Tweaking 'Ice' To 'Rice' 

Editor Manju Latha Kalanidhi whips up a social media storm by prompting people to donate rice for the poor in India. Here’s how she did it.

By Sujata Devadas, October 17, 2016

When The Ice Bucket Challenge hit the limelight, participants poured a bucket of ice over their heads and/or donated to the ALS Association, which fights Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Incorrigible optimist, Manju Latha Kalanidhi, the City Editor with The New Indian Express, Hyderabad - a journalist with 17 years of mainstream media experience - is a practical thinker, ever ready to pick up a good solution and run with it.

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Manju gifts 25 kgs of rice to Satiah in Hyderabad

Quell starvation: The Ideal Gift

Manju decided, that RICE rather than ICE would be a far more ‘ideal gift’ to the homeless and  hungry people in India, her nation of 1.25 billion people. So she tweaked the Ice Bucket Challenge, replacing ice with rice. One evening in August 2014, she donated 25 kg of rice to a poor vendor hawking ware near her home.

August 23, 2014: She clicked a few pictures and posted it on Facebook (, urging her friends to do the same. By the next morning, four others joined her.

Within a week, fostered by network connections, many celebrities, corporates, campuses, colleges and households joined up.

August 24, 2014: the Twitter hashtag #ricebucketchallenge was first used. Within a month, the hashtag had been tweeted 11,000 times.

August 25, 2014: the Rice Bucket Challenge was covered in BuzzFeed and Quartz. A few days later, it received coverage in the Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, CNN, CNBC, NPR, NDTV, Time and many other news websites.

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Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, gives a rice bucket to a Vivekanand Camp resident

South Asia picks it up

Manju’s #ricebucketchallenge is among India’s best known co-operative movements and crowd-sourced initiatives. An avid traveller, voracious leader, hyper planner, Manju never gets tired of communicating with over 5,000 friends, about 14,600 followers on Facebook and 2,000 in Twitter. 

This initiative spread to other South Asian nations - Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka included. Ingress Philippines started the challenge in the Philippines on Google+ private post. In Singapore, the Rice Bucket Challenge featured 120 donors. $3100 was collected. After 2 months of coordination, 2340 kgs of ‘ponni' brand of Indian rice was distributed to migrant workers housed in Westlite Dormitory, Tuas, western Singapore.

By August 2015, it raised 1,000 kg of rice for ‘Omashram’ - an old age home in Bangalore - and in the Phillippines, kicked off by Hot FM Bugagon for the elderly.

This year, 2016, it is a part of the country-wide Joy of Giving Week called ‘Daan Utsav’ that takes place across India from Oct 2 – 8 every year. Two campuses, the Osmania University(OU) and BVRIT joined the Rice Bucket Challenge to raise rice for NGOs. 200 kgs came from the students of OU alone.

Since its inception in August 2014, this social media storm has garnered 1.8 lakh kg of rice across the world, with active participation from over 30 corporates in the country - Microsoft India, ADP, Infotech Park,, Air Costa among them. Educational campuses such as University of Hyderabad, Apoorva Degree College in Karimnagar, KITS Warangal, Manipal University also joined this social campaign with splendid results.

Riding on sheer goodwill

“All The Rice Bucket Challenge involves is donating a bucket of rice to a poor person or family. I did not spend a single penny for advertisements or promotions.” says Manju. “It was just social media that picked up my initiative and spread it so wide through the sheer goodwill and support from the common man.”

With conviction, Manju says “I do believe everyone can make a difference in this world. Most of my journalistic work highlights achievements by women, children and special-needs individuals. Focussing on the negatives is an utter waste of time.”

Awards and applause

An idea can change a life. Correction: many lives. It transformed Manju from a rather low profile journalist to a social influencer and social activist in no time.

In 2015, she was awarded the Karmaveer Chakra Award and the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship by iCONGO, an international group of non-governmental organisations and the United Nations. The award recognises small but influential actions undertaken by the comman man to change the world. Manju has also received the Woman Achiever Award from ‘Just For Women’ magazine published in Chennai, and a nomination as ‘Online Influencer’ by L’Oreal Paris Femina Women Achievers.

The Indian Ministry of Labour and Women welfare has presented her a Women’s Day felicitation. She is shortlisted among #100WomenAchievers of India and has been listed under ’10 Unsung Heroes of Hyderabad’ as well. 

Manju Latha Kalanidhi - "#RiceBucketChallenge: 10 steps"

  1. Anyone can do it, any time, any where for anyone. Take a quantity of rice you wish to donate… from 1 kg to 1,000 kg… there is no limit… whatever you can afford to give.

  2. Find a suitable recipient - hardworking, but poor, deserving individuals. Look around. A watchman guarding the ATM, a young boy manning the shopping complex car park, an old vegetable vendor… any of them could be a good recipient for your donation. 

  3. Or choose a good organization like a old age home, an orphanage. Perhaps, an established reliable institution like

  4. Handover the rice to the recipient, click a photo or shoot a video of this moment. Send it and nominate three other friends to continue the chain. Do not shy away from capturing these moments. They inspire others. That is how The Rice Bucket Challenge became popular.

  5. The Rice Bucket Challenge could be part of a wedding in the family, a promotion, wedding anniversary or a birthday. 

  6. It could be a community effort. If you live in an apartment, try collecting small amounts of rice from neighbouring apartments. Donate this to a worthy recipient. 

  7. If you are unable to donate rice in person, consider online donations. 

  8. Please remember: The Rice Bucket Challenge does NOT collect funds or money. It offers food to those facing starvation. 

  9. Do it at your own will and time. Experience the joy of giving. Save lives from starvation.

  10. Myth: ‘If you give rice, they will stop working’. No one deserves to die of starvation.

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