Crowdfunding platforms in India aren’t just about financing business ideas. These days, patients battling serious illnesses, like cancer or organ failure, are choosing to crowdfund their treatments.


Research suggests that Out-Of-Pocket (OOP) medical expenses in India account for 2.3% of the GDP (source: National Health Accounts, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2013-14). Hence out of a GDP of $2.3 trillion, of which $90 billion is the total spending in India’s private healthcare per year, an amount of $60 billion is estimated to be OOP medical expenses in the country.

OOP medical crowdfunding is met from savings, borrowings and support from friends and family. In fact, most people try to reach out to their friends, families and primary and secondary network to seek help during times of distress.

Crowdfunding platforms work towards converting this common offline behaviour to online, i.e. these expenses can be funded by friends and family digitally with the help of various payment modes that includes cheque pickups and Paytm among others. Thus, crowdfunding platforms play a significant role by making it easy to both ask for and render financial assistance.

Crowdfunding can be a swift and convenient way to meet unforeseen, pressing needs. Today, anyone with a smartphone can participate in a cause and can make a difference with great ease. More and more people are now raising funds online to tackle emergencies more efficiently. Increasing digital access and the convenience of online payments are driving people to take the digital route to mobilise greater support to meet urgent needs.

Online crowdfunding platforms address the many challenges that may pop up when it comes to receiving and offering financial assistance. Some of the serious problems one may encounter include difficulty in discovering the right causes, trust deficit and overall donor apathy. Online fundraising platforms enable people to share stories of individuals and groups with the world that makes it easier for them to reach people globally for help. It is soon becoming an effective way to fund cancer treatment, transplants and other critical emergencies.

More recently, fundraisers for tertiary care, and particularly those for transplants (kidney, bone marrow and even heart), especially liver transplants for children, has emerged as a leading category that attracts maximum support from around the globe. This could be attributed to two major factors. First of all, the age group encompasses children who are the most resilient. According to doctors, children have a greater chance of surviving terminal diseases as compared to adults. Secondly, liver transplants have had good success rates so far. It is easier to find a donor within the family, and a contribution in such fundraisers more or less translates into participating in saving a life.

Liver transplants are generally always required at a much later stage, when there is no other option available. The criticality of the patient makes the need very urgent. Hence, people from across the world are more than willing to come forward to act on these needs. Approximate data, shared by leading doctors, suggest that in India, less than 10% of the required pediatric liver transplants are actually performed every year. At present, an estimated 5000+ people need liver transplants in a year, but in reality less than 150-200 are performed annually.

Although crowdfunding as a phenomenon could be used for funding any need, the Indian crowdfunding space, these days is dominated by fundraisers for healthcare and other related concerns. This could be because the nature of crowdfunding in India is still perceived as a serious one, having utilitarian values at its core.

Fundraisers are usually set up by individuals who need treatment, or by their next of kin. One of the many advantages of these online platforms is that the entire cause may be shared with anyone through a simple link. People can participate and help by sharing the need, and making contributions through various online and offline payment modes. Many are also utilising social media to reach out to as many people as possible. Since the need is already verified by the crowdfunding platform, and donors can clearly see the requirement with the help of information, like funds raised so far and so on, this becomes a great way to lobby support, or extend a helping hand.

Milaap, one of the largest crowdfunding platforms in India, alone has seen over 500 fundraisers for liver transplants, of which 300 were for children.

Founded in 2010, the fundraising platform enables anyone across India to raise funds for healthcare, education, sports, disaster relief and other personal causes, with great ease. Having started out as a platform to fund rural projects and micro entrepreneurs, it is today widely utilised by Indians to raise funds from friends, family and the wider social network for medical needs, loved ones and charity. It is soon becoming the go-to platform for funding cancer treatment, transplants and other critical emergencies.


The author is co-founder and president of Milaap


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