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How We Created The App That Turns Time To Currency

By Apurv Agrawal:

In my first year of engineering in Vellore, I worked on the idea of providing software services to the local community in the city, for example, providing POS and website help to local vendors and shop owners. I was 17 when I did my first live project, and as you can imagine, was very nervous about making my first sale. However, afterwards, the feeling of achievement was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I got addicted to that feeling, to the high you get when you actually see your efforts and hard work culminate into success.

squadrun

Through this venture, I came in contact with non-profits that needed tech help but didn’t have access to it. I wanted to create something that would help fill this gap and connect skilled student volunteers with organisations that needed basic tech help. And so, ngoFuel was created – a venture that aimed to connect students with social media, tech, language, and other such skills to non-profits that otherwise did not have access to them.

This experience made me realise that every student can work on a live project and gain experience. Students tend to have a lot of free time, and they can spend this free time doing something productive; they can create real value while still having fun. The question on my mind, however, was how to make this scalable. After finishing college, I along with some seniors, started 91springboard, a company that ended up becoming one of the biggest startup incubators in India. Through my time here, I got exposed to the intricacies of launching and running a startup. It also made me realise the impact that mobile technology has on our lives. Mobile tech is contributing dramatically to the growth of the Indian economy and these days, literally everyone not only has access, but is transacting actively over a smartphone. This was also where I met Kanika Jain, a lawyer by education, who like me, was also more interested in entrepreneurship. She joined me to head operations especially because of her sharp attention to detail. At the same time, my friend from college, Vikas Gulati, who had earlier been working as a senior engineer in another startup, joined us to head engineering. Together, we began to discuss how to get people with access to smartphones to create real value for businesses and SquadRun was born.

SquadRun is a ‘gamified’ puzzle app that allows users to intelligently monetize spare time while providing businesses cost effective solutions to common operational problems. This means that users are helping businesses solve data problems by actually just playing games and solving puzzles. The app only requires basic logic skills; pattern recognition, attention to detail, language skills etc. Everyone these days has a smartphone and everyone spends a considerable amount of time doing absolutely nothing on it. SquadRun takes that ‘dead’ time, time spent waiting in queues or sitting in metros, and converts it into earnings. We work with businesses that are processing massive amounts of data and help them with audits and curation of this information using ‘human computation’ – leveraging human intelligence and spare skills, to do tasks that even computers cannot do. SquadRun is based on the concept of crowdsourcing, a principle that can efficiently solve several problems for businesses. As an example – an e-commerce marketplace uses SquadRun’s army for curation of content uploaded by sellers, moderation of user generated product reviews, audit of their customer support conversations, user experience testing of their product features, generation of relevant tags for products to improve search relevance, etc.

Being college students, we knew too well the pain of constantly falling short on cash. This app was created keeping our own plight in mind and thus, we feel that it resonates best with college students and young adults. And come on…who doesn’t want to make money while doing something fun!

Before the app was even launched, we engaged in some on-ground campaigns to familiarize potential players with the concept. Our campaigns saw massive success and garnered positive response in a way that we were not even expecting, sealing our belief in the idea.

Because of these clever marketing techniques, and a lot of word-of-mouth, we accumulated a lot of traction and a large initial user base. This campaign also helped us shape our marketing strategy for the future; lots of experimentation and a complete departure from conventional marketing techniques. We wanted SquadRun to have a human touch; we aren’t selling SquadRun, we are encouraging people to be a part of it, to invest in it and truly take away a positive experience. Our players are our priority and we make sure we let them know it. Another one of our on-ground campaigns called ‘the wall of hopes and dreams’ was just that – an attempt from our side to know our players better, to know what they want from life, what makes them tick.

The SquadRun work environment allows everyone to have complete ownership of their work and do it in whichever way suits them best. The only thing required is passion, to work hard and push yourself beyond what is expected of you.

Note: Apurv Agrawal is the founder of SquadRun Inc. You can download their app here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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