News of Indian women being molested, assaulted and abused flash across the country almost everyday. The governments in the states and at the Centre, NGOs and civil society activists are always on toes to change this violent truth.
One look at the official statistics and we know that there's cause for concern. Almost everyday girls are being trafficked into flesh trade. Incidents of acid attacks on the streets are reported two to three times a week. To top it all, in every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India.
The streets are unsafe and public transport and even public spaces have become the territory of the hunters.
Anuj Dhawan, an alumnus of the Delhi Technological University (DTU), was deeply affected by the gruesome Nirbhaya tragedy of 2012 that underlined the vulnerability of women travelling at night.
The horrific incident kept him thinking about creating a special device for the safety of women. Thus he plunged headlong into entrepreneurship after leaving his lucrative career with companies like Evalueserve, The Smart Cube and FIITJEE and launched Ridenest, a mobile app fostering women empowerment.
In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur India, Dhawan elaborated on the role of entrepreneurs in solving social issues, impact of social media and apps on women safety and innovation as a problem solving tool.
Attempt to Make a Better Society
Dhawan’s entrepreneurial ambition is to be able to make people feel safer on roads. “Though authorities have been putting in genuine efforts to make things better, heinous crimes against women are not showing any sign of abatement. My attempt is to change our surroundings and make it a better and safer place. The trigger to take up entrepreneurship came from the need to create a device that would help people come together and ensure a safe space,” he said.
“The concept derives its basis from the animal kingdom — intelligent animals move in herds and live in a nest, underscoring the basic fact that united we stand, divided we fall! While travelling to work we mostly get the company of strangers. What if you could find a co-worker or a friend while going to office or attending a social event? Won’t that be far more comforting? My entrepreneurial idea is to make people come together and benefit from that togetherness, especially on roads,” he added.
Dhawan’s innovation seeks to empower individuals to choose their assemblage — be it for travelling, going for a film, shopping or celebrating an event — and thus ensure their own safety to a large possible extent.
It is about staying in the known circle. The mobile app makes activities like car-pooling or being together a safer experience by offering a person the choice to select the people in his/her surroundings, instead of leaving it to a platform/algorithm to determine.
Technology as a Great Tool for Empowerment
Dhawan is a techie and sees technology as ubiquitous apparatus, which has fuelled innovation is every space.
“The harsh fact of life in towns and cities is that women become vulnerable once they step out of their homes or offices. Innovations like GPS, SOS buttons, government apps, women helpline and more are all examples of institutional intent to improve women’s security. However, these are all enablers of change and cannot change the intent in itself,” lamented Dhawan.
“Tech,” observed the youngpreneur, “has fuelled the growth of individualism at the cost of bonhomie and genuine togetherness. This has resulted in the rise of online social networking platforms, which is also witnessing loads of meaningless banter. Time has come to use technology in a more meaningful way to solve real issues. My objective is to use tech innovation for fostering togetherness and providing security,” he explained.
Problem Solving and Innovation Critical for Today’s Entrepreneurs
Dhawan maintained that entrepreneurship is a way to formalise the use of innovation (at the idea, product or process-level) to generate earnings. “But an innovation is only useful when it can solve an actual problem. Empowerment by way of helping women to be in a known and safe company helps solve the problem of technology-driven loneliness and security risks,” he asserted.
Dhawan is now looking at different models including corporate partnerships. “Companies like The Smart Cube have rolled out the product for their employees. We are partnering with schools and colleges, and reaching out to NGOs working on gender issues to explore what additional aspects can be worked upon,” concluded Dhawan.