Make A Difference... Online

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Nov - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Nov - 2005
Make A Difference... Online
The Web site's name- lead you to think it's a site on spirituality. But look at it, and you'll see that while the site isn't concerned with divinity per se, the people behind it are definitely good Samaritans. The page demystifies the term: "Karmayog = selfless service with love gives bliss."

The Ideology
Vinay Somani launched in 2004 as a free platform for the Indian non-profit sector. One of the trustees of the R O Somani Charitable Trust, Somani hails from a philanthropic family. was propelled by the experience Somani gained when he set up in 1999-a commercial B2B (business-to-business) site that deals with the building stone industry. is modelled on, and is funded by the Somani trust. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), non-profit organisations (NPOs), volunteers, service providers, and so on can get themselves listed for free on the Karmayog site.

This data helps the site to not only disseminate information,  but also mobilise resources, generate funds and co-ordinate events that help society. Essentially, it's a free portal for both the donors and the needy.

Somani sums up the purpose of the site: "There are many NGOs doing excellent work in India. We wanted to support them in whatever capacity, be it online or offline, in volunteering, distributing materials or providing strategic advice. NGOs are largely understaffed. We hoped that visitors to, who may be experts in their own field, could provide their valuable time and efforts to support a noble cause."
Volunteers, mentors, corporates, and service providers can list the availability of their time, talent, materials, services and money, and indicate their interest in specific humanitarian projects.

The Karmayog team co-ordinates events and seminars that includes contacting NGOs, citizens, the BMC, the Mantralaya, and corporates-and all forthcoming events are listed on the site.

The Team
Apart from Somani, the Karmayog team has five other members. There's Vibha Singh, the content developer, a journalist with eight years of experience in mainstream media and in the social sector. What prompted Singh to join Karmayog?

She replies, "The media doesn't have scope for follow-ups. For instance, if I reported a rape, the story would be printed, but that would be the end of it. How the victim was rehabilitated, and other such relevant issues would go unnoticed.

I realised then that it were the NGOs who finally rehabilitated the victims-of rape or otherwise-and they were the ones who actually did the follow-ups. I wanted to do something more constructive than just report facts as they stood. I chose to work with since other similar Web sites seemed inadequate."

The Karmayog team (standing from left to right): Burzin Mehta, Vinay Somani, Jayant Upadhyay, John Matthew and (seated from left to right) Falguni Chauhan and Vibha Singh

Other team players include management student Burzin Mistry, who handles the Web site development. A post-graduate in social work, John Matthew is the researcher. Jayant Upadhyay manages accounts and administration, along with Falguni Chauhan, the accounts executive.

On The Technical Front
The Web site itself is constantly undergoing change. While it doesn't have a forum, there's a full-fledged Yahoo! Group with more than 3,000 active members.

As Mistry says, "When first launched, was a purely HTML site, a database model. We developed it over time into a fully-functional portal. For  now, we have outsourced the programming work. We also send out a free daily newsletter. We use Google's AdSense for revenue generation, and have also implemented SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). We get more than a thousand page views daily."

Visitors to who may be experts in their own field, could provide their valuable time and efforts to support a noble cause"
Vinay Somani, Founder,

An Information Database
Visitors to can find volunteers, advisors, employees, materials, services, sponsors, Indian and foreign donors, and get support for events and publications. There is also a list of companies in India involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Highlights of  include 'Hot Topics', wherein urgent social issues are floated online and users can add their views, suggest solutions or offer assistance. Other links include  'Issues/Causes', 'Actions for Citizens' including 'Contact your ALM (Advanced Locality Management), and so on. Under 'Services' are listed emergency numbers, help lines, 152 support groups and an all-India hospital list.

A recent addition is the 'NGO Council', a representative body of the NGO sector in Mumbai. An open committee, it comprises a mix of 69 organisations. The Karmayog team has extensively mapped and sorted the NGO sector in Mumbai by location, area of work, capacity, activities and so on.

