Brand Saga: Akshaya Patra Foundation, when hard work & marketing helped towards hunger eradication

Akshaya Patra Foundation

In a time of crisis, we take a look at how marketing can be of aid to a bigger cause. Presenting the journey of Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO that supplemented its hard work with creating marketing technique, resulting in a revolution we all know today as Mid Day Meals for children

Lore has it that one day in Manipur, Calcutta (now Kolkata), Late A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was looking out a window and his attention was grabbed by a group of children quarreling with stray dogs over scraps of food. From this heart-breaking incident was born a determination that no child within a radius of ten miles from his center should go hungry and this sowed the seeds for Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Akshaya Patra Foundation has committed itself to offer a helping hand since 2000 and continues to do so in these dreadful times. Today we take a look at their advertising journey and the vision to communicate the need of the hour over time.

Humble Beginnings

Akshaya Patra, in June 2000, started the Mid-Day Meal Programme and hopped onto serving meals to around 1.5k children across five government schools in Bengaluru.

With limited resources and inventory to speed up the program, it witnessed some challenges. Soon, Mohandas Pai, took the initiative of donating the first vehicle to transport food to the schools; and Abhay Jain promised to bring in more donors.

Since then, the organization, in partnership with the Government of India and various State Governments, as well as philanthropic donors has been successful in running the world’s largest Mid-Day Meal Programme.

Akshaya Patra Foundation Advertising Journey

A Non-profit organization, Akshaya Patra Foundation set base in Bengaluru and then worked to get the word out. It started gaining the audience’s trust in the internet era by creating videos and showcasing how good management, innovative technology, and smart engineering help deliver nutritious and hygienic school lunches every day. 

Eliminating Hunger One Campaign a Time

Akshaya Patra strives to eliminate classroom hunger by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in government schools and government-aided schools. For the same, they had to monitor the hunger-deprived school-going children of the society and amplify their needs.

Just like an NGO provides guidance sans a lot of hullabaloos, Akshaya Patra Foundation reached out to minimal mediums for mass awareness and adapted a door-to-door, school-to-school policy to help those in need, setting up kitchens in every target city.

The concept of mid-day meals prepared in real-time in safe and hygiene conditions was communicated through a series of videos chronicling details about the meal prep and the kind of infrastructure built by the foundation to take care of as many kids as possible in cities like Puri, Jaipur, Vrindavan, et al.

Akshaya Patra Foundation also took to combat malnutrition and support the right to education of socio-economically disadvantaged children further launching nationwide fund-raising campaigns wherein it urged people to be a part of its holistic solution by contributing and feel the ‘Happiness of Giving’.

The communication to boost the campaign revolved around how one generous donation to fight against Malnutrition gives kids a healthy start, opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.

The organization leveraged technology to cater to millions of children conveying how the state-of-the-art kitchens have become a subject of study and attract curious visitors from around the world. The education programs provide nutritious snacks and health monitoring at school while the health programs offer comprehensive maternal and child care, including monitoring and supplements to fight chronic malnutrition. 

The first radio outreach program of The Akshaya Patra Foundation was launched on All India Radio, Vivid Bharathi 96.7 in Ahmedabad. It was a part of a broad outreach campaign initiated by the organization to inform the general public about the journey of the NGO and its efforts.

On the occasion of National Nutrition Month, The Akshaya Patra Foundation kickstarted an Outreach Campaign on the critical cause of addressing hunger and malnutrition. As a part of this campaign, conscientious citizens were encouraged to sign pledge cards committing to ‘no wastage of food’ and support under-served people by feeding them.

The core objective was to spread awareness and create tangible action by involving thousands of people and critical stakeholders in the public and private sectors, in the movement against hunger and malnutrition (hidden hunger) on the occasion of National Nutrition Month.

The campaign found support from varied sections of society, ranging from private and Government schools, teachers, corporates, bureaucracy, and political leaders. More than 15k people signed the pledge and were sent to the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

As a result of the many activities to promote the cause, parents started sending their children to school, with the surety that the children will at least get one full meal for the day. This enabled the children to get an education too.

Stories of HOPE

KFC India in 2016, launched add HOPE – a program that aimed to fight hunger in the country, create awareness and raise funds to provide meals to India’s underprivileged children through World Food Program (WFP), Akshaya Patra Foundation, and India FoodBanking Network (IFBN).

Together with these organizations, KFC aimed to provide 20 million meals to underprivileged children by 2020. As part of the campaign, consumers could feed a hungry child by adding ₹5 to their bill, each time they visit a KFC store. KFC employees in the 300+ restaurants around the country also supported local communities through volunteerism.

A series of YouTube video ads were created showcasing stories of fictional characters in a motion illustration as the KFC bucket of Hope came to the rescue.

The organization also helps spread some stories of joy and accomplishment wherein it displays how the lesser known and less privileged can often do wonders if provided with necessities. One of its videos elicits the achievement of a few such children as they share a song of hope learned easily in 8 hours with a filling meal.

The snippets are complemented by some long-form storytelling where the visuals depict small dreams that the kids nurture in their minds and hope that one day they will also be allowed to ‘FLY’.

