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Mani Sivasubramanian: Spamming for Good

Our distinctive typing patterns could prove the key to digital security.

Every month, 7,000 people receive email newsletters from a guy named Mani Sivasubramanian. In glorious italics, underlining, and boldface, the messages proclaim, "Explode your Online Marketing Profits—in Just 14 Days!" or "Create Your Own BLOG Guaranteed to Earn Steady Profits... Without Doing Anything Different!"

But check your instinctual loathing. Dr. Mani, as he prefers to be called, is both an online marketing huckster and a pediatric heart surgeon in Chennai, India. He donates up to 50% of his online profits to the Children's Heart Foundation, which he created in 2003 to provide heart surgeries to poor Indian children.

Sivasubramanian first discovered the Internet as a surgical student in 1996. Two years later, he started selling information online about his specialty, congenital heart disease, and realized he could pitch his online expertise as well—which he does now in 14 different email marketing newsletters.

Last year, Sivasubramanian took home as much as $25,000 from his online sideline (he still works up to 50 hours a week as an assistant professor in cardiac surgery at the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Sick Children). His foundation took a cut of about $10,000; it has funded 13 surgeries, which in India, he says, cost as little as $2,200 apiece, 5% of the tab for the same procedure in the United States.

The arrangement helps the kids, of course. But there's also a marketing moral. For most of his email pitches, Sivasubramanian gets a response of 5% to 10%. But when offers stipulate that proceeds go to the foundation, his response jumps to between 30% and 40%. Now that's synergy.

A version of this article appeared in the September 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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