For a better India

Debarati Palit Singh
Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Rohan Bhansali, founder, 1SmallStep, a social organisation, says that people are just waiting for the right opportunity to help others

If you really want to be selfish, be selfless’. This belief motivated Rohan Bhansali, an investment banker-turned-entrepreneur, and co-founder, Gozoop (one of India’s largest independent digital marketing company) to launch 1SmallStep. This social organisation partners with non profits and other social organisations for research, identification and execution of high impact social projects. The group is currently working across education, health and nutrition.

Their campaign #GetOnTheBus was adjudged the Best Social Cause Campaign 2017 at the third edition of Lighthouse Insights (LI) Digital Campaign Awards. However, Bhansali says that winning an award has never been 1SmallStep’s goal. Here, he gives us a peek into his initiative and their aim.    

What prompted you to start the initiative #1SmallStep?
The foundation of 1SmallStep goes back to a chance meeting with Nipun Mehta, founder, Service Space and Karma Kitchen. That brief exchange with him, moved something inside me. His thoughts on generosity gave me a sense of purpose. One line he said still resonates as strongly with me as it did then, “If you really want to be selfish, be selfless”. That is so powerful.

1SmallStep was founded with the purpose of “enabling the inherent goodness in people”. By nature, all of us want to do good but in most cases we don’t know where to go and how to go about it. What we do at 1SmallStep is actually very simple. We just provide opportunities to people, to do the good they anyways want to do. We do this by providing strongly researched, high impact social projects, executed with transparency.
How do you choose the causes or areas to work on and how does each campaign work?
1SmallStep partners with non-profits and other social organisations to help them achieve their social objectives. There are many non-profit organisations in India and I believe we can maximise impact if we help them with areas where we can partner through our strengths of research, strategy, marketing and fundraising. However, one underlying theme in project selection is that the impact has to be sustainable in the long run and as a result, a lot of our projects are to do with children.
What kind of research is needed to launch a campaign?
In 2015, I was fortunate to attend the Global Social Business Summit in Berlin. It was organised by Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank. I had read his book Banker to The Poor and was fascinated by the concept of a social enterprise. One particular aspect of any social enterprise is the importance of bringing in business-like professionalism in every philanthropic endeavour. Doing good has to be efficient, effective and sustainable. That’s exactly what we try to do at 1SmallStep, we use our heads to drive the pursuits of the heart. Each of our projects start with research. Through research, we identify the specific cause, need analysis and the potential of social impact. For example, for the GetOnTheBus campaign with Shree Raj Education Centre, we discovered through multiple conversations with the school principal, trustees and parents of Raigad district that just one school bus could lead to 120 children and 10 villages becoming fully literate.

Similarly on our Child Cancer project, we had multiple discussions with paediatric divisions of government hospitals as well as parents. We discovered that parents getting their child treated for cancer at government hospitals would cut corners on items that they thought were non-critical. The children have low immunity as a derivative of the multiple chemotherapies and exposure to waterborne diseases could severely complicate their treatment. We realised that parents would compromise on the quality of raincoat to cut costs. A good raincoat could sometimes be the difference between life and death. And hence, we got involved with the project.

What has been the biggest challenge while sustaining the campaigns and do people do their own bit for such social initiatives?
There is no big challenge as such. It’s so easy and natural to do something good. Organisations that we reach out to to partner with are sometimes skeptical about us because we are so new and green. But we make it our responsibility to establish our genuineness and also our capabilities. I have constantly been surprised by the generosity that lies in the hearts of people, just waiting to be tapped. I am telling you — people are just waiting for the right opportunities to help. There is so much good being done through crowdfunding portals such as Milaap. You have so many people participating in so many amazing projects.
Your campaign #GetOnTheBus was awarded the best social campaign in 2017. How much do awards matter to you?
Our real award was the fact that children of 10 villages in Raigad district gained access to English education as a result of the campaign. It’s always good to be recognised for intelligent execution but as far as 1SmallStep is concerned winning an award is never the goal.

What are some of the other causes that you plan to work on in the near future?
All our efforts are currently focused on our next cause — 1SmallStepForCancer. Research highlights that in developed countries 8 out of 10 children survive cancer while in India 7 out of 10 children actually die of cancer. This is a huge gap and unacceptable, that too when we have some of the best hospitals in the world for cancer treatment. Through this campaign our goal is to increase survival rates of paediatric cancer in India. Working towards this, we will be launching 1SmallStepForCancer in September.

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