Wishes and Blessings is a Delhi based NGO founded by Dr. Geetanjali Chopra.
Our vision is to build a world where there are no barriers to achieving dreams!
We got an opportunity to talk with Geetanjali about her journey and see what she has to say. I am sure her interview with us will inspire you.
Give brief info about your startup?
I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world- those who are blessed, and those who have wishes left unfulfilled. It is the blessed people who can help achieve those unfulfilled wishes, and they receive blessings in return. This was the idea behind the organisation. Wishes and Blessings is a registered NGO based in South Delhi that was initiated in 2014. It cuts across the barriers of gender and age, and acts as a unique platform to link donors and beneficiaries. Our vision is to build a world where there are no barriers to achieving dreams! We, at Wishes and Blessings, believe that happiness is not just an end, but a means to an end. Therefore, we do not focus on one issue; we have more than 9 causes among which are education, hygienic meals, infrastructure, SOS relief and care for our elders. According to our causes we have more than 20 projects, each uniquely formatted to bring change in society.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
As a child I did have a vague idea as that I wanted to spread happiness. I used to accompany my grandfather to a school for visually impaired children to celebrate special occasions. I continued this tradition and in 2014 I celebrated Holi with the children of the very same school. These were visually impaired children, their life was a black canvas, and there they were, playing with colours.
Till that point in my life I disliked this festival, but the Holi of 2014 changed my life. These children played as if they had no cares in the world. The joy and happiness that the children felt was infectious. I have never felt such unadulterated bliss. It was then that I decided that I wanted to work towards this, towards bringing colour and happiness into the lives of people who need it the most. And on April 25th, 2014, Wishes and Blessings was born.
We believe that problems and solutions exist in the same ecosphere. The problem could be the want or the need of a person, and the solution is someone who wants to fulfil the need of a person. That platform where the two can meet is missing. So, our core offering is of a platform where donors are linked with beneficiaries; The basic service of connecting people who need help to those who can help. The platform can be for anything- for fulfilling wishes, for making dreams come true, to increase your blessings. We essentially give you the platform to launch yourself.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I come from a large Punjabi joint family. Born and brought up in Delhi, I did my schooling from Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi. I got my Bachelors from Lady Shri Ram College, and my Masters, M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru College, New Delhi. I formed a solid base in journalism and political science. I have also studied a few courses on International Law from the Hague and Utrecht University in Netherlands.
I have been an active academic for over 15 years. I have also pursued creative arts on the side. I owned a small block printing press that made hand printing blocks. I was a journalist for about 2 years. I acted in a few TV shows, and tried my hand at radio jockeying. I also cooked and baked for some time. I have travelled the world, taught in India and abroad and have published a book. So even while I was studying, I pursued other, creative avenues.
I worked as a fellow for 5 years at a Delhi-based thinktank- Centre for Policy Research. I was able to work with a lot of international NGOs through this job. I was happy, and it paid well, but I felt there was something lacking. It was a well-cushioned job, but I felt that it had become monotonous. It was only after setting up Wishes and Blessings that I felt I had found my place; I felt settled.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
I chose Delhi as my base because I’m a Delhi girl. It is familiar ground. I do have long term plans to expand across India. While we do not have formal bases in other parts of India, we have carried out relief work on both international as well as national levels.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
As someone in the social sector, it is difficult to find peaceful sleep. This job is not 9-5; work does not end once I leave the office. Whether I am out for dinner, or on vacation, or even on the way from one shelter home to another, I am always trying to solve a multitude of problems, whether these be day-to-day issues or problems that have plagued society for ages. I am worried about the children who are being forced into manual labour, or worse, just to bring food into their homes. I am worried about elders who are abandoned by their near and dear ones. Of course, I don’t lose myself in these worries. I am determined to do all I can to help those who need it the most. This determination pushes these worries away and energises me when I am at my lowest.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
We do not look to emulate other organisations. We focus on our own causes and ways to address problems. I do not think we have any competition. The field is so large, there is so much to be done that you cannot really have competitors, you can only have partners. We are all working towards the larger goal of helping the underprivileged, of bringing about change in society. If we join hands, we are more efficient, and change can be effected in a quick and sustainable manner.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
It is difficult, and not difficult, cryptic as that may sound. I believe that it is up to you to understand how to balance your work life. One has to realise that if you are not at your 100%, you cannot give your 100%. So, it is imperative to take your breaks from work, whether this be a vacation or even a lunch break. Separation of personal and professional life is difficult, but very important. If I feel I have done as much as I can in one day, I switch off and relax by going out for a movie or dinner.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
Yes. Wishes and Blessings has a large group of private donors that have supported us as we have grown. We have had a few CSR projects recently and we are now looking to branch out further in this sector. Of course, we are always on the lookout for more sources of funds.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the social sector, and therefore me. They see NGOs as fronts for tax evasion, for money laundering. NGOs have garnered a lot of incorrect and bad publicity.
The biggest challenge we face is a trust deficit. There is a large amount of distrust people have when it comes to working with NGOs. As a way to deal with this, we ensure we are completely transparent in our workings. Another challenge is that of funding. Making results sustainable is a very important issue we deal with, and finding the right people to work and grow with.
The reality is that there are NGOs out there that misuse funds, mistreat their beneficiaries. But there are also NGOs that are working had to make a difference. There are a few bad apples in each basket.
To counter all the stereotypes surrounding the social sector, specially NGOs, we are committed to complete accountability and are transparent in all our operations. We make a difference by the work we do, and by the attitude we have.
What gets you excited about this company?
The impact we have had in a short period of time really motivates me. Everyday I wake up with renewed passion to bring about change in society. Our NGO is unique in its offering and because we have multiple focus areas, we are able to reach out to people across sectors and sections. We work with real people in real time, and while this is daunting, it is also life changing when you see tears turn into smiles.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
Well, let me give you just a glimpse into a typical day.
I don’t wake up to the warming rays of the sun or birds chirping away to glory. I wake up to a call from one of my centres which goes a little like this
“Ma’am, no milk today… what to do?”…
Welcome to my world!
After dealing with the milk crisis, I rush to get ready while dealing with one problem after the other. I buy stationery supplies for street children attending school, I order ration for meals for patients in rehab. I take elderly women to the doctor for their health check up. I set up meetings with corporates, make calls to my employees on the field, I visit the shelter homes. I occasionally deal with the distraught employee who has broken up with her boyfriend for the nth time…
I work with people from diverse communities, across the spectrums of age and gender. Their stories vary in topic, but are all emotionally intense, to say the least.
I wish that I could say that the work is monotonous, that the work is easy… It’s actually a rollercoaster, a ride that I would not give up for anything in the world.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
My team is composed of young and extremely talented individuals. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have left lucrative jobs to help build a better society. The team is still small, but we are slowly growing. The office is a space full of buzzing energy
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