An excerpt from the Interview
• What made you start your venture?
Saloni, Surya and I had met in 2012 at a management program in Sweden where the focus was CSR. We were already working on a joint project to mentor women. During the program, we heard of a similar initiative in Egypt that crowdsourced information on gender-based violence.
So when the Delhi incident happened in Dec 2012, we decided “mentoring of women” could wait for a later date but the need of the hour was to somehow bring to light gender-based violence and map out personal experiences which never otherwise get reported.
I was shocked at the brutality of the rape. And what furthermore shocked with the reaction of the bystanders. No one came to help her. I could only imagine what she went through. After the incident, there was much discussion around it and I actually heard a lot of people say that it was not “just” a rape, as though rape was normal and it was the other actions that shocked them.
I was angry and wanted to do something to change mindsets so that they would not look at crime against women as routine and that they would feel compelled to take action and stop it when it was happening.
• What has been the key to your business’s success? A team that has complementary skills. Understanding the user’s needs and therefore designing solutions that resonate with people. Creating a participatory platform that allows people to contribute in whichever manner they are comfortable with.
• What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
We are very new in the social space but everyone wants action. They fail to understand that the collection of information (which does not exist) is the biggest challenge.
Once you have the information, you can then analyze it and design very effective solutions which are tailor-made for that neighborhood. E.g. Our Delhi data shows Connaught Place, Rohini and Okhla as the top areas where harassment has been reported.
The abuse is very different in each. Connaught Place has high instances of touching and groping, Rohini is chain snatching and Okhla is commenting and taking pictures with mobile phones.
Chain snatching will require increased police patrolling but the other 2 requires education and awareness about inappropriate behavior. Funding – so far we are self-funded and have generated some revenue from workshops. We have just registered as a Sec 8 company (not for profit) and welcome any donations and funds available.
• Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
We have several mentors who advise us on technology, business, youth and child programs. We are open to learning and we are constantly adapting. I have a personal mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in Business. She has been of great help in putting me in touch with key people and advising me on certain strategies for the business.
• Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
We use open-sourced technology Ushahidi which facilitates crowd mapping of information. We used social media to spread the word as the angst was very high and found a lot of people resonated with what we were doing.
• What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
We spend a lot of time understanding what people need and accordingly design our interventions.
• What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
To be a successful entrepreneur you need to be willing to learn, ability to adapt and take risks. Visit their Website: www.safecity.in Support them on Facebook: Safecity