A cherry-red coloured rickshaw with intricate traditional designs, driven by Laura Turkington, Carina Deegan and Sunita Chaudhary, the first woman auto rickshaw driver in North India, chugged over 1800 kms of India, from Delhi to Mumbai, showcasing inspirational stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things en-route. Taxis have become the yellow and black lifeline of Mumbai. Autos have become the yellow and green lifeline of Delhi. And with the efforts of the Vodafone Foundation, the Red Rickshaw has grown to become a symbol of hope, courage and a salaam to the indomitable spirit of Indian women.
Since 2008, the Vodafone Foundation has been working in India on several projects using the power of mobile technology to address the core issues that affect women in society. It works with various charitable and not-for-profit non-governmental organizations in India to help them realize their projects and make a sustainable difference among disadvantaged communities across India. The varied projects, themes and beneficiaries came together when Vodafone Foundation announced the Red Rickshaw Revolution to raise awareness about the fundamental cause they stand for and raise funds to support specific initiatives.
In March 2013, three women – Laura Turkington, Carina Deegan and Sunita Chaudhary, undertook a journey from Delhi to Mumbai in an auto-rickshaw painted the Vodafone shade of red. The journey spanned over five states of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra and included meeting twelve extraordinary women on their way and featuring nearly fifty women whose stories proved to be proud manifestations of what the cause propagated.
The Red Rickshaw Revolution campaign raised ₹30 million for its 3 partner NGOs, becoming one of the most successful crowd-funding campaigns in India in recent times. The beneficiary NGOs of the campaign were Breakthrough, Community Outreach Programme (CORP) and Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC).
Started in 1999, Breakthrough works in 5 states of India – UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana and Karnataka and 2 countries in Asia – Bangladesh and Nepal, focussing on women’s rights through interventions in domestic violence, early marriage and sex selective elimination and involves men and boys in their work.
Established in 1977, CORP works towards children at risk and vulnerable women, with the objective of eradication of poverty in the slum communities. CORP has expanded its services from Dharavi to 13 different slum communities across Mumbai by the way of daycare centres, permanent shelters and educational programmes.
Apne Aap Women’s Collective provides women and children of Kamathipura area (the second largest and oldest red light area of Asia) in Mumbai with the tools and resources they need, to lead a better quality of life. Through its programmes- Umeed (Hope) for women in brothel-based sex work (ages 18+), Udaan (Flight) for daughters of sex workers and other marginalized girls (ages 6-21) and, Umang (Joy) for toddlers of sex workers (ages 2.5-5); AAWC enables a brighter future for them.
Timing of the Project
It is said that the iron has to be hit when it is hot. It is essential to launch a campaign at the right time to garner maximum support possible. The three women set out on the journey one day after the International Women’s Day. Hence the campaign naturally became a part of the Women’s Day celebrations. The Red Rickshaw Revolution aimed to highlight positive and inspiring stories of women change makers from all walks of life. Moreover, the issue of the assault on a woman in Delhi that had occurred in December 2012 was still the most burning issue in the country and had led to widespread protests and activism. This had led to the media highlighting a significant number of other tremendous attacks on women, raising awareness of their everyday torment. It was a catharsis for Indian society which made people look deeper into the reality behind. This gave all the women an incentive to talk about their lives and stand up for their long-due rights through the Red Rickshaw Revolution.
One of the biggest assets of Vodafone Foundation is the nationwide network of employees that its parent company Vodafone has. This campaign effectively leveraged Vodafone’s thousands of employees, engaging them in various ways and converting them into both donors and ambassadors. The employees’ emails were appended with the Red Rickshaw Revolution banner at the signature, thus informing their corporates, partners and customers about the event. The wallpapers and screensavers of all employees were changed to that of Red Rickshaw revolution. To create more visibility, all the circle offices also housed huge cut-outs of the Red Rickshaw mascot.
Vodafone also raised donations from their corporate partners, vendors and suppliers through the ‘Become an Angel’ Program. Any corporate who routed a donation under this label would have their logo attached to angel’s feathers and put up on the Red Rickshaw Revolution website on the ‘Our Angels’ page. The campaign was very effective in engaging their partners and vendors, who generously donated to the cause. One of the circle offices in Odisha was able to garner more than fifteen partner donations.
The Red Rickshaw campaign also highly benefited from Vodafone Foundation’s roots in the United Kingdom. A substantial number of donations came from abroad, which played an instrumental role in pushing up the final amount raised through the campaign.
One of the biggest advantages of a company such as Vodafone is its extensive base of customers. Vodafone sent SMS messages to its customers presenting to them the option of donating Rs.10 to the Red Rickshaw campaign.
Branding and Marketing
A cause or a campaign for social impact needs as much marketing as a product or a service. Even before the journey, the event was already widely publicized on social media reaching out to 12.5 million people. Over 18,000 people followed the Red Rickshaw Revolution Facebook page, which engaged with fans through several interactive games and competitions. For instance, participants could answer the question ‘What makes you proud to be a woman?’ by joining the conversation online or by sending an SMS. Furthermore, the Vodafone brand was splendidly incorporated into the campaign through its recognizable shade of red dominating on the websites, rickshaw, and travelers’ clothes. The symbol of the cause was a red Russian doll, imprinted on the rickshaw, on the shawls of the three women and on posters. Characteristic colors and symbols rendered the campaign with a very high recall value..
The day the rickshaw halted in Mumbai, all the three women were received by Cherry Blair, wife of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, one of the Vodafone Foundation’s partner organisations. This was testament to the success of movement all over the world.
The three beneficiary NGOs were organizations that Vodafone Foundation had already partnered with in the past. Hence, this ensured that the funds were going into organizations and programs that were highly credible. The relationship that Vodafone Foundation shared with these NGOs made it easier to design and assured impact to the donors. There was also sufficient flexibility in that each donor was either allowed to donate to the corpus or directly to the NGO of their choice. By allowing this flexibility, the campaign let donors feel a direct connection with their beneficiaries.
The Red Rickshaw Revolution campaign had fundraising partners as Just Giving in the UK and Samhita in India. Both partners provided online donation portals, cheque processing services, automatic receipts to donors and seamless transfer of funds to NGOs. This enabled Vodafone Foundation to completely focus on the execution of the campaign and not bear the overhead of processing donations.
Today, Vodafone Foundation in India is committed to monitoring the usage of the funds raised by the three NGO partners. This constitutes a three-year process that will take stock of progress made and impact created at every step of execution. The Foundation wrapped up the campaign by sending personalized Thank You notes to acknowledge the role they played in furthering the cause.
The success of the Red Rickshaw Revolution campaign has set Vodafone Foundation to think on the lines of another similar campaign running across a different part of India. This will allow greater engagement of partners and employees in another section, not to mention awareness and social impact for causes in another geographical region.
The takeaways from the success of the Red Rickshaw Revolution campaign are significant to foundations, NGOs and donor agencies thinking of running similar drives in India. Being able to identify one’s strengths and pool of resources and thereby create instruments to mobilize and engage them could result in substantial gains in both the short and long term.
About Vodafone Foundation
Vodafone Foundation in India is combining skills, resources and funding to build a brighter future for people who are currently unable to fulfill their potential. We recognise the power of mobile technology to address some of India’s most pressing challenges and use it to encourage innovation, share knowledge and improve lives. We focus our work on areas of greatest need and at scale. We seek to empower women so that they can compete on an equal footing, to reach rural areas and support the people living there, and to provide new opportunities for education. As part of the social investment programme, the Vodafone Foundation also funds projects in India which focus on both support and disaster relief.