Top Four Lessons Learned from the Pick a Fight Journey so far

It has been almost 10 months now since Pick a Fight came into being, and it has been a pretty amazing journey so far. Starting very small working with just a few NGOs in Bangalore and doing a few events, we have now seen three events in Delhi in the last few months. There have been many lessons learned along the way, and I am sure many more are yet to be discovered as we have plans to go pan-India in the year ahead. Here are the top four lessons, in the broader sense, that I have personally taken from the journey so far.

All Human Beings are Equal
After seeing the amazing work being done by numerous NGOs and the great people behind them, and even many individuals who are fighting for their chosen causes alone, I have realized that they are not any different than any one of us. I totally believe in this quote by Napoleon Hill – “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. Each one of us, and yes, each one of us, can achieve what we can dream. There is no human bigger than any other human, and in the same vein, there is none small than another. A social leader is no better (in potential) than a criminal. There is none any more good than anyone else, and neither is there anyone bad. We were all born equal, and we all die equal.

A pic from a picnic Pick a Fight organized to the Delhi Zoo for kids of NGO Protsahan

A pic from a picnic Pick a Fight organized to the Delhi Zoo for kids of NGO Protsahan

Empowerment is Needed, not Help
You must already be asking – If everyone is equal, why do some produce results and some don’t? Well, there are two aspects to this question which need answering. Let me elaborate –
a) Results are a matter of Perception
What you see as results might be very different from what any other person sees it as? You might believe in social activism and see its protagonists as examples. Another person might regard business leadership and results as the only good result that there is. While others might see art (writing, painting, movies) as the real expression of human potential and some others might see achievements in the sporting arena as worthwhile. So the first thing to understand when you feel, think or say that person XYZ is not producing results is that they are not producing results by YOUR definition of results. They might be producing results by their own or by others definition of it.
b) What is Empowerment?
If everyone is equal and capable of doing amazing things, the only thing needed is empowerment, and not any support, help or aid. Words like support, help and aid, by definition makes the receiver smaller than the giver in some aspect. While charity is good and no doubt needed (for fire-fighting), it doesn’t provide any long term solution. Instead aid has the negative effect of making the receiver dependent on future help from the giver. Empowerment is, in contrast, making the other person realize their own potential and that they are not any less than anybody else in the world. In fact, I would say that we can’t really give someone anything they already have, and the potential to produce amazing results falls in that category. What empowerment does, and what its role is to show people the path and taking away their mind and skill blocks which might be preventing them from realizing their full potential as a human being. Let me repeat for clarification, empowerment is more about taking the perceived barriers away, rather than helping or giving someone something.

Actions and Consequences
When people realize their potential and the amazing things they can do, they will invariably take risks and play bigger games in life. Now, when you expand your playing field and take on bigger challenges, you are bound to face some hurdles or failures (if I may call them so). These hurdles are the real test of your greatness, and you must see them not as pointers to you being weak or incapable, but as a consequences of the bigger game you are playing. It is a part of the game, and since you have chosen your actions, you must accept the consequences of it with full responsibility too. In short, you should change the meaning of hurdles in your dictionary as – ‘one step closer in the direction you are heading‘.

Having fun and being happy is the most important
When I say above – ‘one step closer’, it doesn’t mean that you tie your happiness to some end result. We can, and must have goals, but we should never tie our happiness to the result of those goals. Whether we reach the destination or not, it doesn’t matter (in terms of happiness). We should learn to be happy NOW, because that is the only moment we ever have. In fact, I would say that it is the happiness in people which produces great results, rather than the other way round.

Pick a Fight – How we do it, and what all have we done so far?

It has been 4-5 months now since the seeds were sown forĀ  Pick a Fight, and I think its time to summarize how we work, what have we done so far, and what’s next in the coming months? The last 4-5 months have been really wonderful. We have met and connected with so many amazing people, some fighting for a cause and some willing to contribute to different fights in the society. The Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement just showed that ‘we care‘ about our country and will come out to fight if the right options are available.

How we work?

