Technological advancements have proved to be a boon for matchmaking agencies and many of them seem to have sprung up in plenty. However, ‘Inclov’, an app with a difference, stands out in the ocean of matchmaking agencies as it deals with the noble cause of helping persons with disabilities and health disorders find the right partner for themselves.
Launched in January 2016 as an app, ‘Inclov’ originally started off as a matchmaking agency in 2014 that aimed at finding a companion for people with disabilities. “We then decided to focus on people with health disorders as well as they too face a similar struggle,” says Shankar Srinivasan who founded the organization with friend Kalyani Khona.
A graduate in finance, Shankar was brought up in Mumbai. “I worked in the corporate sector for two years before moving to Gurgaon, where we came up with the idea for ‘Inclov’,” he says. “In the beginning, all we had was a web portal. But after seven months, we got close to 2000 signups which were purely organic. These people were not just from India but all over the world. Most were in the age group of 20 to 45 and looking for a companion or life partner,” he recalls.
This made the duo realise that the problem was pretty much real and out there. “There are 1.3 billion people with disabilities across the world and this is excluding those with health disorders. That’s when we thought that an offline matchmaking agency will help us reach a larger number of people,” he informs.
The year prior to the launch of the app, the team did a lot of research. “We studied the preferences and lifestyle choices of 300 persons with disabilities from 55 cities as part of a project called ‘Project 300’. We learnt that though many of these people hold top-notch jobs and are completely independent, the mere fact that they have a disability makes it difficult for them to find a life partner.”
Once ‘Project 300’ came to an end, the team organized a crowdfunding campaign on www.wishberry.in. Thought the aim was to raise Rs 5,00,000 to build the first prototype of the app, Shankar and his team managed to raise Rs 6,15,000 from 143 people across the world. After three to four months of beta testing, the app was finally launched in January 2016. Today, ‘Inclov’ has a team of six people and an office in Gurgaon and almost 8,000 users.
One of the biggest challenges that Shankar and Kalyani faced was to get into the mind of a disabled person. “We can’t imagine the challeneges that they must be facing in day-to-day life. That’s why we did ‘Project 300’ to get an idea,” explains Shankar. “Secondly, our app had to be fully accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities – from someone who can see to someone who can’t; from a physically-disabled person who can only speak to someone with cerebral palsy who finds it hard to swipe a touch screen device. It a never-ending challenge and we are still making modifications. We have a long, long way to go before anyone and everyone with disability can use the app.”
Another challenge was to build a tech company when neither of the two was from a tech background. But Shankar says obstacles like these shouldn’t bog budding entrepreneurs down. “It’s not important what education or background you have. What matters is if you are willing to put in your 100 per cent to make an idea work. We have come far in our journey and that has taught us that nothing is impossible if one is headstrong and willing to be on the grind,” he advises.
The team recently came up with a unique initiative called ‘Social Spaces’, an offline meet-up. “For many people who are interacting on the app, it’s tough to meet someone face to face. Security is another concern. So through this initiative, users can come to a particular venue where we make them play games and conduct activities like yoga, stand-up comedy, storytelling etc. It’s basically a chance for them to know each other in an environment which facilitates conversations,” he explains.
So far, 19 such meets have been held in cities like NCR, Noida, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru. “We are doing at least one or two every month in various cities and plan to do a 100 of them this year,” he signs off.
For details, visit www.inclov.com