The year 2020 made us see everything, from natural calamities to a global pandemic! The entire world was stuck in their homes, looking at their television or mobile screens for updates about how the virus was turning out, looking at the numbers of infected, numbers of lost jobs and all things that make our hearts ache.
Still, like always we at The Better India hoped to provide our readers with a little solace by bringing to you positive stories of courage, determination and strength shown by people across the country!
Amongst the pandemic’s uncertainty, we tried to show love still exists, which sometimes took the form of a rural woman stitching masks for free, to an auto driver spending his wedding savings to cook food for stranded workers in his city!
And what was the common thread between all of these heroes? You, our readers. Without your help, these ideas would have been small scale, or may even have never gotten off the ground.
So at the end of 2020, the year which memes say ‘could not have been worse!’, we are here to tell you how you made India a better place.
(Since most of us spent our lockdown watching and re-watching some of our favourite TV series, here is our list of impact, F.R.I.E.N.D.S style!)
1. The one where you helped fulfil dreams of 32 children.
In December 2019, we at The Better India had made a New Year’s Resolution — that in 2020, and in the years to follow, we will work with our readers and help sponsor the education of children from low-income backgrounds in Bengaluru.
Sticking to that resolution, we launched the #ProjectDreamSchool, by getting together with Dream School Foundation to sponsor 32 children studying in government, semi government-aided and private schools.
These were students from low-income backgrounds in Bengaluru who had finished their higher primary schooling from government schools in the city but are at risk of dropping out because of their difficult financial situations.
With your support, The Better India raised a sum of Rs 5 lakh to ensure that these children receive the holistic education they deserve.
In our another campaign ‘Yuvagiri’ launched on Youth Day, we reached out to our readers with an appeal to raise funds to support the educational expense of Asha, an underprivileged kid who had expressed her desire to study at an English medium school. Not failing to surprise us, our readers sent us Asha’s school fee for an entire year and made her dream come true!
Moving ahead, in March, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, we decided to launch another campaign named ‘E-Stree’, where you helped us provide laptops to 4 girls from a rural area to participate in the World Robotics Lego League competition online. These girls are now also teaching robotics to other girls in their villages, with the help of the laptops you made us gift them!
2. The one where you helped us feed thousands daily
With the country under a strict lockdown to combat the COVID-19 impact, lakhs of migrant labourers, daily wage earners and the homeless were going without food, or shelter, for days.
In these difficult times, India witnessed the inspiring work of many changemakers who were putting their own lives at stake, to provide food, ration, money, shelter and support to those in need. Among them were many civil service officers who are pushing themselves to the utmost to help the underprivileged. From Maharashtra to Meghalaya, these officers worked relentlessly to provide ration kits to daily wage earners, provide shelter for stranded migrant workers, spread awareness about COVID-19 in their districts, and so on much more.
The Better India’s #BetterTogether initiative brought together these civil service officers from across the country as they helped migrant labourers, daily wage earners, frontline health workers, and all those who need our help most in these troubled times.
We made it possible for our readers to support them with access to ration kits, food, and more daily. Through this campaign, we raised a fund of Rs 41 Lakh. Apart from feeding thousands daily, The Better India also identified other means to help people worst affected by the nation-wide lockdown and the ongoing health crisis.
One such initiative that we supported was a reusable sanitary pad unit located in District Changlang of Arunachal Pradesh. This Sanitary pad unit is run by Nightingale Federation – a Self Help Group of 10 women employed under the Bordmusa Mahila Mandal. We joined hands with NGO Samarpan and the District Administration, Changland, to aid the SHG with capacity augmentation by providing the machinery and raw material to produce reusable sanitary napkins. This helped enhance the production, leading to increased revenue generation for the women and bringing back livelihood security for their families. With our support, the unit procured three sewing machines and one button fixing machine to produce not just sanitary napkins but also face masks to meet the ever-growing need.
3. The one where you helped us reward the COVID-19 soldiers of the country
The Better India joined hands with ATE Chandra Foundation to launch India’s COVID Soldiers Awards – the country’s largest rewards and recognition program to honour those fighting the impact of COVID-19 by helping others. The awards ran for a period of 12 weeks, identifying 12 winners and honouring them with prize money of Rs 1 Lakh each.
Our expert panel of 6 jury members and votes from our readers, helped us choose the 12 inspiring COVID-19 soldiers from amongst the 2800 plus nominations that we had received from all corners of the country.
Our 12 winners left no stone unturned in reaching out to people who were worst affected by the pandemic. Most of our winners also used their prize money to continue with their efforts.
