Published: 26th December 2017
Karthik Naralasetty wants to solve world's blood crisis with an app and social media
Karthik Naralasetty from Guntur started Socialblood to ensure that people who needed blood would never be left in the cold. The changemaker talks about his app and how he got Facebook to like it
Stalking, networking, reaching out to long lost friends, marketing, keeping track of what's going on — Facebook is used for a myriad of reasons. But Karthik Naralasetty was probably the only one who, back in 2011, thought of leveraging the network that Facebook offers to build an app that solves the world's blood crisis and aptly named it Socialblood. And it doesn't only have FB's attention, it has its support too. Socialblood is now a native app of Facebook and makes it possible for you to tap into your own network to seek donors.
As a child, Karthik Naralasetty disliked Maths and Physics and he was not the nerd of the class. "If teachers had to pick their favourites, I certainly wouldn't be one of them," he laughs. He used to buy and sell cell phones for a while
Central to the idea are two aspects — one, leveraging the network that Facebook provides, which the team has done, and two, "the main focus from the start has always been the story," says the man from Guntur who is currently based out of California. Instead of putting out a request for blood in the void, that is the internet, where you can be heard just as easily as you can be unheard, Socialblood has in place a mechanism which will help you put out a story to appeal to people. This way your request gathers more views, thus increasing reachability.
And even if you're in no state to put out a story of your own, all you need to do is provide information like your relationship to the person who's in need of blood, their age, details of the surgery (or for whatever purpose the blood is needed) and your story will be created automatically.
You don't start a company to become rich and famous, you start a company to solve a problem
Karthik Naralasetty, founder, Socialblood
But as we downloaded the app onto our Android device, we were surprised to be asked the question 'Do you have a pet?'. We ask Naralasetty what the logic behind this is and he explains how it's a cause that no one thinks about. "Pet blood donation never occurs to anyone, so we want to implement this feature in the future and push for it," says the Rutgers University alum, who is receiving a lot of praise from pet lovers for this thoughtful feature.
For the pets: One of the screenshots from the app which asks about pets
Earlier this year, an RTI revealed that in the past five years, over 2.8 million units of blood has been discarded — units that could fill as many as 53 water tankers! One of the reasons Naralasetty attributes this to is the ill-managed blood donation drives, "which receive a huge response because of the emotional connect, but storage becomes a problem later," he claims. Storage of blood is a costly affair as blood needs to be divided into four components and stored in the appropriate containers and right temperatures, he informs. Even blood comes with a shelf life! And government policies don't make it easier. "For example, it's not even legal to take Telangana's excess blood to AP. We need a policy change and new tools need to be implemented," he says.
Other countries facing problems when it comes to blood donations, are Sri Lanka, Brazil and some others. Naralasetty has a team of five developers based out of Bengaluru and the company is registered in California
And though Telangana is better off than some of the northern states like Bihar when it comes to availability of blood, its blood banks, along with those of Andhra, do indulge in some shady practices, informs the 28-year-old. Not only do they ask for a replacement of blood that they are willing to sell, they even charge for it. "Asking them to pay and also replace blood is unfair," he says.
The reason why problems like these aren't a priority for entrepreneurs is because, "it's not fancy and even investors are not too inclined to support it as the Return of Investment might not be as lucrative as a payment app or a food delivery app," Naralasetty points out. He too was discouraged by many who advised him to continue this as a 'side business' or a 'not-for-profit’. "Even today, I don't think the focus on healthcare has improved," he says.
Screen grabs: Some screenshots from the Socialblood application
Leading the rest
But what kept the Telugu lad motivated towards this cause, was the fact that it was a problem affecting the whole world and he needed to look at the greater good, which sometimes could mean sharing all your learning and IP to create a bigger impact — which is exactly what Socialblood has done.
His father has been his biggest mentor till date and has always encouraged him to pursue his dreams. The Guntur lad visits home once a year and misses his mother's food the most, particularly her dosas
"Your aim shouldn't be to give up your idea, get acquired and earn money; it should be to share your learning to amplify your mission," says the social entrepreneur. Since the last six years, they have impacted 3,00,00 lakh people, but in the last two months after joining hands with FB, they have reached out to about four million people and as they say, let the numbers speak for themselves. This is what can happen if you stop being self-centered about your idea and try to genuinely solve a problem just like Socialblood is trying to do.
We take you through the journey of Socialblood, from the very beginning when Naralasetty’s idea was in its infancy:
When an idea strikes
In 2011, Naralasetty created Facebook groups for each of the eight blood groups and later, he created a website FacebookBloodGroups.org through which people could find blood donors based on their location. The idea went viral and gained momentum in Brazil, Pakistan, Thailand and other countries
First pat on the back
In 2012, Naralasetty met the founder of Paytm, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who upon hearing the idea eventually gave them their first grant of $20,000 to build a platform outside Facebook
Soon Naralasetty connected with Rajan Anandan, MD of Google India, who in turn brought on board a few other investors
Connecting with FB
In 2013, Facebook recognised Naralasetty's efforts and invited him to speak at their Global Marketing Summit where he addressed 1,200 Facebook employees from around the world
A step ahead
In 2014, Naralasetty connected with FB's VP of Product Partnership, Ime Archibong, who who asked them to launch Socialblood.org on the platform of internet.org'
In 2015, Naralasetty asked Zuckerberg how Facebook could help with their platform and Archibong spoke about their initiative at FB 2015, a developer's conference
Hitting it off
In 2017, Archibong introduced Naralasetty to the Social Good Team at FB and within six months, they launched a native app for Socialblood
Check them out at facebook.com/socialblood/