IMPACT 0577: CREATING AND EMPOWERING A LIFESTYLE OF GIVING
Koh Kang Liang, 30, is the founder and managing partner of Growth.sg, a management consulting firm focused on digitalisation for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Along with his team, they also run Gifting.sg, a social-good company that fundraises empowering gifts to beneficiaries from all walks of life. In this article, he shares more about his work in tech and digital platforms, as well as his belief in rallying SMEs and general consumers to do good. Today he shares more about what they do at Gifting.sg!
How did Gifting.sg start?
Back in 2019, I started consulting for SMEs on a freelance basis, and during that time, I was looking for the next unicorn idea. So, with limited savings, I started Swapie, a platform that helps people earn more cashback.
Swapie was able to earn a small profit that could support our fledgling team, so we were thinking about what to do with the “spare change”. COVID-19 hit then, and charities were getting donations from all over Singapore, which touched both our hearts and tinkering minds.
Hence, we played our part not by donating, but by building another tech solution to enable better donations. Enter Gifting.sg: a gift-raising (not fund-raising) platform, which focuses on long-term empowerment of charities’ beneficiaries, such as digital skills workshops or new school bags for needy children.
What was the inspiration behind Gifting.sg?
There are many outlets for us to donate money or rations that will keep the less fortunate “full for a day”, but none that allows us to play a part in teaching them “how to fish”. We also combined two business trends: donors today becoming more aware of the causes they support, and businesses seeing the need to actively contribute to society.
Hence, we thought, why not put all three together? Ask a business to provide their products/services at a cost, and get consumer donors to pay that cost while telling these two parties that their efforts will support a charitable cause. The fundamental concept: rich + rich helping poor, rather than just the rich helping the poor.
What are some ways that you overcame the challenges that arose?
We’ve always been in the commercial world, so establishing charitable trust has never crossed our minds. Building credibility among SMEs, charities and everyday donors was one recurring theme for the team and our advisors. We faced questions from whether we had a charity status to how the money/gifts were being accounted for.
At times, partners and users pulled out, or simply did not come onboard quick enough, and we questioned ourselves quite a bit, especially since we hadn’t monetised Gifting.sg in the earlier stages but instead funded it from our commercial profits. We had also spent a good amount of money and effort on developing the platform, and when there wasn’t a clear path to recuperating that, we had to tread into dangerous boundaries of “money vs purpose”.
For me personally, convincing the team to remain focused on our vision was exceptionally tough: it wasn’t about the pay raises or bonuses anymore. I may also have been a “seasoned” entrepreneur by the time Gifting.sg started, but I also faced the usual suite of startup challenges: the uncertainty over the idea, whether we could feed the team hired specifically for Gifting.sg, product development issues, financials, getting grants, fronting fundraising, balancing my time between Gifting.sg and “for-profit” projects.
Looking back, having a clear state of mind and always focusing on the facts did me well. This was always my process: indulge in my emotions, consciously put them aside, then start “grilling” people to find out more about what they know, “grinding it out”, and solving problems. It worked well for me – so the next time you face challenges, try it too!
What is one piece of advice that you would like to share with your fellow youth?
Think differently. Dig into the unknown parts of your brain. Be nonlinear about it. Being extraordinary (or being anything, at all) starts with a thought. Build your thoughts with experiments. But don’t do it just for the sake of being different. Root everything in logic and purpose. Do not ever, ever budge on this identity, just like how you do not fill a wrong NRIC number in a form. Influence people with this package of who you really are, and bring them onboard your journey. Those who come will stay, and those who don’t were never meant to be on it.
What are your plans for the future?
In the immediate future, we will continue our core work of digitising SMEs and businesses in Singapore. But one change in 2022 is to integrate Gifting.sg deeper into our host of service offerings to the clients and partners we work with. This means that we will consciously choose clients to work with and prioritise those with a higher potential of giving back to society.
At the same time, Gifting.sg runs thematic campaigns throughout the year, so if you believe in our philosophy of giving, head over to our website, sign-up with us, and be in the know of our future campaigns! The big idea is to groom Singaporeans to think about empowerment through gifts whenever they make a retail purchase. Join us in our journey today!