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Amritha Pillay profiles ‘The Hub’, a common platform for NGO start-ups in Mumbai
A number of NGOs working for different causes from one common platform to save costs—if this is what you are looking for, your search would end at ‘The Hub’. Perched near the steps of the famous Mt Mary Church of Mumbai is an ordinary-looking building. On its fourth floor is The Hub which literally vibrates with positivity. You could even call it a melting pot of Mumbai’s NGOs.
Just a few months old, the Hub provides an office and address to around 30 social-sector start-ups. These include groups working for senior citizens, women’s rights, sexually abused children, the blind and others. “We wanted to ensure there are groups working for various causes rather than having a number of groups working for the same cause,” says Pooja Warier, who co-founded UnLtd India (along with Richard Alderson) which supports the Hub and funds other social start-ups in the city.
“When we first started work for UnLtd India, we realised there was no common place that we could work from, like ‘The Hub’ in London,” said Pooja. This, coupled with frequent requests for space from social start-ups supported by UnLtd India, led to the creation of The Hub. While, The Hub is focused on supporting social start-ups, professionals such as designers, writers, job-recruiters and film-makers who are willing to help these NGOs with their expertise, are also welcome here. “The job recruiter with us helps NGOs working from The Hub to find people at subsidised rates or no charges,” says Pooja.
The Hub is run with contributions from the members, which range from Rs1,000-Rs11,000 per month, based on the duration of use, the space occupied and what they can afford. The same arrangement applies to workshop space.
A lot of thought has gone into planning the space. “We chose Bandra because it is ideally positioned and The Hub is also not very far from the railway station,” says Pooja. Its bright, cheerful and well-lit interiors too get a thumbs-up. It is also designed in a way that an open space can be created in 15 minutes flat.
The 1,500 sq ft Hub accommodates 24 work-stations and can host up to 100 people or more for events. This space is used for workshops and conferences for the NGOs working at the Hub. This amiable workspace is equipped with free facilities like coffee-vending machines and water purifiers.
To make The Hub its office space, an NGO must talk to the directors and fill an application form. If they are genuine and have been working in their field for a while, the application is accepted. As the space is meant to help start-ups, NGOs will have to leave the place once they become self-sustaining.
Pooja believes that the best thing about The Hub is the people involved with it. “At no point of time did we have a single person who thought that formation of the Hub was a bad or stupid idea,” she adds; “and they even help to take care of it.” The Hub in Mumbai is a one-of-its kind institution in India. However, Pooja and Richard wish to support formation of similar hubs in various cities across the country. “We would be very happy to share our experience and learning with those who wish to form similar hubs in other Indian cities,” says Pooja.
The Hub started just a few months back and needs to be supported with donations and funds. “The Hub aims to be self-sustainable and run on contributions from members. With our current projections, we will break even in our third year of operations. Until then, we will need a certain amount of grants to cover running costs, develop tools that can be shared by The Hub members (for instance, a start-up kit) and support some members who are unable to afford our fees,” says Pooja. In future, it also plans to provide more value-added services.
Candelar Building, 4th Floor,
26 St John Baptist Road,
Near Mount Mary Steps,
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050
Tel: +91 22 32163287
Email: [email protected]