One of our winners, Chhitra Subramaniam, divided her prize money into two halves. She gifted one half to Ayaz, her fellow nominee for the awards and an auto driver who spent the COVID-19 lockdown ferrying patients from hospitals to their homes in his auto. Chhitra gifted the second half to Bobby, a single mother from Odisha, who spent her lockdown preparing food for children who were missing their mid-day meals because the schools were closed. Chhitra also joined hands with another winner, Arup Sengupta from Kolkata, to support the livelihoods of women in the remote Sunderbans.
Shraddha, a winner from the series, spent her prize money to expand her efforts in providing education to students in remote tribal villages through loudspeakers. She is now reaching out to 1500 more students. Similarly, Srini donated his entire prize money to support the educational expenses of children of tea sellers who stood with him when he was giving away thousands of cups of tea to migrant workers stuck at railway stations
Here’s the full list of the winners.
4. The one where you helped our heroes raise funds to help people
We covered the story of Akshay Kothawale, an auto driver from Pune, who was supposed to get married on 25th May 2020. But due to the Covid-19 situation, his wedding was postponed.
To ease the sufferings that the underprivileged and migrant labourers were going through, Akshay decided to spend his wedding fund – nearly Rs 2 Lakh – to prepare meals for 350-400 people every single day. Once we published the article, many people from across India reached out to Akshay and The Better India, asking how they could help him with the initiative. In a span of 36 hours, he had received at least Rs 14,000 from our readers. In almost a month, he managed to receive Rs 6 Lakh funds from multiple sources that he used to prepare meals for the stranded workers.
In another story covered by us about an IAS officer from Arunachal Pradesh, Devansh Yadav, who started a crowdfunding initiative to help bright students from underprivileged families go to Delhi University their undergraduate education. In our post, we appealed to our readers to further push to his cause through their contributions and allow these students to secure their future.
Devansh tells us “The crowdfunding appeal received an overwhelming response from all corners of the country. Within hours, help poured in as people started responding to the call to support their education costs. Our readers generously contributed for the cause, and within a week, the officer’s fundraiser got a sum of Rs 3 Lakh, of which Rs 1.5 Lakh were because of TBI coverage.”
5. The one where you chose to help small businesses flourish even during a pandemic!
Throughout the year 2020, The Better India covered stories of entrepreneurs who started their small businesses from level zero, people who had lost their jobs to the pandemic and chose to start something of their own, people who had incurred losses in their work but did not give up!
Our readers did not leave a stone unturned in helping these small businesses grow.
Here are some messages from a few entrepreneurs:
“The story was published on 10th October 2020, and by the morning of 11 October, we were completely stockout on Amazon! Since then, we have been trying to catch up with the orders. The Better Article reached a lot of people! In fact, at a point, we were number two on Amazon in the ‘most improved ranking on Amazon’ theme, and we had managed to reach number 17 in the Flour category on Amazon which was a huge thing for us! The trust factor of The Better India has helped us reach so many people.” – James Joseph, founder of Jackfruit 365.
“Thank you The Better India for writing about me; I have been getting so many calls and orders since the article has gone out. Earlier I used to prepare a mere 2-3 kgs of biryani, and now I prepare more than 20 kgs of biryani! Your article has reached not just every corner of Mumbai, but every corner of the country and even other countries! I have been receiving calls of good wishes and blessings from all over the country. I feel The Better India’s article is getting me closer to my dreams.” – Akshay Parkar, a cruise chef who lost his job to the pandemic and decided to start a roadside biryani stall to support his family.
“The impact that the article created was absolutely amazing! Within a few hours of the story getting published, I had over 100 queries on WhatsApp. In fact, I received calls from all over the country! The business also soared up at the same time! There was another side to the impact, where people were calling me and saying that they wanted to start something of their own and if I could guide them! I want to conclude by saying that I am amazed to see the power of positive social media. It was totally different from how most people see it.” – Ila Prakash Singh, founder of Truffle Tangles, a home-baker who quit her corporate job to start her home bakery with Rs. 5000.
“About three weeks ago, The Better India published our story. Since then, we have not been able to relax. We have had over 380 missed calls across the country and the world. It required an article from The Better India for people living across the street to know we exist and our uniqueness. The sales shot up, and nothing would remain in the bakery by 4 pm. We spent the next week working till 1 am to make preparations for the next day and still it would not suffice. People lined up for their turn and would wait for the bread to come out of the oven. We are baking about 400-500 different types of bread a day from an average of 150 loaves of bread a day. The sales have increased to threefold, and there is a continuous customer flow. The article has helped us to reach the targeted percentage of Pune customers. With no active posts on Instagram, our followers increased from 200 to over 1,000 in a week. Thank you The Better India for highlighting us” – Rahul Deo, founder of Tokyo Bakery.
