PHOTO: JUHI SHARMA
ivaraman applied to Oxford University for a master’s
program in evidence-based social intervention, the fee for
which was $50,000 including tuition and accommodation
near the campus. She had missed out on scholarships and
also applied for bank loans.
“I stepped into every bank in Chennai and I was asked
how I planned to repay the loan. But the bank officials
hesitated to give me a loan because I was going to pursue
a course in the non-profit sector. However, I did take a
minimal loan with interest,” says Sivaraman.
She discussed her problem with a friend who suggested
crowdfunding. She started an online campaign explaining
everything from why she wanted to study at Oxford to how
the smallest contribution could make a difference to her
career. And the results were overwhelming.
She managed to raise the required funds in just over two
weeks and went on to finish her course at Oxford. “Besides
friends, relatives and networks, most of the people who
donated were individuals who wanted to lend support,
private companies and those associated with non-govern-mental
organisations,” relates Sivaraman.
Juhi Sharma, another Indian student who successfully
funded her studies through these means shares her expe-rience.
“I studied in a film school in India and realised that
34 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #19
if I wanted to have a broader perspective of film-making,
I needed to study outside the country.
“I was initially hoping to get a bank loan but didn’t get it.
Some of the major challenges were that none of the bank
loan schemes supported filmmaking as a course, because
they didn’t believe they would get the return on invest-ment.
If they did, the rate of interest was very high.”
For Sharma, it was very challenging to get success
through crowdfunding at first. “I applied for the master of
fine arts in cinema arts (specialising in film direction) at
Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema,
New York, with a partial scholarship but needed more
funds. It was quite tough to convince people to donate
money,” she explains.
Social media wings
“Eventually, it was social media that helped me. I was able
to raise sufficient funds to cover one semester’s tuition and
some marginal living expenses and setting up,” Sharma
tells The PIE Review.
Her fee was $26,000 which included minimal living
expenses and supplies for one year. In a few weeks, she
collected a little over $21,000, which was 75 per cent of the
money she had planned to raise.
With personal savings and a partial scholarship from the
Made in NY Fund, she managed to raise another $6,000.
Sharma decided the extra money would go towards star-ting
a fund for women filmmakers in India.
Indian students list the funding that they need to study
abroad on crowdfunding websites and invite their friends
and family to contribute small amounts. As Gupta puts it,
“This is gaining popularity because people have begun to
realise that a small contribution can help a student attend
his or her dream university.
“Donors can contribute small amounts and the success
of the campaign depends on how many people believe in
the student. From fine arts to business and engineering,
students are raising money to fulfil their dreams.”
He continues, “while there is no official data available
to support how many students actually get their funds
through crowdfunding, it is safe to say nearly all students
taste some amount of success. The funds can range from
as little as $100 to as much as $20,000.”
Advice from the experienced
Sharma’s advice: “If you really want it and have tried every
other avenue, then crowdfunding is the answer.
“Reaching out to people working in the industry helps.
I reached out to some filmmakers and some of them hel-ped
me with scholarships for my next semester.”
Sivaraman adds: “If one is confident amid criticism, you
will be a success. It is important to stay transparent to all
your donors, and stay in touch with them.”
Sharma pursued film-making overseas to complement her
studies in India, and used crowdfunding to help her get there.
A small contribution
can help a student attend
his or her dream university