What went into crowdfunding India's first Sanskrit animated film
Posted on 14 March, 2016 by Team Wishberry
What is Punyakoti?Punyakoti is India’s first animated film in Sanskrit. It is based on a popular folksong from South India. Punyakoti was started as an experiment- to not only see what happens when 35 animators from all around the world are working on the movie, but also create a revival of the Sanskrit language, especially among the younger generation. The film is a debut venture by Ravi Shankar who is a multimedia expert and the head of human resources at Infosys. It also has illustrious names such as legendary filmmaker Sri Ilaiyaraaja- who is composing the film's soundtrack, filmmaker Anvar Ali and National Award winning editor Manoj Kannoth.
The Goal:To Raise Rs. 40 lakhs via crowdfunding for India’s first ever animated film in Sanskrit
What was the money being raised for?
- The concept was fairly unfamiliar to most people
- Ravi is an unknown person, in the filmmaking circuit
- Being an introvert, the whole concept of asking for money and heavy social media promotion proved to be a challenge
- None of the team members were working on Punyakoti full time
- Lack of a strong online community presence around Punyakoti
Why Crowdfund?According to Ravi, crowdfunding for Punyakoti was a good idea because, “the concept of this film was fairly new and we didn't want just one person to carry the burden. But more than that, for us crowdfunding was a way to validate the idea”.
Crowdfunding Strategy:The crowdfunding campaign was divided into three phases.
Phase 1: Fan BuildingObviously, no online crowdfunding campaign is possible without a strong and supportive fan base. Therefore, it was important to first build one for Punyakoti. The process of building a decent social media fan following lasted 2 months.
Identifying Audience:During this time, the right target audience was found using affinities relevant to the project. These affinities were:
- Only Sanskrit animation film in the world
- Effort to revive Sanskrit – a dying language and one of India’s greatest contributions to the world
- India’s first crowdsourced animated film- seeking collaboration of 35 animators from all over the world
- Crowdfunding a Sanskrit film
- Ravi’s 14-year old daughter Sneha as one of the voices in Punyakoti
- On Facebook, Sanskrit groups, animation communities and Ilaiyaraaja’s fan communities were targeted. Additionally, an email list of all of Ravi’s contacts were set up and custom ads were targeted to this segment accordingly.
- Twitter handles of Sanskrit and animation enthusiasts were followed. The same was done for top Indian government officials as well
- Media portals that are not only widely read but also relevant to the film were targeted to carry Punyakoti’s story.
- Ravi’s entire email database was downloaded as well as sitting down and figuring out each and every person in Ravi’s life. These contacts were then put in buckets based on relationships (family, friends, professional networks etc.).
Phase 2: Fan EngagementOnce Punyakoti’s social media pages started getting followers, it was time to engage with them. The following content were shared as a part of fan engagement:
Updating real time events and progress of the project
Insight into the team behind PunyakotiTo make audiences feel more involved and aware of those working behind the scenes, the people who were putting their efforts into the film were also introduced.
Honest appeals from the campaigner
Media coverageIt’s important to show press coverage about a project as it helps cast a wider net of funders and give the project a bigger spotlight. Being covered by important media portals gave the campaign further validation.
- On Facebook, content about Punyakoti was shared across relevant groups. Messages were sent to people who have participated in posts and conversations related to Sanskrit.
- On Twitter, influencers were identified and informed about Punyakoti. Project updates were shared and tweets were sent out to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top government officials such as Sushma Swaraj, Subramanian Swamy and Smriti Irani. This helped garner a lot of public attention.
- The campaign received some major attention from various media channels like Bangalore Mirror and Hindustan Times, which helped get people talking about Punyakoti early on.
Phase 3: Fan ActivationThe fans are gathered and engaged with. Now, it was time to make the crowdfunding campaign go live and mobilize these fans to put their money on it.
Landing Page:According to Ravi, the landing page was made so that people who were visiting Punyakoti’s website could also see crowdfunding pitch video immediately.
Did it help?About 24% of the pledges (and eventual funding) came from users who visited the landing page first.
- Close networks like relatives and friends were reached personally.
- Contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn were sent newsletters in various rounds. A batch of emails were sent to the first batch of people in Round 1. Then, those who have opened the newsletter were excluded and the rest were sent emails in Round 2. This process kept continuing until the entire list had opened the newsletter at least once.
- Constant updates of the crowdfunding target were shared
- Extra emphasis was laid on the fact that people from all over the world were funding (to bring light to the scale of the project)
- More fans who were not familiar with Punyakoti earlier were targeted via other Sanskrit related pages/posts. These people were then messaged about the crowdfunding campaign
- Paid Facebook ads were run, which helped make some more noise about the campaign on social media
- Tweets were sent out every 2 to 3 hours a day. Hashtags such as #SaveSanskrit, #Spare5000ForSanskrit, #sanskritneedsyou, #sanskrit, etc. were used
- A list of influencers who were relevant and likely to support the campaign was made. They were tweeted to everyday. Additionally, the influencers’ active followers were also tweeted to
- Twitter conversations with influencers as well as anyone talking about Sanskrit were made
- Twitter conversations with people who are enthusiastic about Sanskrit
Press CoverageDuring the crowdfunding campaign, the press focus shifted to online portals. Punyakoti got featured by popular sites such as NewsMinute, Rediff, The Better India, etc. This may not have helped in getting funding directly, but it created a lot of social media traction, which eventually did lead to a large number of people putting in small amounts of money.
The NumbersOver the course of these three months of heavy social media activity-
- Facebook fans increased from 500 likes to 2000+ likes organically
- Twitter fans increased from 20 to 280 followers
The SlumpIn spite of the social media blitz kreig, after the first wave of virality, Punyakoti stopped getting traction or funding a long stretch. This led to the crowdfunding campaign team regroup and analyze what was going wrong. After putting every aspect and channel of the campaign under the scanner, we noticed an anomaly- Unlike most crowdfunding campaigns where friends and family are the first 30% to fund, all the funding that Punyakoti received for the first month was from absolute strangers. This meant that Ravi’s personal networks were yet to pool in. This called for a change in strategy, which mostly required Ravi to chase after supporters who had pledged their money but were yet to fund. The result? Suddenly, the campaign managed to raise Rs. 15 lakhs in the last 10 days of the campaign. Ravi explains, “People came to know about the project and its seriousness after repeated messaging for over 5 to 6 weeks. A lot of people wanted to contribute, but kept postponing. Once we put it out there, out loud that we had only a few days left and if we fail to raise money, we'd get nothing, was when money started pouring in once again. But, it took at least 10 reminders to get some people to fund!”
The End Result:Punyakoti raised Rs. 41 lakhs from 282 funders all across the globe. Not only did Punyakoti go on to become the highest funded online crowdfunding project but also:
- The world’s first Sanskrit animated feature length film
- India’s first crowdsourced film (with collaborations from 35 animators)
- 80% of the funders didn’t even know Ravi personally. They simply funded out of love for the idea!
- Punyakoti has received support from renowned names like Mohandas Pai- a board member of SEBI