6. The one where you chose sustainability and eco-friendly over toxic chemicals
In February 2020, we launched ‘The Better Home’, India’s first sustainability-focused consumer brand, by bringing plant-based, child- and pet-friendly cleaners – floor cleaner, toilet cleaner, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent to your homes. Since its inception, we have shipped these cleaners to you all in 400 cities across the country! By switching to The Better Home, you have helped stop 180,000 plastic bottles from going into the landfills (which is a whopping 7200 kgs!) and saved 145 Million litres of water from contamination (which equals 58 Olympic sized pools!).
Here is what Siddharth Bhagwat, an Environmental Consultant and a Better Home user, has to tell us:
“I am absolutely stoked to see cleaning products in the Indian market that do not use harmful chemicals, are good for the environment, and are convenient to use at the same time! The Better Home’s cleaning products are an absolute hit for me; it cleanses even better than regular cleaners.”
7. The one where you went the organic way
We at The Better India, continuously cover the stories of farmers who chose to become organic farmers, people who plant organic vegetables in their own homes, people selling their natural or organic products and people who do their best to ensure there is no harm to the environment or nature. Here are some words that we heard from such people post the publication of their article.
Devesh Patel, an IT-graduate turned organic farmer, wrote to us saying “Thank you, Better India, for writing about me. A farmer who works with organic soil has given it to the hearts of many people. Because of your article, I have been receiving so many calls. Many farmers have been asking me if I can help them with organic farming or if they can join me! The traffic on my website has increased manifolds after the article. The Better India has acted as a bridge and made the distance between me and the world close. I feel like I have got a chance to serve this country and help many youth farmers across the globe.”
In another story about Jyoti, a 28-year-old Telangana resident who started her own terrace garden. Jyoti, surprised by the impact of the article, tells us “After the story was published, a lot of people reached out to me to enquire about landscaping projects. Initially, I used to earn very little with some seed orders now and then but as my story got published in TBI, people started believing in me I got so many orders that I sold seeds worth Rs.50,000! I used this money to start a new project on my own, with my own money! I also got covered in international media – in Humans who grow food. Adding to this, I have also received 3 house landscaping projects, all thanks to The Better India!”
Taking inspiration from our articles, Jagdish Tikyani, our reader from Ahmedabad, started his own balcony garden. This is what he has to tell us – “Ever since I bought a flat, I really wanted to grow my own plants, but since my balcony was tiny, I always dropped the idea. One day I got to know about The Better India. I started reading your stories, a lot of people I read about, had started farming on their terraces. I got so inspired by the stories that I got determined to make my balcony green! I started, and with time, both the number of plants and my morale kept increasing. I want to thank The Better India, for motivating me to start my balcony garden. Looking at me, my neighbours and the whole society is inspired to start their own balcony garden! Thank you once again!”
8. The one where brands helped us bring smiles to people
The Better India joined hands with Nokia to launch #NokiaC3forChange, an initiative where we handpicked 20 changemakers across India. These changemakers and their communities were given smartphones to use in their change endeavours: farming, education, building a business, saving endangered birds, etc.
We reached out to these changemakers after using the smartphones for 30 days to know its impact. Here are what some of them told us:
Amitabh Soni, who runs an NGO called Abhedya in the village, tells us “A community reserve of smartphones has the potential to be a gamechanger in a village like this, and these phones have already begun to garner impact. Access to smartphones has immensely helped our children with e-learning, and is helping the adults as their day-today needs are now being met by having tech in their hands and someone who can guide them through it all.”
Amitabh and his team are also starting a Farmers Producer Organisation (FPO), which will enable the villagers to start and run their own agri-business. “Registration of farmers to create the local FPO is underway, and in the first batch we have reached out to 5 to 6 villages with over 30 farmers involved in the fold. Once this is complete, we hope to reach out to over 300 farmers across 15 villages of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan,” says one the volunteers, Prem, while stressing upon the fact that this might not have been possible if not for the smartphones.
Duroflex and The Better India also joined hands to launch ‘Gift of Sleep’. Through this campaign, The Better India identified an NGO, Vidyaranya, to which Duroflex made a donation of 365 mattresses – for a better, and well-rested New Year. Additionally, The Better India’s readers were asked to share letters of love, care and best wishes, each of which were printed and attached to the mattresses.
We thank our readers for standing by us throughout 2020! Here’s wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2021!