We have found out that people always want to help others, as, either aware or unaware, that gives human beings the most satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. But most people don’t know where to go and whom to approach to volunteer their services or resources. After this, another important factor is lack of trust that whether their resources are being used for the right purposes or not. This is not strange considering the amount of corruption in India, even in the NGO sector.

So when we take care of finding opportunities where different people can contribute, and making sure their help is utilized as they intended it to be, people are more than willing to help. We have people from Kashmir to Karnataka, from New York to Hyderabad who are volunteering their time and using their skills for our requirements.

We have formed different teams in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi and for different work categories such as design, communication, technical work, etc. People come up with new ideas, meet and discuss them and partner with different NGOs and try to help them in whatever way they need help. In all, there are around 40-50 people who have come forward with their willingness to contribute.

A week long transplant coordinators training program by Gift Your Organ

A week long transplant coordinators training program by Gift Your Organ

What have we done so far?

Gift Your Organ is a NGO promoting Organ Donation. They recently held a 5 day training program for transplant co-ordinators of different hospitals in Bangalore where 60 people from all over the country participated. We helped them in designing the brochures for this event. Apart from that, they want to hold awareness sessions in schools, colleges and companies to spread awareness about Organ Donation. We are reaching out to our network to help arrange this for them.

Beyond Carlton is a NGO working in the area of fire safety. They work with the fire department to ensure proper awareness among people about fire safety. They approached us for help regarding promotion using social media and for their website. We have connected them to a social media strategist who is devising a strategy for them right now. Also, a web design company has volunteered to design their website totally free of cost. We are glad we are able to contribute to their cause.

Apart from the above two, we have also helped a few orphanages find some teachers to teach the students and have asked people to go spend some time in old age homes. We have also initiated Waste Management activities in 3-4 apartments in Bangalore since we started, as an extension of the No-Waste initiative I started last year.

Beyond Carlton organized a free medical camp for firemen and their families at Manipal Hospital

Beyond Carlton organized a free medical camp for firemen and their families at Manipal Hospital

What’s Next?

We already have a functional team in Bangalore and are building teams in Mumbai and Delhi as we speak. So if you want to join our team in any of these cities, or take up forming a new team in your city, do contact me at or call me at 9916532966. I will get you started and make sure your help is channeled in a proper way to make a difference.

If you don’t want to join actively at this time, you can always join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to keep updated with whatever we are doing. Lets say Gift Your Organ wants to have a awareness event, and you can connect us with the right people in your company. This way, you can contribute to a cause without having to be an active part of it. So do join us on these platforms and stay updated.

So let us all do our bit. And as Mother Teresa said, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”

First Meeting of Pick a Fight, a memorable experience..

Last Sunday (24 Jul) we had our first meeting of everyone who volunteered to join our team in Bangalore. Till now, we have been working on developing the website and asking people to join. We already had discussions with a few NGOs / fights and this meeting was the starting point for our on-the-ground operations in Bangalore. I was absolutely delighted to see 10 people turning up and contributing with their ideas, opinions and suggestions for Pick a Fight.

What was amazing to see was the enthusiasm among everyone as each of us shared about the volunteering they have already done. Ayush recalled several activities he has been a part of while being associated with his company. Pavithra told us about a few NGOs she had visited. She also told us about her ‘India Innoventor‘ project which she is very keen to start. Rinkesh mentioned about a place where he went with Ayush once for volunteering. Others shared their experiences too. It was wonderful to hear about all these experiences.

We shared about the fights/causes we already have on-board with Pick A Fight. Anupama spoke about an orphanage cum school which she visited and interacted with recently. She spoke about the requirements of teachers (to teach Maths, English) and of funds for the orphanage. We also explained the purpose behind Gift Your Organ, whose founder we met a few weeks ago, who have taken on the cause of organ donation to make sure nobody dies for a lack of an organ donor. I also mentioned about Beyond Carlton, a fire safety and awareness movement started by the father of a 23 old victim in the Carlton Towers fire tragedy which happened in Feb 2010.

