Remember this picture of last year, in which a blindfolded Kate Middleton, alongside a smiling Prince William, were seen fiddling with a machine and trying to spell out something.
It was an event where Project Mudra showcased their innovation to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they were in India. Using an innovative Braille learning machine, even without looking, the princess managed to spell out her son George’s name.
Launched in 2014 by Sanskriti Dawle, Aman Srivastava, Dilip Ramesh and Saif Shaikh, Project Mudra offers a technology-based intervention to provide Braille literacy and K-12 lessons to the blind population of India.
Last year, the startup built its first flagship product Annie, which helps in early schooling of visually impaired users via gamified audio lessons over a Braille-based hardware.
Annie can be used by children and young people to self-learn Braille, and can be monitored by teachers or parents.
“Annie addresses the most vital part of the visually impaired learning process. Unlike other visual aids which are redesigned assuming that the users are Braille literate, Annie takes up the matter from beginning. It is designed to address the pain point of low Braille literacy rate among the visually-impaired by helping them learn how to read, write and type in Braille,” said Aman Srivastava, Cofounder, Thinkerbell Labs.
The company uses both hardware and software technologies, which enable a teacher to teach more than one student simultaneously. Using the technology, even individual users can learn Braille by themselves without any assistance.
The company renamed itself to Thinkerbell Labs in 2016 and is yet to go mainstream with its product. “We were analyzing and exploring the opportunity before we hit the market full-fledgedly. We, however, have discovered what sort of demand the market has, and we are all set to go out with our products,” said Srivastava.
It plans to introduce the product in the market with pay-as-you-go revenue model. India and UK are the first two countries where it will be showcased. Besides, his team also aims to include languages such as Kannada, Marathi and Hindi, besides English.
“We have validated the B2B market, where we have identified schools, clubs and foundations, who are willing to buy our hardwares. In the UK, besides B2B, the B2C market is also ready to try our products,” said Srivastava.
He adds that he is also exploring opportunity with government organizations, and if cracked it can be a game-changer for the company.
Thinkerbell Labs aims to reach out to every nook and corner of the world and provide the solution to every child in need. There are currently 285 million children below the age of 15 who are visually impaired, according to WHO data. In India alone lives 50 per cent of the world’s blind population, and the nation is known as the blind capital of the world.
Last week, Thinkerbell Labs received Rs 1.3 crore from Indian Angel Network and well-known Mahindra Group’s Anand Mahindra.
Buoyed by the interest of investors in the company, the four co-founders are more determined to eliminate the problem of low literacy among visually impaired people all over the world.
In August last year, the platform won Conquest 2016, a startup challenge by BITS Pilani. The then Project Mudra was awarded Rs 2 lakh of equity-less cash funding.
Besides, they have been recognised at other industry forums such as Sandbox Startups 500K Biz Launchpad, Mass Challenge UK and the Dell Startup Challenge.