Key People: Sukhendra Reddy Rompally, Jagan Kothacharla, Adela Strakova
While today’s generation is accustomed to utilizing their time, money, and skills for personal growth and benefit, but the happiness we achieve from contributing to society is often underestimated. Yes, you guessed it right, we are hinting towards volunteerism.
We bring you Chezuba, an online volunteering platform that allows users from every corner of the world to connect with different NGOs and contribute from wherever you are, using the Internet.
Amidst the pandemic, we all have realized the importance of voluntary services all across the country. During this time, Hyderabad Stories got in touch with the founders of Chezuba to unravel the journey and idea behind the successful process of online volunteering.
In a conversation with the startup superstars:
Inception of Chezuba
The journey began with the CEO of Chezuba, Sukhendra Reddy Rompally. The idea of Chezuba came from his mind. Back then he was writing his MBA applications and also thinking about his future company and what he wants to achieve. His applications did not go through. He traveled to Myanmar afterward and met a lot of young people on his way. He met volunteers and students and simultaneously validated his idea of an online volunteering platform and he realized so many people want to make an impact in the world but could not find the right platform. So while backpacking in Burma he came across the word Chezuba for his company which means Thank You in the Burmese language. He came to India and wanted to set up his company but he was looking for founding members.
Jagan Kothacharla is the Chief Operations Officer (COO) OF Chezuba. Both Sukhendra and Jagan were IIT Dhanbad graduates. I come from the rural part of Telangana and Sukhendra is from Hyderabad so he used to help me with situations in IIT and he used to be there for any kind of support. That’s how we became friends, said the COO of Chezubaa.
Jagan and Sukhendra founded AIESEC IIT Dhanbad and led a team of more than 50 people.
Jagan was working for a startup company that works on educational tools. He was reading a book called ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and he was very excited to start something on his own. The book says a lot about how to be your own boss. A few days later he got a call from Sukhendra who asked him to join the founding team, Jagan shared it with us that it was the right time for him to start something on his own. He currently takes care of the NGO onboarding.
I have known Sukhendra since 2016, said Adela Strakova. We were friends. I was working in an Embassy and he was working for a gaming company. We were neighbors. We used to catch up during our free time, she added. After a year she came back to Slovakia but she was in touch with Sukhendra Reddy Rompally. Right after he came back from backpacking in October he called her and shared his vision about his venture about how he wanted to create an online platform for social development. At that time Adela was actively looking for volunteering opportunities. That’s how Adela came on board with him as the Chief Experience Officer of Chezuba (CEO). Adela has a master’s degree in Sinology and Arts Management. She holds public service experience of 6years in foreign missions and has also volunteered in Taiwan and India. At Chezuba, Adela handles the Product and Operations.
How does Chezuba impact people?
There are around eighty thousand volunteers registered on Chezuba. The range of people that register themselves on Chezuba includes 40% of students and 20-30% working professionals and the rest are either homemakers or retired professionals.
While talking about the impact of Chezuba, Adela said, they measure it through feedback and case studies.
After the successful completion of projects, the volunteers get a certificate. The certificate is created based on feedback from both ends. The NGO and the volunteer both have to provide feedback. They have certain metrics to look at, once the project is completed. The happiness of both NGOs and volunteers are very important to us. On interacting with the volunteers, Adela said they are very happy to get a platform to invest their skills. Chezuba holds weekly sessions with the volunteers. Working professionals are making a huge impact as they are working on more complex projects like policy building, strategy building.
“Volunteering is a big commitment. If you agree to volunteer for an NGO, they count on you. So people who say they want to change the world are the special ones” added the CXO.
Chezuba has a profile management system for volunteers. The NGOs can verify the volunteers from there. A lot of young people love it at first but once they get into challenges they back out. People with the right intention and perseverance can benefit a lot or improve their skill, they can build their resume and a lot of other skills like communication, operation strategies.
How does it work?
