There are charities for several causes but 'entertainment' is as important- Farzana Cama Balpande, BookASmile

BookASmile, the charity initiative run by online ticketing platform BookMyShow, is an outfit that supports special causes and enriches lives of the less fortunate across India through the medium of experiences and entertainment. As it readies to work its magic at Ranthambore Festival slated for 27- 29th Jan at Nahargarh Palace, we speak with BookASmile's torchbearer Farzana Cama Balpande to get a better view of this noble vision.


Q. Please elaborate BookASmile's association with Ranthambore Festival.
Ranthambore Festival is a unique platform bringing together a community of enthusiasts who believe that art, music, culture, wildlife and heritage are of critical importance. This is where BookASmile identified with them and is delighted to extend its support to this initiative. We believe that this festival has the ability to initiate and drive relevant as well as interesting conversations that will positively impact our future. The ticket entry is free and the festival is open to all to promote the spirit of inclusion.

Q. BookASmile also partnered with Global Citizen Festival 2016. Tell us about that.
BookASmile collaborated with Delhi based NGO Music Basti to help 20 underprivileged children to showcase their musical talent at the Global Citizen Festival India 2016. These children travelled all the way from New Delhi on invitation of BookASmile to perform the opening act of the Festival to showcase their diverse musical strengths. The kids all hailed from different backgrounds and communities and the only thing that bound them together was Music.
BookASmile believes that every kid deserves an opportunity regardless of their background. Collaborating with the Global Citizen Festival India 2016 is the perfect platform to combine our synergies to showcase that Talent transcends all boundaries of caste, creed, religion and social status. BookASmile was extremely excited to have the next generation of musicians display their musical talent on a global platform. This was a small step in our journey towards helping the less fortunate make art an integral part of their lives.

Q. You had worked with women from slums (women’s day activity) on the occasion of women's day. Please share that experience.
BookASmile efforts are always concentrated on building better and enriched lives. Women empowerment is a critical aspect of this. Last year, we undertook a host of initiatives to further empower women.

We partnered with Concern India foundation to support and fund their women centric projects in Mumbai and Rajasthan. The initiative worked towards economic empowerment of underprivileged women in the Malvani slums of Mumbai wherein vocational training courses were offered to over 400 underprivileged women to help them find employment opportunities in their locality and the close by areas. We also supported another project in Barmer, Rajasthan to help 1000 women artisans with skill-upgradation and market demand trainings to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to them.

BookMyShow employees also came forward to do their bit. They helped young girls from an NGO in Mumbai Antranag get a firsthand opportunity to understand various skill set requirements for various jobs when they visited the BookMyShow offices in Mumbai.

Q. What are the other initiatives undertaken by BookASmile?
Initially, BookASmile primarily worked within Mumbai and had a few liaisons with NGO’s outside Maharashtra. Over the next one year, through research, referrals and showcasing the work that we did, we connected and liaised with many more NGO’s and organisations pan India. Today, we are looking to grow and expand to different geographies in India and wish to impact lives and change perspectives of people residing everywhere, from big cities to towns and villages including kids, senior citizens, physically/mentally challenged individuals or even the armed forces. We already actively work with over 100 NGOs across India and have successfully impacted over 15000 lives.

Q. You enrich lives of the unfortunate through 'experiences'. What is the thought behind doing so?
BookASmile was conceptualized in 2012 with a vision to use our platform to give back to the society. We wanted to do something distinctive and revolutionary in the charity space by lending our arm to an area where we already have a strong foothold. We wanted to provide opportunities to those from the disadvantaged sections of society to experience a world of entertainment, music, theatre, arts, sports and culture, things that you and I usually take for granted. This stemmed from the observation that there are already plenty of brilliant organizations that are working towards other critical areas such as health, nutrition, and education but we felt that entertainment and culture was something as important, and perhaps their importance largely undermined. We through BookASmile connect with kids, senior citizens, physically/mentally challenged individuals or even the armed forces.

Q. How do you fund the various charitable initiatives undertaken by BookASmile?
BookASmile believes in the ‘Power of One’; that it just takes Re. 1 to make a difference in someone’s life. The users of BookMyShow across 400 cities have been actively contributing, anywhere from Re. 1 to Rs. 5, to BookASmile every time they transact on our platform. Alternately, if anyone wants to donate larger amounts, they can simply visit our website and make a donation. To increase the BookASmile corpus, we have also begun to bring about different strategic changes to fund raising which has helped us scale vertically as well.

Q. BookMyShow- the parent company- is India's premier ticketing platform for events. How can event planners associate with BookASmile to bring positive impact?
As the official ticketing partners for some of the biggest events in the country, we already collaborate with a community of enthusiasts who believe that cinema, art, music, culture, sports are of critical importance. We can definitely further leverage our association by creating more meaningful opportunities like we did with Global Citizen Festival India 2016.

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