Kickstart your Dream

It would be great if someone paid for a creative project inspired by you, right? No matter how crazy, outlandish or trivial it seemed. Bullet casing cuff links and earrings, anyone? Or transform the iPod Nano into a multi-touch wristwatch. Or handmade bikinis. From music bands to photographers, people ask for support on their favourite projects and are getting it from a wide range of ‘backers’ – on Kickstarter, a website that allows investors to pledge anything from $25 to $100 for projects that catch their eye.

Kickstarter recently crossed the magic number of 1 million backers from around the world. They don’t disclose what percentage are from the US, but it is definitely the largest slice. It took them 16 months to get the first 200,000 backers. And only 3 months to cross the last 200,000. Having raised a total of over $100 million, more than13000 projects have now come to life. In the old model, only a fraction of these would have seen the light of day.

While there have been individual success stories like the guy who set up a million dollar page to pay his way through medical school, raising money for creative stuff intended for micro markets has always been iffy. In a city like Chennai getting financing for theatre is tremendously difficult. No rock band, except for Parikrama and the Indian Ocean have emerged in all these decades. They have always been underground acts, known to a tight, small band of admirers who could not have afforded more than the ticket money they spent. What Kickstarter does is to provide a platform where creative people can imagine to their heart’s content and have some hope of making it happen.

This is one area where crowdsourcing is helping define a new financing model. And it allows for participation on a mass scale in the development of a concept – something that was simply not possible before.

But long before the internet made fond dreams a reality, there is an Indian story that is just as heartwarming. In a small hamlet called Kaira, the milk revolution was sweeping India. The cooperative movement masterminded by Dr. V Kurien was the setting of India’s self-reliance in the production of milk. These days, very few people understand the scale he had to think and execute to build the Amul brand – back in the 1940s, especially with the multinational brands putting obstacles at every step of the way. Dr. Kurien’s book – ‘I Too Had a Dream’ is a must-read. But back to the story. To capture the progress of the movement, the 1-minute commercial was not enough. So, Shyam Benegal, the acclaimed filmmaker who was then with the advertising agency, suggested a feature film that captured the twists and turns in the struggle. The co-operative could not have paid the million rupees that were the budget required in the 70s. So Dr. Kurien asked every farmer to pay a rupee – and every one of the 1 million did. That was how the film ‘Manthan’ was made. It starred some of the finest actors of the time – Smita Patil and Naseeruddin Shah and it marked a significant step in India’s art film movement as well.