Lending a ‘vision’

Rohan Ambike
Monday, 28 August 2017

The start-up aims at eliminating the problem of low literacy among visually impaired people around the world. Annie, the maiden product, helps these people read, write and type in Braille. “The device will help them through the audio medium. It is an interactive gamified Braille learning device,” explains Dawle

Through her start-up Thinkerbell Labs, Sanskriti Dawle aims at eliminating the problem of low literacy among visually impaired people around the world

Ever since her college days, Sanskriti Dawle has dreamt of having her own venture. Born to Atul and Varsha Dawle, both practicing construction consultants, Dawle grew up in a home of entrepreneurs. The atmosphere at BITS Pilani, her alma mater, helped her further. “It is pro entrepreneurship. There are a lot of alumni of the institute who have their own ventures. In addition to this, we have a course that is designed to encourage entrepreneurship,” says Dawle.

The dedicated entrepreneurship cells groom business ideas and give students tips on how to start and grow a business. Dawle attributes the birth of her venture to these dedicated interactions and practical courses.

Explaining how Thinkerbell Labs (Project Mudra) became a reality, Dawle says, “Earlier it was named Project Mudra. It started as an independent research project back in 2014. We were a team of like-minded students that include Aman Srivastava, Dilip Ramesh, Saif Shaikh and me. After passing out of college, we formally set the company up.”

The start-up aims at eliminating the problem of low literacy among visually impaired people around the world. Annie, the maiden product, helps these people read, write and type in Braille. “The device will help them through the audio medium. It is an interactive gamified Braille learning device,” explains Dawle.

The world population of visually impaired people stands at around 285 million. Given that a tactile medium is the only way they can read and write, it is extremely important for them to learn Braille. There is a direct correlation of low braille literacy and unemployment among the visually impaired. “However, even in developed countries, braille literacy rates are extremely low. It is only 4 per cent in the UK and 10 per cent in the USA. In India, it is less than 1 per cent,” notes Dawle.

Speaking of Annie, Dawle says, “Initially, we had created alphabetical songs. Reviews from experts who have been learning Braille for the last five to six years, took the idea further. We have gotten regular feedback from schools in Goa, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to improve our device. In April 2016, Project Mudra was awarded the ‘Great Tech Rocketships’ award which is given by Department of International Trade of the Government of UK. It was during this event that the team of Project Mudra got a chance to present a demo of their product to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was a great opportunity and a great experience. I have no words to express how happy we were.”

When asked about the investment of Rs 1.3 crore from Indian Angel Network and Anand Mahindra, Dawle speaks, “We had a start-up pitch session at the same event. That is when Mr Mahindra expressed his interest in investing in Thinkerbell Labs.”

According to the team, having experts like Mahindra on board will be a great advantage. “At present our main aim is to bring Annie to the market. As other such products that are present in the market cost around USD 3,000 to 4,000, we are working on our prices being almost one fifth of these. The mathematics is still in progress,” she explains.

With a dream of creating an inclusive ecosystem that suits all, Dawle and her team of young and enthusiastic tech geeks are ready to revolutionise the world for the visually challenged.

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