Kalyani Kohna’s interesting online startup is helping physically challenged and disabled people find a spouse. She speaks to Vibha Singh and takes us through her journey with Inclov, a matchmaking app for people with disabilities and health disorders
Q- What where you doing before Inclov happened?
I graduated from HR College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai, in 2013. But unlike others, I wasn’t going to give in to the next best thing that would be a stepping stone to my career. I had always been curiosity-driven, and not career-driven. Being an entrepreneur happened to me by accident.
I had no interest in making lot of money. Starting up was definitely by chance and not by choice. At the age of 23, I founded the world’s first matchmaking app focusing on helping people with disabilities and health disorders. The experience changed me for the better. In 2014, I started Wanted Umbrella which is now Inclov. Last year, we raised funds for Project Lovability on Wishberry.in, which found 143 backers. I was also a consultant with the Government of India for their Accessible India campaign.
Q- What was your objective behind the launch of Inclov?
Inclov is the first matchmaking app globally, which is accessible to one billion people with disabilities and matches people on the basis cure availability, medical condition, level of independence and lifestyle choices. People with visual impairment, retina disorder, cerebral palsy and colour blindness, among many others, can easily access this app without any dependency on friends and family members.
This mobile app is 100 per cent safe for women through our various security measures like mobile verification, email verification, profile curation, first name only display and in-chat feature.
Q- How did the journey start?
We found that the matrimonial services available in the market are inaccessible to the visually impaired and hearing impaired. Due to lack of customised filters and mismatched expectations, the churn rate is higher. So we came up with an app which employs methods that match people based on their level of independence, cure availability, medical condition, lifestyle choices and so on. This led to a higher acceptance rate due to transparency of information and clear expectation setting.
The app promotes inclusion and does not restrict access to only people with disabilities. Much like other applications, Inclov allows conversation with connected users via the in-app chat feature so that users don’t have to share emails or phone numbers with strangers. People with retina disorder or colour blindness/contrast can even choose from various font sizes and colour themes. It can be easily accessed by visually impaired people through their talkback and screen-reader function. We plan to add voice command and video calling features to the app soon. One can download this app on any Android phone by searching for Inclov on Google Playstore. At the moment, this app only requires mobile number and email verification; we are developing additional security measures.
Initially, I managed to handpick 100 profiles from various cities and set up Skype calls for people to meet each other and decide if they wanted to go on a date, or help their families meet for the purpose of matrimony. I also charged them a minimal fee for this service, to ensure there is a willingness to pay, since I saw a business opportunity in this untapped market from day one.
Q- How did digital technology help you in making this venture a success?
Without the use of technology, this process would have been very difficult. Until we launched this app, people had to painfully endure existing products, leading to a higher churn rate due to lack of customised filters and mismatched expectations. Our existing users are those who have been looking for life partners for several years now on different platforms and services, but have been unsuccessful in doing so.
“Our biggest learning was that people with disability know how to find solutions to every activity their disability may limit them from doing.”
Q- What were the major hurdles or challenges you faced?
The major challenge was technology, and bringing together all these people with different mindsets was a difficult task.
Q- How did you handle those challenges?
We are now following a mentor-based strategy where we have professionals from the technical field handling the app, since there were lots of technology related issues we had to face as both of us are from a non-technical background. Now employees may leave us but the mentor is going to stay with us forever. We have Will Bunker, the founder of Match.com, who guides us.
Q- What social mindsets do you find yourself up against?
The biggest social mindset of the masses that I am trying to change at the moment is not just that the people with disability also have the right to look for love, but that people with disability can also afford to look for love. Collectively, our biggest learning was that people with disability know how to find solutions to every activity their disability may limit them from doing. A girl on crutches can wear a saree and a man with no sensation in his legs can drive a car.
Q- Tell us something about Social Spaces?
In 2015, we started Social Spaces which is Inclov’s offline meet-up and is aimed at providing an innovative platform for all the users who can come and meet in-person. The meet-ups are inclusive in nature and our curated locations are universally designed which ensure 100 per cent accessibility in infrastructure for people with disability. The venues selected for the event have wheelchair access, sign language interpreters, and necessary ramps to ensure complete accessibility and inclusion.
By 2017-end, we plan to conduct 100 Social Spaces across India, impacting one million people with disability and their family members. Our first Social Space took place in Hauz Khas in Delhi with 25 people (a mixed bag of people with disability and non-disabled) from the age bracket of 20 to 55 years present at Kunzum Cafe.
Q- What is your future outlook for Inclov?
We want to develop an app for the community of senior citizens and widows. Also, very soon, we are planning to go global with the app.