Make It Work: Quarancharity

Illustration of a woman doing yoga behind an iPad screen

Mumbai member Pri Shewakramani talks setting up a digital series of fundraising efforts to help migrant families in India receive food and supplies during these tough times

By Vanessa Lee    Above illustration by Elena Xausa    Tuesday 8 September, 2020    Short read

By now, we’re no strangers to the phenomenon of video streaming. Birthdays, happy hour, work, school, weddings: all have found a new, if somewhat stilted, life within the livestream. And by the fourth day of India’s nationwide lockdown, Pri Shewakramani had turned to the medium to launch and support Quarancharity. 
Quarancharity allows users to sign up for livestream classes from top creative professionals such as chefs, journalists and yoga instructors. The twist is that all the proceeds go towards helping victims of the migrant crisis in India, which has seen millions of migrant workers and their families facing unemployment due to lockdown measures and factory closures. Consequently, those most vulnerable have been left stranded on the roads, often without food, shelter and basic supplies. So far this summer, Quarancharity has donated more than £450,000 to these families and auctioned off artworks donated by twenty different artists for approximately £1,000 per piece. Here, Shewakramani explains how she came up with the concept — and why she believes in its future. 
Life in the before
‘I work as a marketing consultant and one of my clients is similar to Deliveroo. They’re called Scootsy and they’re one of the largest delivery apps in the country, so I know all the chefs of all the top restaurants in the city. They were sitting at home waiting for their restaurants to reopen and I was already messaging them for cooking tips.’ 
The big idea
‘I realised cooking is a skill everyone is trying to learn — and a lot of people were trying to pick up new skills during this time. Whether it’s cooking or fitness, while all the businesses [in those industries] are closed, I wanted to find a way to connect the dots. I would happily pay for a cooking class for an hour from one of the top chefs in the city, or do yoga with a celebrity, for example.

‘We also knew people who were talking about using this time [in lockdown] to clear out wardrobes. So, it started with the idea of my stylist friend going on a virtual tour of someone’s closet, to tell them what they don’t need, and then have those items donated. That’s how the whole concept started.

‘At the same time, there was a lot in the news about the migrant crisis, about millions of people who were stranded on the roads in India, or who couldn’t go back home, had no jobs, nowhere to stay, and were being treated really badly by the government. That’s when I knew I wanted that to inform our format.’

Taking the leap
‘I ran the idea by a few people. In fact, there were a lot of Soho House members who jumped on board and offered to help. We ended up running classes — everything from cooking and yoga to journalism. The sessions covered various fields, but they all offered to teach you something. 

‘When I launched Quarancharity, most people hadn’t mobilised themselves online [in India]. It was too early. We launched four days into the lockdown. I didn’t have a website, Instagram, nothing. I didn’t have a team in place. It’s not like my graphics were the most beautiful either, but we just got them done really quickly so that we could start the process. I think that was a huge advantage and probably where we got the most traction.’
The response
‘The creative community in India is relatively tightknit, so when I got a few of the hosts for the classes, they became advocates for us. One teacher will tell someone else; a fashion designer will tell another; and suddenly I was getting calls from people I’d never met, saying how they would love to participate.
‘We got lucky with press, too. I used to work at Condé Nast, so I knew people at Vogue and Condé Nast Traveller who, when they heard about Quarancharity, gave me so much support. It was the network of people and the fact that everyone pushed [the program] so hard [that made it so successful so quickly]. On paper, they may have only signed up for a one-hour donation, but most people involved probably spent much more time getting other people to help or donate.’
Life in the after
‘We [often] think of charity only when something goes really wrong. We don’t think about it in our day-to-day lives. I want to continue Quarancharity as a platform that’s continuously highlighting different issues. We’ve built a lovely community of people, in terms of donors and the people who teach the classes for us.
‘Unfortunately right now in India, with our government, we’re going in the completely wrong direction. There’s a bill about to be passed that will allow tiger reserves and forests to be felled for coal mining in large numbers. We’re using Quarancharity as a way to amplify those issues, but also to say, OK, we’ve all shared this experience, now how can we bring the community together at the end of it?’
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