Seven years ago, Manish Aggarwal was on google, searching for avenues to invest money in a social cause that would provide nominal returns. That was when he first came across Rang De. The first loan he provided was to a female dairy farmer. The returns from that first social investment, Manish found, were decent enough for him to keep contributing on the platform.
Over the years though, Manish found his motivation for contributing money had changed. “Initially, I began with a small investment. Eventually, after several contributions, I forgot about the money and returns,” he says.
Manish is an IT consultant with over 15 years of experience in the sector. Born and brought up in Delhi, he has settled down with his family in Sydney, Australia.
The reason he prefers supporting people with a loan, instead of an outright donation, Manish says, goes back to his father’s background.
“My dad came from a humble family, where finances were always tight. Dad put in a lot of effort and got into one of the top colleges in the country, but his family refused to pay the fees saying ‘We cannot afford it, we don’t have the money.’”
Ultimately, Manish’s father was helped out by a friend, who provided him with a loan. “That small amount changed his life,” he says. When he looks at Rang De’s borrowers, Manish sees reflected his family’s history of struggle and hardship.
“What I see at Rang De is people just need a little help, who urgently need funds, and I can connect with that. I know how important getting money at the right time is.”
Manish also strongly believes in empowering women and makes it a point to support female entrepreneurs. Talking about the need to support women, he says. “In India, boys and girls are treated differently. There is a difference in the education they receive. Today, some women in India have access to equal opportunities but for the majority of women from a certain background, a rural background, that’s not the case.”
To Manish, this disparity seems starker when he compares the situation to Australia, where he feels that boys and girls are afforded the same opportunities. “Here, I don’t see any difference in the treatment meted out to a boy or girl. In fact, girls can play soccer better. To give you an example, when you look at the money that sportspersons make here, there’s not much difference between the men and women. That’s not the case in India. It think we will take us another 30–40 years to get there.”
Speaking about his experiences in Australia when compared to India, a big difference he finds is that “there you don’t have to worry about water, about pollution, about traffic in the streets.”Manish is is also uncharacteristically forthright about his reasons for living in Australia.
“I moved abroad because I wanted a balanced life. It wasn’t for the money. I had a pretty good life in India but I wanted to spend time with my family and kids, not on the roads stuck in traffic,” he says.
When we spoke on the phone, Manish had just returned to Sydney after a three month volunteering stint at an NGO in India that worked for marginalized children, where he helped them run one of their programs.
Manish believes that individual experience plays a big role in the decision to contribute or support a social cause.
“No matter what happens, there is a part of the story of struggle that lives on in some part of your mind and you keep thinking how you can do better. In my case, I think back to my Dad’s story. And when I look at people in a similar scenario, who need money to keep things going for their families, there is a connect.”
Given his involvement with various social organisations, what would he say to people to get them to contribute to a cause? “Whatever you have got, society gave you all this. If you are the alumni of a certain university, and it needs funding, you contribute. You have to give back to the community that helped you. It’s a cycle.”
Like Manish, choose to make an impact in the lives of fellow Indians. Invest through Rang De’s newly launched platform rangde.in