also make it easy for customers to enjoy supporting these “impact products” without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

Unique Key Features 

Our USP lies in the quality of products that are sold through our collective. We engage with both, NGOs and Social Enterprises. What differentiates us for our partners is how we go back to them regularly with feedback, data on what to produce and the fact that we provide them both online and offline presence. We take pride in not being handicraft-centric, and provide a platform to causes that often don’t find a home on other portals.

Challenges Faced 

I belong to a family of typically doctors, engineers and chartered accountants, and so the decision to become an entrepreneur was a big one, and having spent the past three years in Public Health Research, I myself was hesitant to take the entrepreneurial plunge.

When I thought of starting Hope Collective while I was still in my previous job, the first people I went to with the idea were my seniors and mentors at work. I explained to them why I could no longer continue to do research, and wanted to change the way the entire development sector raised funds, whether the cause was a social, environment or economic one. My bosses, to my amazement, were extremely encouraging. My mentor immediately had my work load reduced, and told me that I could work on my business plan during my entire Notice Period. During this time, they offered me support, gave me feedback on each iteration of my business plan.  

People often questioned whether I would be able to start a business on my own, but I decided that not having a co-founder should not be the reason to not start off at all. But eventually, during the course of setting up the website, I met Joe Sebastian and Shiva Dhawan, who are both now founding member of the Hope Collective family.

Once we had our website ready, we realized that without investing on digital marketing, it was very tough to get traction to the website. It is then that we started selling through offline channels and pumped money back into our website.

Differentiation Factors

Our USP lies in the quality of the products that we associate with. We use a data driven approach, where we analyze consumer trends and advise our partner organizations on what to produce more of.
From a business model perspective, Hope Collective operates on a for-profit model, where we take a small margin from each sale, making sure a major portion of the price of the product goes to the beneficiary organization. We not only restrict ourselves to e-commerce, but also sell offline and fulfill corporate orders.

Any organisation that tries to adopt an unconventional route is, more often than not, welcomed by challenges, criticism, and lack of faith. However, Hope Collective has held its ground and is driven to find solutions for the innumerable challenges faced by the development sector. We have adopted a lean model for operating and are highly motivated to encourage earning while making a difference. We have not been enamoured by big numbers of funding, and have stayed strong to creating a sustainable business model.

Clients and Future Plans

Our client range varies from socially conscious young people, to upper middle class individuals, development sector professionals themselves (since these are people who work closely with this sector) and large corporations.

Five Years from now, we want to be able to do much more for our Partner Organizations. Here are some ways through which we want to scale up our impact -

- Source products from neighboring developing countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc and sell to clients in all parts of the world.
- Brick and Mortar Store showcasing all the products by varied causes all under one roof
- Become a national database of legitimate and authentic NGOs and Social Enterprises
- Provide more services to NGOs and SEs other than just being just an e-commerce portal, eg Consultancy, Provide data to improve and channelize production
- Set up an in-house Product Photography Lab to assist NGOs and SEs photograph their products for better cataloging.

Marketing Plans 

For any organization, the best marketing is their product itself. At Hope Collective, all the products we promote are constantly evolving in terms of quality. We want to change consumer behavior by increasing awareness of ‘Conscious Consumption’ and making people understand the concept of ‘Impact Products’.

We intend to market the products by gaining recognition amongst customers as the brand to go to when they want to make conscious lifestyle changes to support a variety of causes.


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