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At 21, a non-techie set out her journey to create something no one in the world had ever done before.
A one of its kind matchmaking platform to cater to the needs of the disabled or the specially-abled to help them find love was the brainchild of this social entrepreneur. Three years since, her mission that started off as a digital agency is now releasing its 2.2 version of apps for Android users.
Kalyani Khona, the founder of Inclov, did not see this coming.
Soon after a Bachelor’s degree in finance, Khona knew she didn’t want a job.
“I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t sit for placements. And I really liked match making as a concept, the idea about getting two people together,” says Khona.
An overcrowded dating apps market in India made her do some ground research. She visited several offline dating agency office to find out there were million plus profiles of disable people that needed attention but didn’t get much of it.
In 2013, Khona started an agency called Wanted Umbrella, which was a matchmaking one that focused on people with special abilities where she personally matched people.
“I soon found out that there were two problems – one that my clients were quite powerless. Because I used to choose as it wasn’t possible for me to send so many profiles to everyone. And second where I started to get calls from overseas ranging from New York to many cities in Asia for match requests. I realized this was a global issue.”
People twice her age questioned her. “How will you find someone for us, what do you know about partners and life partners?
It was actually true you know since I was straight out of college says Khona.
That is when I decided to start an app - an app that matches people on very specific needs and requirements but at the same time inclusive, says Khona.
I Didn’t Want to Ever Make an App
Khona launched an app in January 2016 with her co-founder Shankar Srinivisan who she met six years ago on a Rajdhani train to Jaipur.
Srinivasan who is also a non-techie running a tech company with Khona is now launching Inclov 2.2, which has algorithm and machine learning.
“So if you know sign language, we will show you profiles of people who have hearing issues. Or if you have polio and 10 percent disability, we’ll show you profiles of people who have the same or no disability because we know that’s what you may prefer.”
Khona says she has had people who directly shared their bio data, people who are dating right now, and people who don’t want to get married, who are companions are living together.
“It is basically each to its own,” says Khona
I just feel no one should be alone just because someone is different and there is lack of access or opportunity.
Khona has also started the concept of Social Space, a unique concept that is like meet ups that Inclov does once every month in all cities. The company is trying to scale up and do much more of these.
“When people were talking on our app, we realized they were not coming out to meet in person. So we found out there that maybe the restaurant was not accessible or the menu card is not in Braille or the staff does not know sign language, so many problems that many don’t think about when they decide to go out for a coffee.”
If an app user is in Delhi, we can visit Inclov’s Social Spaces.
Khona ensures all social spaces held have everything super accessible to encourage people to meet and interact. “I want to bring people out of their homes and as frequently as possible. In that process may be find someone,” says an enthusiastic 23-year old Khona.
A prodigy of Tinder? “Certainly not!”
"Who gets a chance to meet couples coming together who say we met because of you?," asks Khona.
Somebody from Chennai is matched with someone in Delhi, don’t know each other’s language but taking a year’s off to learn Tamil and then getting married. Where does all this happen in the Tinder phase? If you aren’t in my Tinder’s radar of 3 kms, you are not even on my list of people to contact.
“I don’t want to be Tinder. I am on a very different playground with my app,” says Khona.
How It Works
Anyone who has an Android smartphone can download this app for free. Every line of code is labeled. If a visually impaired person has to use the app, he/she has to start their talkback and they’ll get connected.
Khona is now aiming to solve the problem for people who don’t have upper body mobility. Those people are using it with their legs right now, but we want to have a real voice command system, that’s in the works. We want to get into video calling for hearing impaired people too reveals Khona.
"I have been looking for a life partner for 6 years now. Within the first week of launch of Inclov, I found a man who is simple, caring and who can look after my needs," says Anu Multani who has found the love of her life via the matchmaking app.
Imran Garana who found Multani says after trying a lot of other matrimonial portals, I found Anu on Inclov. I could not have asked for a better match for myself. The team has done a great job with building this app."
According to Khona, Inclov is only an app-based platform not a web portal one for the very logic that if someone is visually impaired they will have to buy a software that’ll cost them INR 30,000-40,000. She fears it may make the platform only for the elite if that happens.
“We Want To Take This Global”
Bigger picture is that there is this world out there and I am an early entrant. I want to serve the community and provide everyone access to find love says Khona.
Amongst the seven investors and advisors on board for Inclov are Quintillion Media owner Raghav Bahl along with an advisor from global matchmaking website Match.com. 80-90 percent of the stake is still with the founders.
Kalyani Khona was one of the speakers at the TEDxGateway 2016.