Our lives get defined by a crucial event, an inflection point, which catapults us into action to do something bigger than ourselves! For me, it was the incident when my grandfather met with a minor accident and was denied emergency blood requirement, even in a premier hospital. Although last-minute help from my relatives saved his life, the incident led me to start an NGO – ‘The Saviours’, to make sure no one has to face the issue of blood shortage again.
I am Kunal Saraff a management graduate, a writer and the founder of an NGO ‘The Saviours’. It is a youth-led NGO in India focused on providing emergency blood donation and aims to eradicate blood shortage in India. It was a humbling experience to receive ‘National Youth Award’ from Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, in recognition of our efforts for The Saviours.
After research, I found out, that India today faces a shortage of 10% relative to its blood requirements. In absolute terms, this means that we require covering a shortfall of over 12 lakh units. Given that the eligible donor population of India is more than 512 million, this deficit is surprising. With an aim to bridge this gap, Saviours was launched in August 2014 in Kolkata with only a database of 10 emergency donors and the organization was registered in October 2014. Since then, it has come a long way with a team of 2000+ people volunteering for the cause, a database of 30,000+emergency donors and has arranged over 1,000 donors in an emergency to save lives.
The organization works on the army of volunteers from colleges. The students intern with the team and learn the processes. Once they go through the initial training they help people register with them. Once the data of the donors are collected and accepted, the interns mail them to confirm their registrations. The database is vetted by multiple teams in the organization and is finally given to the requests team. The requests team takes care of the emergency requests for blood and connects them to the donors in their area. Once the donors agree, they are connected to the receiver for blood donation.
Earlier the team used to arrange the donors in emergency and conducted awareness campaigns but since the inception of the organization it is organizing successful blood donation camps, awareness drives at events such as Raahgiri Day conducts Humanity Week etc. We have conducted over 15 blood camps with a total of 1150 blood units in last 2 years.
You don’t need to be God to save lives… Be a ‘Saviour’– That’s the philosophy that drives us. Anyone who voluntarily donates blood through the organization is provided with the title of a “Saviour”, along with a certificate stating the details regarding their good deed. We also encourage every Saviour to encourage three more people to register as emergency volunteers.
However, there are a lot of hurdles specific to arranging blood donations and awareness campaigns. People are always apprehensive of their health if they donate blood. Also, convincing the registered donors to actually donate blood during an emergency is a difficult task. Many people only register but are never inclined to assist. But for a good cause, right people always turn up. In general, it was difficult to overcome the negative perceptions set forth by the society which stereotypes that NGOs or entrepreneurship, are sub-optimal occupations. These perceptions still exist but I believe the strength of good work by increasing people of social entrepreneurs will definitely put a dent on it.
My tryst with entrepreneurship is much older. I started my first venture ‘Saviour Publications’ while I was still in college and published help books for exam preparations. I also made an app called ‘No more Tension’ which curated websites according to 24 categories to simplify web search for senior citizens. As most of the old people do not use the internet and can’t remember the names of different websites according to their needs.
‘When you help others, the universe conspires to help you’ is the guiding philosophy of my life and I chronicled my life journey in a book called –‘How an iPhone Made Me the Youngest Billionaire’ It has received positive reviews on Goodreads and remains amongst the bestseller on Amazon.
It was a one-man show, which arranged donors in an emergency when I started. Now we are in four cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. My further plans are to decentralize my team and start independent operations in all the cities. Moreover, I want to make this a youth-led revolution which pushes the blood supply and demand back in equilibrium.
Kunal Saraff| Founder- The Saviours