Small Acts, when Multiplied by Millions of people can Transform the World.-Howard Zinn
Technology is a transformational tool that helps to simplify peoples’ lives. Throughout history, the bulk of innovations have been catering to the needs of public en masse. However, many groups with special needs have been unable to make the optimum use of these advances and thus could not realise their true potential. However, things have been changing lately with the emergence of passionate and empathetic entrepreneurs who are helping to make the world a better place for all, one innovation at a time.
Oswald Labs aspire to build a future where technology is accessible to all with a focus on specially-abled people. It was founded in 2016 by Anand Chowdhary, Nishant Gadihoke and Mahendra Singh Raghuwanshi, in New Delhi. They named the organization as a tribute to Oswald Berkhan, the German physician who discovered Dyslexia. Apart from India, they have expanded their presence to Europe as well.
Interestingly, Anand and Nishant developed their first web reading tool for people with dyslexia at AngelHack Delhi 2016 hackathon competition where they won the Code4Impact Award for “The Best Product With an Impact”. Following this, they released the software to be used for free by anyone. Little did they know that within a month they would be published by famous media houses like The Huffington Post and The Hindustan Times.
The thought of professionally pursuing their idea came when they received an email from a therapist in New York who expressed how useful and convenient the application turned out to be for her patients, saying that it was the best technology she had ever come across. This was when the founders decided to take the leap and there was no looking back ever since. The Oswald foundation was conceived and since then, they have left no stone unturned in making the best use of technology to provide access to specially-abled people.
They went on to win The Startup India competition in Bangalore in 2016. After a few months in 2017, Anand moved to The Netherlands to expand the business, initially through an incubator Novel-T. While the tech team operates from India to develop the product, the sales and research & development take place in Europe.
They have also developed a smartphone by the name of `Shravan’ that can be used by differently-abled people, especially blind people, due to its excellent vibration speed and speech feature. Their AR web reading app for kids with dyslexia was published in a report in IEEE that showed 20% faster reading through the app. Amongst the innovative solutions is also the `Augmenta11y’ app that can even function without the internet and allows the user to easily read the full text by clicking on a photo. Oswald Labs also conduct training sessions in schools and collaborate with all kinds of organizations to aid them in technology-driven solutions. They have also collaborated with The Government of Limburg in 2018 to develop an e-learning platform for kids with dyslexia. All their applications are free for the users to access. They believe that their collaborations should never be confined to similar industries; in fact, they think that it is very important for all online platforms to incorporate this technology.
Developing consumer-centric and life-changing products has been the driving factor of Oswald Labs. They are unique in terms of the exclusive research and development that they conduct, having done a range of innovations themselves. They also offer over 20 unique features in their web accessibility platform. It’s one of a kind integrated solution that offers feasibility ranging from Dyslexia-friendly reading notes, hearing provision for blind people, translation in regional languages, flexible font size, blue light filters and other unique features.
Even though they received ample appreciation owing to their useful solutions, they still faced a lot of challenges in acquiring users, validating their presence and creating a market for their solutions. However, their fighting spirit could not be deterred. Even the pandemic could not dampen their spirits as they came up with an initiative called `Karuna 2020’ that distributed over one lakh masks to the health care and frontline workers through a partnership with various non-profits. They’ve also distributed dry ration across Delhi and NCR to help the needy.
Link to the Initiative Page.
Their biggest learning until now has been EMPATHY, the value of which is priceless. Through close connections with people whom they offer solutions, they have become more compassionate. It gives them immense happiness when they see masses benefitting from innovations, and hear stories of people whose lives they could change in a better way. Coming up with unique and creative solutions, Oswald Labs surprises us each year with their innovations in the field of technology.
Listed in Forbes 30 under 30, Anand wants to tell all the young minds that age doesn’t decide your success as an entrepreneur. Starting young can be the biggest advantage for you. You have the luxury to make mistakes, take risks, improve and grow.
Oswald Labs represent the best of the Indian startup stories, which can go a long way to serve as an inspiration for the upcoming entrepreneurs.
Article by Shambhavi Kapoor, Team ulaunch.