Mayukh Choudhury, CEO and Co-Founder of Milaap in Dubai. Image Credit: Antonin K. Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai

Now here’s a crowdfunding app that literally lends a helping hand.

Milaap, India’s largest crowdfunding site, has come to the aid of people looking to raise money for personal reasons, especially for medical needs and emergencies.

“Our work is to ensure that it is easy to reach as people don’t know whom to give,” said Mayukh Choudhury, CEO, whose first job was as a consultant at Ernst & Young in Dubai. “When we started, one area was growing much faster and that was fund-raising for medical purposes. People were setting up campaigns for cancer patients, organ transplants, kidney dialysis, etc.

“Many who come to the platform have run out of insurance and savings. It is not just the poor who are coming to the platform — even the upper-class who face rare diseases and need to go abroad.”

India’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses funded by relatives and third-party sources were around $4 billion (Dh14.69 billion) as of 2014. About 45 per cent of the overall donations come from the overseas and the rest from India.

For Milaap, the US is its biggest sourcing market with 67 per cent and followed by the UAE with about 9 per cent. “The willingness to give and the connection to India will make the UAE the strongest market,” said Choudhury. “We want to bring those stories to the masses in the UAE and they may have a strong willingness to give. We are open to having a presence in the UAE, but it will need to involve (feedback from) multiple stakeholders.”

He met with a few hospital operators in a bid to understand whether there is a need for fund-raising platforms like Milaap and whether people face funding shortages.

“Here (in the UAE), insurance plays a key role and may be such crowdfunding may not work in the UAE,” said Choudhury. “We are trying to answer questions on having a long-term presence here.”

When a fund raising appeal comes in, Milaap asks for basic information, at least for one medical document from the hospital, and how much funds are needed. The site charges a platform fee of 5 per cent of the total money raised.

“Our validation model will start and we review every fund-raiser in less than 36 hours. The money raised will stay in the Milaap account and then transferred directly to the hospital’s bank account depending on the need.”

Some cases

Choudhury said there were cases where the money was raised and the patient does not go ahead with the treatment, or if a patient were to die. Sometimes, the raised money will be given to the family as they must have spent a lot of money on bills and the family is in need of the money or there could be a case where there could be a similar patient in the hospital in similar condition.

“The first thing we do is ask donors whether the money can be given to another person in a similar situation. Sometimes, we return the money in full.”

Milaap is incorporated in Singapore and incubated by the National Institute of Singapore. Choudhury met his co-founder Anoj Viswanathan, who is an alumni from the National Institute of Singapore.

Milaap’s first avatar was as a crowdfunding platform for projects in rural India in 2011. “It was a phase of life and series of events that gradually led us to do what we did with the idea — we could see a need in rural India for people to start a business, buy solar lamps and essential needs.”

He said that Milaap still does rural projects in India despite much of its growth happening within the medical space. “There is always scope for diverse causes such as education, sports, care for the elderly and pets,” he added. “The P.T. Usha Academy and some others raised funds on Milaap for budding sports people and equipment.

“All these diverse causes are there, but looking at the real growth driver, we see the giving behaviour is becoming prominent with medical fund-raising.

“With the kind of digitisation taking place in India, we are at a great point where the kind of scale we can look at is very high. Because of digital payments, we can connect with overseas markets very easily.”