One of the common areas where these NGOs can utilize our help is spreading awareness. Whether the cause is about organ donation or fire safety or recycling, the awareness factor among the common man is quite low. For example, in UK, 25% of the population have pledged their organs and they are very unhappy about the figure. There are no official figures in India, but the number won’t be even 0.25%. Another way to help these NGOs would be by connecting them to volunteers who are willing to spend a few hours every week with them, teaching kids or spending some time with senior citizens.

A good start, but this is going to be marathon, not a sprint

A good start, but this is going to be marathon, not a sprint

Fundraising is another common area where most NGOs need help. But it is also something which will be most challenging. There have been many instances where NGOs have been used as a front to siphon off money, and hence credibility and accountability becomes a big issue. The challenge will be to connect different causes and bring them on a common and reliable platform which they can use to raise funds for their activities. We will also have to make sure that the money is used for the advertised purposes and not for any other activities.

We surely have a long way to go, and there will be many challenges along the way. While it was great to see the enthusiasm and energy of all the participants, we would need to be very patient at times when things are moving slowly or not as planned. We would have to keep one eye on the long term vision and not get distracted by small obstacles along the way. It will also be critical to keep our focus on the activity at hand and try to give the best possible service to the NGO / cause we are working with.

At the end of the meeting, we all agreed that we would need to grow our network to include like minded individuals across sectors, industries and companies. As more and more NGOs begin to reach out to us, the important thing will be to be ready for them when they approach us. Very soon we will start ground campaigns on organ donation, fire safety, waste management, among others and it will be critical to have a big network to reach out to as and when we need their support.

So let’s get together, let’s spread the word about our activities and plans, and let’s make a difference. If you have taken part in any volunteering activity, write an article or share a story with us. If you have not yet joined us on facebook and linkedin, do so now. In this way you can stay updated about our activities and help with any if you are in a position to do so. Also invite your friends and colleagues to be a part of these communities and engage in conversations.

The road might not be easy. The destination might not be clearly visible. But let us all take the first step, and then the second, third, and so on… Cheers!!

Challenges before Pick A Fight and Philanthropy in India

We have got a pretty decent start to Pick A Fight. We made the Pick a Fight website live on 15 May, and have been making continuous updates on it since then. We have been covered by, Bangalore Mirror and Deccan Chronicle as far as media coverage goes. More than 20 people have volunteered to join our team to help with Pick A Fight activities. We have started working with a few fights and on-the-ground activities / campaigns will start soon.

Having said that, giving and philanthropy in India is still in the very nascent stages. The world leader in philanthropy is US which contributes about 2.2% of its GDP whereas India only contributes 0.6% of its GDP to philanthropy. Most of the philanthropy in the west is from individuals while individual contribution is just 10% of India’s. So why has giving not picked up in India? What are the challenges before us? Can our philanthropy standards keep pace continuous economic growth?

Red Tapism

The way our government and bureaucracy works, there is a lot left to be desired if you consider the effectiveness of work happening. Many of the laws and regulations are outdated. Taking permissions and certificates is a slow process and can take up to a year in many cases. Add to them the problem of corruption and this hampers the intentions of people even if they are willing to help otherwise.


Apart from our families, we have a very small circle of trust. Especially when it comes to matters of money, we tend to see everybody with suspicion rather than trust. Most of the giving today is facilitated by government agencies and NGOs and other agencies in the non-government sector, where unfortunately, the levels of corruption is too high for anybody to feel trustworthy donating to them.


Officers and people holding offices in our government and bureaucracy are rarely held accountable for their duties. It is very easy for them to go back on their promises and duties without fear of any penalty, loss of pay or punishment. This kind of attitude further discourages people and organizations to give their money and resources to philanthropy.

Challenges Ahead

Challenges Ahead for Pick a Fight

Measuring Social Impact

If we somehow ignore the above three factors and consider all the work which is happening in the social sector, it is very difficult to measure the social impact of philanthropic efforts of India. There are no set standards or benchmarks to compare to. It is very difficult to measure how many households have come out of poverty, or how many people have improved their standards of living due to a particular philanthropic effort.

Considering that Pick a Fight and other philanthropic efforts have to work in an environment consisting of the above four factors, it is surely going to be a challenge. Getting the trust of people, and holding ourselves accountable for whatever tasks we take up is going to be the key for creating a sustainable giving movement in India.