Singh adds, "As a Web site, you need to have the latest information. This involved personally visiting hundreds of NGOs and calling others to check if their services, addresses and phone numbers were still valid. To post data about non-NGOs, we took up whatever existing lists there were, of say, blood banks, media firms and hospitals. Then, we called up every institution to verify the details and uploaded those on to the site."
A Web Presence For NGOs
NGOs in India can get a free, permanent, self-manageable online presence at the site: the NGO is given a URL such as The NGO can update its details daily, put up requests for volunteers, and announce job openings amongst other details.

Somani explains, "Being on the Web increases an NGO's reach. The details of the listed NGO have been presented in such a way that it gives users a quick profile of the organisation. As of now, Karmayog has up-to-date listings of more than 2,000 NGOs in Mumbai alone-and more than 3,000 NGOs from the rest of India."

Karmayog also lists volunteers and donors. There are more than 350 registered volunteers, and the number is rising. Those who would like to get volunteer IDs from Karmayog need to fill an online form mentioning their name, work and home location, areas of interest, languages known and prior volunteering experience.

Networking Citizens
The Mumbai floods swung the Karmayog team into action like never before. From getting donors who sponsored lakhs of rupees worth of medicines, to others who could bodily help victims, to allocating funds, Karmayog became an information interface. All the team members were available for contact 24/7.

Somani refers to a PIL (public interest litigation) filed by a citizen in the court over the bad condition of roads in Mumbai. The court retaliated by asking for solid evidence on the same. Ever since, Karmayog has been bombarded with mails from several infuriated citizens-with actual pictures of potholed Mumbai city roads in a state of utter neglect!

Somani also cites another example: the stray dog menace. On the one hand, Karmayog received passionate letters from animal lovers, and on the other, those who had been bitten by canines poured out their woes on the site!

"Being an online medium, Karmayog can enable cross-fertilisation of ideas-there is a sharing of views-and thus people can find a balanced approach to their problems and live harmoniously. By and large, the judiciary gives inflexible solutions to problems, the government cannot help everyone, and its policies are lopsided; in such a scenario, citizens will have to help themselves.

NGOs do not want to preach to the converted-those who are already helping with charitable causes-it is essential to leverage those who are sympathetic to the cause but have hitherto been unable to help," says Somani. 

Networking With NGOs
In terms of information, resources and activities, has all a donor or volunteer would ever require.

To get a better idea, consider this: under the 'Issues/Causes' link, there are 40-odd other links dealing with issues as diverse as AIDS and drug abuse. Under one of the links titled 'Disabilities-Hearing', there's information on the hearing and speech-challenged sector. There's a list of  hearing aid makers in India, links to useful Web sites, libraries of articles, Acts, laws, Government schemes, and an e-group.

And under 'Mumbai' alone are listed 24 schools for the hearing challenged (with ratings), 18 other NPOs (with ratings), 95 ENT Hospitals, surgeons, doctors and clinics (with the respective consulting fees), 50 hearing aid clinics and suppliers (with ratings), and profiles of hearing-challenged individuals and training institutes.

As you can imagine, such a compilation is of immense help. For instance, parents of a hearing-impaired child searching for a suitable school would be easily able to locate an NGO that meets their criteria through the listings on
Channelising Resources
"NGOs are doing fantastic work, and even a little support can multiply their effectiveness. But NGOs need to find people who can help and people also need to know how to support them. Due to lack of information and co-ordination between NGOs, there is often duplication of work, inadequate and fragmented knowledge.

"It is here that, as a readily accessible online resource, acts as a facilitator between NGOs and people," says Somani. Karmayog also independently evaluates and recommends NGOs. Since January 2005, it started the 'Non-profit-of-the-month' idea, wherein it carefully profiles and recommends one deserving NGO every month, in most cases, a low-budget one.

Here, in addition to the general details about the NGO on the site, the Karmayog team personally visits the NGO and notes the administration, upkeep and facilities, and then gives the rating. This, in turn, helps donors directly help NGOs-as donors need to be assured that their contribution will reach the actual beneficiaries.

You Can Reach Out!
You may feel strongly about civic issues and you may also have the empathy to do good, but not always have the means to reach out. With, you need not be a mute spectator any longer: you can play an active role to make our world, clichéd as it may seem, a better place to live in.

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