Most of the time when a person goes on-site a lot of things can happen. But when a person working online there are certain challenges for respective tasks, for example, a volunteer cannot go and construct a building. So certain tasks cannot be done online. At Chezuba, the team figures out projects that can be easily completed without moving an inch from their home. Let’s say an NGO needs to build a website for them, so a graphic designer can make a poster or make a logo for them. Some NGOs need content writers, translators, proofreaders, video editors. Chezuba provides volunteers based on their skills and assigns work that can be done remotely.
Who are your ideal customers? How do you onboard NGOs?
Jagan complements the onboarding process as very interesting. Since it is an online opportunity anyone with a laptop and internet can join. We got several opportunities at the initial stage. Initially, we started calling NGOs from all around the world. Now we limit ourselves to India and Africa so that we can deliver good results. But now there is a mandate. We are a startup and we don’t have the human resources to support all the organizations in India and abroad. To be precise we take onboard the NGOs that have internet and basic logistics covered and also NGOs who can communicate in English. We want to decrease the gap between skills and requirements.
There are a lot of competitors out there. How is Chezuba different from others?
It depends on whom we call our competitors, said, Adela. We sure have few competitors. Each of them works differently. One of the biggest aggregators is VolunteerMatch. VolunteerMatch is a US-based non- profit organization. In India, the scenario is scattered I would say. Chezuba is different because we are trying to bring the tech solution to organize the social sector. We are kind of an Uber bringing the drivers(NGOs) and riders(volunteers) together. It needs to be streamlined. We screen the NGOs so that we can serve them the best. There is 24/7 customer support. We study volunteer behavior. We are an open platform. We are also building a corporate platform and will customize volunteering according to their needs. Our USP is we understand the market needs very well.
What is the revenue model for Chezuba?
We are still experimenting with the model. During Covid19 we are providing free access to the NGOs because we understand they have budget constraints. A part of our revenue comes from the customized tech solutions we build for the corporates. We also arrange to crowdfund.
What are the start-up challenges?
The biggest challenge is we are in the development sector, we never have experience in running NGOs, said Jagan Kothacharla. Another challenge for all of us is that we are first-timers, none of our family members had the business exposure. No one ever ran any companies. Although Sukhendra and I are from IIT we are not from a tech background. We thought a tech solution would be easy especially when we are in Hyderabad but that was unfortunately not the case. Adela is currently handling tech and she knows how difficult it is to find the right tech talent, who is trustworthy.
Building start-ups is like jumping from a cliff, said Adela Strakova. It’s not only building the ideas but also setting up the right culture and choosing the right investors who will understand our vision.
How has the journey from 2017 till now with Chezuba so far?
The biggest compliment is when corporations such as Tesco, Tata, Rbl bank find Chezuba worthy enough to provide support for us. We are slowly getting recognized and people are appreciating our wellbeing vision. A few years back online volunteering was seen as mischievous, we had a tough time onboarding the NGOs because there was a lot of money laundering happening. Building trust was a challenging task. Now when we have onboarded more than 4000 NGOs from 62 different countries, it feels good. Now people know what Chezuba is. The happiest moment was when our competitors asked for Chezuba’s support. We realized that we understand the market.
What are the future expansion plans for Chezuba?
Online volunteering is just one aspect. There are corporates, government organizations where we are starting venturing. There will be a donation platform. In the future, we want to enable every sector to create an impact in the social development sector. We want to make Chezuba a one-stop destination for creating social impact. We are reorganizing the whole world of social development. We have a lot of information from stakeholders. We believe we can measure the impact more credibly.
How often do you come across organizations that don’t focus only on monetizing but help you enhance your skills? Chezuba is the perfect online platform for you to explore to extend your support to those who are in need.
If reading this story has awakened the volunteer in you make sure to check out their platform to learn more about how you can contribute to society and have created a positive impact on the lives of those in need.
It was a pleasure for us, Hyderabad Stories to present the inspiring journey of Chezuba. We wholeheartedly wish Chezuba prosperity and success for all their future endeavors.