Built on the strong pillars of Compassion, Hope, and Hunger, The Akshaya Patra Foundation reached a target of feeding 1.6 million children in India from the initial 1.5k. Emerging from the bylanes of Bengaluru, the organization spread HOPE for the greater cause.

The Brand Connect

In 2017, the Akshaya Patra Foundation joined hands with GSK Consumer Healthcare, Nestle, PepsiCo India, PVR Nest, Reliance Fresh, Facebook, The LaLit, Reliance Broadcast Networks Ltd. & Viacom and the Government of India, on the occasion of World Hunger Day to flag off a movement for raising awareness about the importance of nourishment among children and its impact on education.

The movement ‘Feed The Future Now’, aimed to serve 5 billion meals to children across India by 2020 with a view to create a ‘Poshit Bharat, Shikshit Bharat.’ Each partner involved vowed to drive initiatives that raise mass awareness about the need for the right nourishment among children. To meet key global nutrition milestones, future growth required significant investments critical to ensure that school-going children don’t drop out due to the direct and indirect impact of hidden hunger and micronutrient deficiency.

Also Read: Brand Saga: When Pulse Polio’s ‘Do Boond’ and Balbir Pasha’s AIDs awareness campaigns drove the nation to achieve the impossible

In 2016, Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) associated with FreeCharge, to enable digital donations through an app. Freecharge came with a “Donate” button on its app, through which users can make direct donations to Akshaya Patra Foundation and other prominent NGOs in the country.

In 2020, the economic impact of the pandemic pushed millions, especially children, into severe hunger and malnutrition. The underprivileged and migrant communities were worst hit and lacked access to basic livelihood.

To provide food and other essentials, Ayurveda major Himalaya, teamed up with The Akshaya Patra Foundation and reached out to communities in Bellary, Karnataka. The company sponsored 7,146 ‘Happiness Kits’ or dry ration kits and contributed approximately INR 4 crores for the Mid-Day Meal Program, since 2016. Through this donation, over 36,300 children benefitted and 80 lakh mid-day meals were served. Incidentally, the largest school feeding program is run by The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Akshaya Patra Foundation accelerated community participation through active volunteering and fundraising by adopting an aggressive campaign strategy that involved all layers of society in equal proportion with the government aid to make the mid-day meal scheme a ‘peoples’ program’.

Of Goodwill Ambassadors & Campaigns for the Cause

With an objective to reach a mass audience, Akshaya Patra onboarded Shankar Mahadevan, as its goodwill ambassador. As part of the association, Shankar composed and lent his voice for a number specially dedicated to Akshaya Patra, to coincide with the momentous occasion when the NGO served its billionth meal in the month of August 2012.

The song, accompanied by a video, featured Shankar and celebrated the joys of childhood; it sought to create a world where children can enjoy a carefree childhood. 

Next, the NGO collaborated with ace singer A.R. Rahman wherein he offered his composition ‘Naan Yen Piranthen’ as the background score for an inspirational short film made by Akshaya Patra titled ‘The Possibilities’.

Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor too partnered with Akshaya Patra and regularly spreads the vision and mission of the Foundation while Chef Selvaraju has been supporting them since the inception of ‘Giving Every Dream a Chance’ – a mentorship initiative for beneficiary children. It also partnered with more singers like Sona Mohapatra for charity concerts and musical nights.

The Foundation also hosted Vivek Oberoi at one of its kitchens and further in the Bollywood actors’ race, Shraddha Kapoor has also come forward to support Akshaya Patra on a television show ‘Dus Ka Dum’ and pledged her winnings to the Foundation.

In 2015, the NGO partnered with YRF and Ranveer Singh as a part of their campaign #IndiaKeHungerKiBajao. As a part of the campaign, the actor, in a song urged people to donate the price of one meal which usually isn’t more than that of a fancy coffee.

Cricket icon, Brett Lee came on board as the Goodwill Ambassador for the music outreach program of Giving Every Dream a Chance (GEDAC). Brett Lee and his Mewsic Foundation will be supporting Akshaya Patra’s beneficiaries who are learning music as a part of the GEDAC initiative.

Cut to 2021, the foundation is working in the direction of providing relief funds and supplies like grocery kits to those severely hit by the pandemic and vows to inculcate a sense of responsibility in every citizen through its programs like Disaster Feeding, Music for Meals, and other cause marketing tactics.

Digital Play

The power of social media to bring about a change has worked in the favor of NGOs that support various social causes and need public platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook to spread awareness.

Akshaya Patra Foundation has been actively leveraging the modern age platforms and creates content specific to the medium and their range of audiences. For instance on Instagram, the NGO shares stories of achievement, targets set, public care system, information around the offerings, campaign announcements, testimonials in the visual form thereby garnering more than 40k followers on it.

On YouTube and Facebook, the strategy has been about communicating the saga of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, the mission it works for, the goals it has been able to accomplish, CTA for donating, PSAs, and long-form films.

Whereas on Twitter the content strategy has been similar to Instagram with inspirational quotes, snippets, SOS, and services that it offers.

Today, Akshaya Patra Foundation’s Mid-Day Meal Programme serves wholesome food every school day to over 1.8 million children from 19,039 schools across 12 states & 2 Union territories of India. The NGO has been equally active in the arena of communication – conveying the need to help eradicate hunger because if one can bring a change, a community can bring a revolution.