The time is 2012. I have just joined IIT Delhi and am having the time of my life. I start spending a lot of time in college on student initiatives. By the final year, I am heading the college committee & am responsible for student welfare initiatives - it was a lot of effort and fun!
Jump to 2020. I have been in multiple jobs and did fairly well in them but I did not feel very satisfied. I always wanted to do a side project but things never materialised.
I always wanted to do a side project but things never materialised.
Then Covid-19 hit India and a daunting lockdown began. People were struggling to meet their daily needs and a lot of senior citizens were in distress. I started building a volunteering website to enable people to help others. I would have felt happy even if 1 person was helped. I reached out to a few friends; we built and launched the website in less than 100 hours.
One night, we got a request from someone that Mr. Laxmikant, a 65 year old ex-army veteran got stuck in Mumbai due to the lockdown, lost communication with his family and was spending nights on the roadside. We notified to all volunteers on our platform, and within a few hours someone helped him with a temporary shelter and helped him with to travel back to his family near Pune.
Similar to this story, the CovidSOS volunteers were helped a few thousand people during the lockdown in less than a month.
I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. 🙂
Cut to April 2021 and I am talking with a friend about the grave medical scarcity in Delhi NCR - it was scary and tragic. We wanted to help people. The mindset was the same again - if the project could even impact 1 person positively, it would make me happy.
In a short duration, the passionate idea turned into a website that helped a lot of caregivers find medicines and oxygen cylinders for their loved ones.
A user messaged us that when his sister was admitted in the hospital, thanks to CovidSOS, they were able to find a supplier for remdesivir in the nick of the time and save the day.. There are a lot more emotional stories like this one but I will leave those for another day.
It was just beautiful how things worked out in both of these times. To be honest, we made mistakes too but got lucky and things worked out fine both the times to ensure a smooth launch!
Today, I am sharing what I learnt in these projects so that you can avoid the same mistakes and successfully pursue your ideas:
1. Identify THE project:
You might have 15 project ideas that pass through your mind, but you have to decide on one. Here's what helped me decide:
- Write down the intent/goal of the project clearly
- Assume that you will work on for the next 6 months. Does it still excite you?
If you are running out of ideas, we can brainstorm!
2. Make a project note:
Write down all the ideas that come to your mind related to the project. I did these for mine:
- What problem am I solving?
- Who will benefit from this solution and how will I reach out to them?
- Would I need a product for it? If yes, what? (could be anything from google form to a app/website)
- What does the best case end outcome look like?
P.S.: It is perfectly worth it to solve a problem for just yourself. I started writing my travel blog as my personal diary. Here's a friend who solved a problem for himself and then it helped many others.
3. Find advisors/believers to help you (if needed):
In his book "No Limit", Mukesh Bansal "Deliberate practice with a coach for short duration can make you better than 80% of the people."
Since you've listed down skills needed to solve this problem in #2, now identify what all can you do by yourself?
Case A: You have all the skills - go ahead and execute the project
Case B: You have a few skills, you can learn a few more - read and find advisors/experts about what you want to learn to guide you.
Case C: You will need external support for a few skills - find a friend or hire an expert who's willing to spend time on the project or hire.
In my case, I learnt some parts (coding) to build the basic product (MVP), took help from others for other parts (frontend engineer, designers, volunteering operations, etc.) and had advisors to help me on few other things (partnerships, marketing)
What is the least you can do to impact/involve atleast 1 person?
a. If you want to start an initiative, help a person before building a website to help them.
b. If you want to build an app to suggest movies, first create an instagram handle and recommend movies.
c. If you want to write about a topic, just write something and "PUBLISH" on Medium
Baby steps are super valuable.🐣
In case you want to work on a non-profit initiative, I will be more than happy to assist you on that. Please fill in the form here.