10 March 2015 13:26:32 IST

Enterprise through a different prism

Siddharth Hande founded Supportive Cities

Apart from crowd funding, Supportive Cities also provides platform to connect with professionals

What gives cities their character is not just their public institutions or big businesses, but the opportunities and support systems for alternative careers they present. Artists, entrepreneurs, film-makers, teachers, designers, chefs et al define the cultural spirit of a city.

With this belief, Siddharth Hande founded Supportive Cities, which aims to create an ecosystem that will support the different and unconventional aspirations of people in Indian cities.

“Young people are bludgeoned into doing engineering or medicine. We have a huge social construct that if you’re not an engineer or a doctor, there is nothing else you can do,” says Siddharth, talking about prevailing perceptions of careers, and how it triggered the idea for Supportive Cities.

While change may come slowly, Supportive Cities is a start in the direction. “We identify individuals who have broken out of the confines, and through the new-media platform, build an extensive understanding of the path they took to get where they are,” he says.

These stories aim to challenge the dominant narratives of careers and possibilities, while also providing an insight into the process for others. This inadvertently helps bridge the vacuum in the traditional modes of education for alternative careers by connecting aspiring individuals in particular professions with the established ones.

“Our revenue model is also built on the idea that if you are an aspiring cinematographer, you’d pay a little bit of money to meet other cinematographers and ‘take part’ in a workshop,” he says.

Supportive Cities wants to leverage both online and offline channels for creating this engagement. Siddharth hopes that drawing these narratives will build an information economy around alternative careers, ensure citizen action and eventually feed into policy.

Crowd-funding

Supportive Cities involves a crowd-funding element. Recently, Kaber Vasuki, a musician raised ₹21,500 for his album through crowd-funding from Supportive Cities. After making a music video for the campaign launch that was screened at an exclusive event, Kaber sustained the momentum through the group’s social media page.

“Intangibly, my association with SC has helped my music reach an open-minded audience, some of whom supported the campaign financially and morally. I met the music producer for my album via the event and other prospective collaborators. The album will probably be out by October-end,” said Kaber on his experience with Supportive Cities.

Siddharth, however, adds that they don’t want to become purely a crowd-funding platform. Stories are important for them.

Another venture

Siddharth, a geospatial analyst and researcher in urban studies by training, is a ‘parallel’ entrepreneur having started up two more ventures: NSpatial, a Geographical Information Systems-based product development consultancy, and KabadiwallaConnect, which aims to leverage GIS-based information and community effort to recycle household waste so that less of it gets sent to landfills.

Commenting on the start-up scene in India, he highlights the lack of micro-grants, particularly in the social entrepreneurship space. Contrary to the idea that huge grants are needed, micro-grants are better compatible with social experiments of a smaller scope, like Supportive Cities. “Micro-grants are key points of entry into social entrepreneurship,” he says.

A lot of impact investing too is targeted at the rural areas. So this inhibits innovation in cities, where there is a big need to innovate, he adds. He plans to scale to other cities as well. While that is the long-term goal, for now, the focus will be on engendering conversations and introspection through their social media page, along with crowd-funding gigs.