Why this teen built an automated database app for NGOs
A few years ago, Jaisal Kothari, a computer science student of Class XII had downloaded an app that showed him advertisements on phone lock screen in exchange for cash rewards. He realised that the same concept can be used to productively spread social awareness.
“Further, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the people of our country went into a crisis. Our healthcare system was unprepared and hospitals were overwhelmed. Homebound people went into depression and panic — anxiety was rampant. As factories shut down, migrant workers had to deal with food shortages and loss of income. The pandemic created a new and ever-growing demand to create awareness and find solutions — a need to create a more ‘savvy’ community,” says Jaisal.
As a 15-year-old hearing about children, barely old enough to speak, losing their parents and seeing his friends struggle to cope, Jaisal wanted to help create the much-needed awareness for citizens to volunteer and donate. And that sowed the seeds for Savvy.
The Delhi-based platform’s primary mission is to create awareness and generate a sense of responsibility among members of society regarding various social issues. Savvy also aims to redefine how NGOs (non-government organisations) connect with volunteers and donors.
Building the app
From developing the automated database of NGOs and partnering with organisations to scores of “Awareness Cards” and Android and iOS apps, Savvy is the result of over 2,000 hours of work spread over two years. The team of interns at Savvy too worked on the project for over 100 hours over several weeks.
Jaisal, 16 now , explains that every social media app is designed to be fine-tuned to the user segment. For this reason, other social media apps fail to have a major impact in creating new awareness. Moreover, other apps and websites, which aim to promote NGOs, do so by listing them in alphabetical order.
Savvy aims to overcome these challenges by making the users engage with their interests while simultaneously showing them new content — thus raising awareness and sustaining the attention of the user.
One of the most unique aspects of Savvy is its use of home screen widgets. Users view dynamic “Awareness Cards” directly on their phone’s home screen which update every 30 minutes. These cards show facts and statistics about various problems that need awareness.
Finding the right NGOs
“I used my graphic design background to create more than fifty visually appealing, attention-grabbing, and engaging cards. Interested users can simply click on the card to find an NGO working towards that problem. The app has provisions for volunteering, donating, and contacting the NGO. NGOs and cards are listed using a novel AI-based algorithm contrary to the universal alphabetically ordered listings,” adds Jaisal.
After the prototype was ready, Jaisal began contacting NGOs, to partner with them and help raise awareness. He spoke with over 200 NGOs. According to Jaisal, his biggest accomplishment was getting over 25 nationally recognised NGOs and organisations to partner with the app. These includeRobin Hood Army, Cuddles Foundation, CanSupport, Nai Disha, You’re Wonderful Project, Centre for Child and Adolescent Wellbeing, and others.
The app also has a featured section, to highlight NGOs and helplines for COVID-19. There are personalised profiles with the ability to like and save posts and NGOs. Users can also applaud NGOs within the app to appreciate their work.
In 2020, Jaisal received the honour of NTSE Scholar, India’s most prestigious academic scholarship. Both his parents are entrepreneurs — his mother is a financial advisor while his father works as a venture capitalist.
“I have an elder brother who is seven years older than me, currently the founder of a tech startup in Silicon Valley. I have been creating apps and websites in the fields of health, environment, social awareness, and education for the last four years,” he says.