We will also need to devise ways of measuring the social impact we are causing. The work we do might have social, economic and environmental impact but measuring them is very important for them to be properly acknowledged by one and all. “What can be measured can be improved” goes a popular saying. Knowing how well you are achieving your objectives can help you plan better for the future. It also highlights the importance of the work we do, to our partners, customers, staff and volunteers, donors or to a government agency.

Although it is not easy or well defined how to measure social benefit, its importance should be evident to all. Only by constantly making efforts in this direction keeping in mind the interests of our various stakeholders will help us in creating a new culture of giving and promoting philanthropy in India.

What was the need for Pick a Fight?

As many of you know, I am working on my latest initiative, which we have named “Pick a Fight“. The aim is to become a one stop destination to connect anyone who is fighting for a cause and looking for help with anyone who is willing to contribute in terms of money, time or resources. But why? Why have we started this? What was the need for such an initiative? In this article I will dwell on this question in detail.

George Bernard Shaw once said –

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity”

Today, as we live in a 21st century India which is economically progressing at a brisk pace, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do we care about our fellow countrymen who have been deprived of this growth?”, “Does it hurt us when we see news of crime against women and elderly?”, “Do we care about our society in the same way as we care about our family?” You might answer yes or no to these questions, but nobody can deny the fact that real (inclusive) and sustainable growth cannot happen if there is no social and economic equality and a large number of our people are still hungry and unemployed. A society cannot be called prosperous unless it takes good care of its weak and underprivileged populace.

Creating a Culture of Giving

I have always been proud of how much we Indians care for our family members, how much we sacrifice and give for the happiness of our family. But outside of family, our giving is very limited. Being very religious people, most of our giving outside our family is confined to religion. But unfortunately, all that has not made its way to the needy and for development purposes. We give money and gold in huge amounts to Gods and temples, but surprisingly, we don’t give for the values and teachings that these Gods stand for. Pick a Fight aims to create giving as a culture to promote values and ideals preached in all major religions.

See Giving as an Investment in Social Change

We need to see giving as an investment in social change rather than just an outgo of time and money. Giving for social change is like an investment which will come back to benefit us and our future generations. It is not for someone else’s benefit, it is for everybody’s, including ours, benefit. With Pick A Fight, we aim to provide options for people willing to give so that they are aware of the difference and social impact they are making.

Giving for Social Change

Giving for Social Change

Giving for Development Assistance rather than Charity

Giving can take two forms. One option is giving for charity, like feeding a hungry person or giving medicines to those who can’t afford them. Another form of giving is to give for a development process, like for an employment program or for education, which enables the receiver to empower him/herself and improve his/her living standards so that he/she doesn’t need the donor from the next time. A perfect proverb to highlight this point is – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. We need to move our giving to the second form which builds long term sustainable growth for the recipient.

No Common Platform

India has over 3 million NGOs working on a myriad of issues. But there is no extensive repository or listing directory available for donors to search based on their state, area of interest, etc. (There are few like NGOPost, GiveIndia, but they are limited in their operations and reach) We intend to fill that gap with Pick a Fight as we grow. Apart from that, a common platform can also be used for communication between different stakeholders. NGOs can share their best practices from different causes they are working on, and people can share stories of hope and courage to encourage and inspire others. Sharing resources and knowledge on a common platform will be instrumental in shaping the future of India.

We are the Privileged, and have the Responsibility

We are the privileged section of the population to grow up in the last 20 years when India has seen economic progress. We are also the ones who have been directly benefited by this growth and the reforms after 1991 have made a considerable impact in our lifestyles. But there is still a large part of our population who have missed it. It is our responsibility to take the decisive steps required to make them a part of this growth so that they also contribute to the economy for the next phase of growth.

So this was the reasoning behind starting Pick a Fight. After all, we export our software all over the word and are known for it. It is time we use our software and technical skills to help our own people and country. And Pick a Fight is still in its infancy, we would need a lot of support from all parts of the country to make it a success. We would also need a lot more initiatives by privileged people like me and you to ignite the next wave of growth and send a ripple of hope across the nation.