Robin Daultani is the founder of Nicerr, a social venture enabling people to get advice from top professionals and subject matter experts, and in return, contributing to charities of the experts’ choice. As Nicerr redefines how people connect and give back to their communities, Daultani shares his journey in social entrepreneurship and why the intersection of business and social impact is especially relevant during these times.
Tell us about the origin story of Nicerr and why this mission is important to you personally.
“I dived into entrepreneurship for the first time during my third year at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Bombay. I started an internship portal, kind of like an ‘Indeed’ for internships, because a lot of people not from colleges like IITs in India were facing trouble finding internships. So, that was a great experience and I learned a lot. I got fortunate working for some great corporations around the world: PNG in Japan, AECOM in Canada, etc.
What kind of disappointed me was that most of the conversations around technology happened around automation or productivity. I always wondered why are people not thinking about using technology for social good? Last year, I read an article about how Warren Buffett auctions a lunch every year. The winning bid last year was $5 million. The question I asked myself was why only Buffet? There are so many people in this world who have their own unique experiences, expertise, skills, and what if they start sharing this with others and support a cause or a charity of their choice? It gives me a lot of happiness to see that we [at Nicerr] are connecting people and the charities are benefiting.”
How can people get involved with Nicerr?
“They can book a free 15-minute consultation call with one of our team members or fill out a simple form. That helps us know what that person is looking for, and we can suggest the right expert or professional for them. Every meeting costs around $39. But the reason we are called Nicerr is 90 percent of this fee goes towards a charity which is supported by the expert. The expert is not actually making any money. We make a small portion because this is how we sustain the platform and provide the technology. Every meeting does good. It’s a really simple process, and the feedback is really positive. For people who want to help others, again [there is] a simple signup form. We’re careful in ensuring that the quality of people on the platform is top notch. We are still in early stages of our evolution. We are still experimenting. We would love people to try it out. Give us more feedback and tell us how we can make the platform better.”
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of becoming a social entrepreneur?
“I personally believe every new venture brings in new challenges, because entrepreneurship is not a set playbook. Every person is different. Every venture is different. Every market is different. Social entrepreneurship is still a new field, relatively. A lot of traditional knowledge and investing is still based on a profit first kind of model. I think the biggest challenge for me was to educate people that the world is changing. The new generation really cares about the climate, planet and people. That has dramatically changed even if I compare myself when I was graduating. The level of awareness has increased. There is an awakening now that we need to balance our act and profit cannot be the sole motive behind what we do. Social entrepreneurship is rooted in doing good, so if you’re not going for profit early on, it’s a struggle keeping the lights on. We have great examples here in Calgary, like Benevity, who have demonstrated that companies can do good. They can be profitable and start making change. They are my inspiration and I’m hoping to be like them someday.”
How has COVID-19 impacted the mission you’re on?
“Like everybody else, it impacted me a lot, both on personal and professional fronts. On the personal side, I have a daughter who’s not old enough to play by herself, so when we were locked at home, my work had to take a backseat. That also gave me an opportunity to think more strategically on where we want to move Nicerr. People are now more open, which has given us more fuel to build a platform where we can have people connect virtually from all over the world. People in Calgary don’t just need to meet people in Calgary. They can talk to people in India, Australia and Japan. But we have seen demand go down a bit. People are a little more nervous about the future and a lot of people unfortunately got laid off from their work. So, we are trying to adapt to this new world where there is uncertainty.”
What makes Calgary unique for this type of work?
“If you see different hubs around the world, there is one company that succeeds that inspires others to start their own companies, and then slowly it becomes an ecosystem. I feel that happened to Calgary with the success of Benevity. They proved it’s not an unprofitable industry. We have a lot of examples in Calgary where people are trying to emulate the success. I personally feel that Calgary can become the social innovation capital of the world, given some rights support from the government and some right kind of feedback from the investor community.”
What is your advice for someone that’s just starting out in this field?
“Number one advice is to just look around. Technology has made it really easy for us. On platforms like Nicerr, people can say, ‘I have the skill or I have the experience and I want to share with others.’ It’s just a 45 minute Zoom call. The circumstances have made it easier for people to help others and people should take that opportunity. It’s a tough time for a lot of people unfortunately, but I think we can get through this together and stronger.”