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Mary Kom taps crowdfunding for boxing academy

posted Sep 9, 2014, 2:02 AM by J Shaw   [ updated Sep 9, 2014, 2:02 AM ]
Champion boxer M.C. Mary Kom is tapping the crowd-funding route to build better infrastructure facilities for her proposed boxing academy in Imphal with the help of financial services company Edelweiss Group..

Mary Kom plans to initially raise Rs.20 lakh by 30 September.

“I have a dream—a dream to create many, many more Mary Koms,” the five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion and bronze medal winner at the 2012 Olympics said in a phone interview from her native Manipur on Friday. “I want to build sufficient infrastructure for my boxing academy including separate hostels for men and women, boxing rings, free food, tracksuits, etc. The central government has given land and we have started construction that will be completed this year. But we need create better infrastructure,” Mary Kom said.

Crowd-funding refers to the collective effort of individuals who pool money—mostly through the Internet—to support start-ups. There are two basic forms of crowd-funding—community crowd-funding and financial return crowd-funding. The former includes donation-based concepts while the latter involves investors contributing money in return for a financial payoff or, in some cases, equity.

The initiative comes after director Omung Kumar’s Bollywood biopic Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra, opened in theatres last week and the success of the ice bucket challenge, which raised about $100 million in less than a month for research into a progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The challenge involved pouring a bucket of ice cold water on your head, donating to the cause and nominating three other people to do the same.

“This is our first crowd-funding initiative to help build infrastructure for Mary Kom’s boxing academy in Manipur,” said Deepak Mittal, managing director and chief executive of Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance Co Ltd. Mittal said the idea is to support Mary Kom’s initiative to help create more world champions and spread awareness about alternative sports and games in India outside the world of cricket. “We are trying to time this crowd-funding initiative right as the biopic movie about Mary Kom is just released. And we are using the social media channel to promote to spread awareness,” Mittal said. “We may not stop at Rs.20 lakh. We may raise funds for Mary Kom as and when she requires the same. More than funds, it’s about spreading awareness.”

The total cost of the boxing academy is estimated at around Rs.7 crore. Edelweiss launched a website on Friday—needforchampions.com—along with the film’s release as the first step toward crowd-funding.

Mary Kom said she struggled to find the right kind of environment for training, but her family and husband were hugely supportive. She said she is preparing for this year’s Incheon Asian Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics. “My dream is to win a gold medal for the country. This will be my first competition after having my third child,” she said. Mary Kom said she is not getting sufficient time to train aspiring Indian boxers as she herself was training. “But after my retirement, I would be focusing on my boxing academy,” she said.

Asked how she liked the movie, Mary Kom said she got emotional after watching the sequences about the stress she had had to undergo in the past. “I cried. I think it will be a hit movie. I hope many will like the movie and it will also help in boosting the crowd-funding initiative,” she said.

Rajeev M., co-founder of Connovate Technology Pvt. Ltd, said the timing of the crowd-funding initiative is right as it coincides with the biopic’s release. Rajeev’s firm raised $135,000 via crowd-funding from 50-odd countries in September 2013. But he cautioned that crowd-funding needs to maintain continuous momentum and reach the right audience with right messages.

According to an article in Forbes magazine earlier this month, which cited statistics website Statista, the global volume of crowd-funding  platforms rose to $2.8 billion in 2012 from $530 million in 2009. In India, accurate data on how much has been raised via crowd-funding is not available. But in June this year, capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India floated a consultation paper on crowd-funding and its costs and benefits.

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