How these engineers ensure safety for women through technology

29th Dec 2015
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We live in a world where safety is a growing concern. This is what motivated Avinash Bansal, Ayush Banka, Chiraag Kapil, Manik Mehta, and Paras Batra, all engineers, to use their skills to develop a technology-equipped device that would make the world safer. That device was named a World Champion at Gitex Technology Week in Dubai, and chosen amongst the top 10 innovative startups in India by the Department of Science and Technology. The team would even go on to accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to Silicon Valley to participate in the first India-US Startup Konnect in September 2015.

From L to R - Manik Mehta, Chiraag Kapil, Ayush Banka Paras Batra and Avinash Bansal
From L to R - Manik Mehta, Chiraag Kapil, Ayush Banka, Paras Batra and Avinash Bansal

Aimed at providing safety for women, under project ‘Guardian’, the co-founders developed a smart safety device, which won an Ericsson Innovation Award this year, resulting in a full-fledged product and leading to the founding of Leaf Innovation Pvt. Ltd in February 2015. Their flagship product SAFER is a smart safety device, which can be used to trigger alarms and send signals to pre-identified phone numbers in case of an emergency.

Saferwalk, notifications, and selfies are some of the app’s prominent features. SaferWalk is an app-based feature with which you can nominate your guardians to see your movements on maps in real time when you are traveling through an unsafe route, and ensure that you are heading towards your destination safely. The notification feature helps you prioritise your notifications via the SAFER app and SAFER beeps to ensure that you always see important notifications and never miss them. Leaf Wearables calls their selfie feature a cherry on the cake. By a single press on SAFER, you can click perfect selfies. No more dropping your phone while taking group selfies. The platform calls it the SAFER Selfie.

The device can be used as smart jewellery in the form of a necklace and is available on the website of the platform for Rs 3,500.

“We are solving one of the greatest challenges faced by humanity. Our vision is to create a world which is absolutely safe for all when everyone takes their safety for granted. Leaf Wearables is India's first company to use wearable technology for safety. With Leaf Wearables, our mission is to make 1 million families safer and connected by 2017,” says Manik Mehta, 22, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy of Finance at Leaf Wearables.

Since its inception in February 2015, the company was funded by the founders till it raised funding in December. Leaf Wearables raised seed funding of $250,000 from investors, including Ajeet Khurana, Serial Entrepreneur, Mumbai Angels; Jinesh Shah, Founding Partner, Omnivore Ventures; Vikram Chachra, Co-Founder, Eight Capital; Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, Director, Solidarity Investment Advisors; Vijay Talreja, Angel Investor, Co-Founder and Director, Adapty Inc. and others.

On business growth, Manik says he is excited to see the support the platform has received in the form of funding. “So far we have been running on pre-orders, but this seed funding will help us create an inventory. This money will also help us expand our technical team for product enhancement and improve the product offering by introducing new jewellery designs. The money will also be utilised to expand the product offering. We hope to reach the masses and contribute towards the safety of women with SAFER. SAFER has been developed to let women feel safer all the time with a practical solution at an affordable cost.”

He further adds that the startup is also looking at the global market but India is its prime focus for now. The SAFER app is available on Playstore and will soon be on other platforms too. The platform has sold 1,500 devices so far.

Market caters to increasing demand

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 309, 546 incidents of crime against women were reported in 2013. In the last five years, the incidents of crime against women increased from 9.2 percent in the year 2009 to 11.2 percent in 2013.

In the wake of rising crime against women, many startups have taken the initiative to introduce products in the form of applications, which will ensure safety for women. VithU, Raksha, BSafe, Pukar, SafetyPin, and many other applications offer features like GPS tracking, safe and unsafe areas on maps, ways to send alerts to emergency contacts, and scream alarms.

In addition, early this year, the central government launched India's first integrated mobile application for women’s safety called 'Himmat'. This smartphone-based application carries the distinctive feature of alerting the police just by the shaking or pressing the power button twice.

According to Manik, their product is for everyone; and the market is as big as all of humanity, which is around 7 billion people.

Amidst the competition across the segment, Manik cites the uniqueness of the product compared to other platforms. “Our product comes with a hardware device, which no other platform offers. Other applications available in the market have failed with response time as it’s impossible to reach your phone during an emergency. We offer a tangible pendant that can be used with ease.”

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