The Optimist Citizen

IIT students develop an interface that gives step-by-step assistance to old people using payments app

Mann Goel and his friends from IIT-KGP developed eSaathi, a software-based UI that aims to bridge the gap between new smartphone users and apps which have become an essential part post-pandemic lifestyle.

With the onset of a pandemic, everything that wasn’t online earlier has now made its debut on the digital world. However, the major challenge remains to build the competence to use these apps without fear and with proper guidance. Often we see the elderly and the unaware masses struggling with smartphones. They have a tough time making payments on apps or ordering medicines, or even making an online call. The lockdown led more people to explore these options and more so increased the cases of frauds exploiting their ignorance. The explainer and tutorial videos offer help, yet it often only serves the people with sufficient expertise to navigate around the smartphone.

Mann Goel, an engineering student, also faced the same issue. He would order medicines online, or make payments via phone when he would be home. But as soon he got back to his hostel, his parents would often call him to help them with the same. One of these conversations his mom casually asked him ‘’You develop apps right? Why don’t you make one that can assist people like us with the same without the fear of being looted?” Eureka hit him.

He latched onto the idea and planned to develop software that would assist people in using applications without the scare of being misled by scams. His collegemates Tushar Singla and Kshitiz Khandelwal joined his mission and conceptualised the creation of eSAATHI.

eSAATHI provides users audio-visual guided assistance, which helps to step-by-step navigate through all apps, augmenting a real human being. eSAATHI software integrates itself with the partner companies’ application element ID. After this, the user would receive complete guidance from the first click to the last. It would guide the user on where to click to make a payment or update other information. 

Mann quashes all concerns over data privacy issue and says that the software is completely safe. “We will not be monitoring the passcodes or any such details of individuals while using the app. Our focus will be on the Element ID, which enables us to know the app’s functioning and hence fuse our software with the companies app. Let’s just say the software is like a teacher who is instructing the users,” states Mann.

The team has successfully incorporated his software for two applications, namely ‘Apna KGP’ and ‘realme PaySa’. The former is an application of Mann’s college campus while the latter being a digital financial service platform. So far, while in terms of accuracy, the outcome has been excellent and beyond satisfaction. “Some Realme PaySa users are using the eSaathi software in the trial phase. Our trial phase is being done on the rural users of the app,” Mann adds. Being college students, their issues are mainly limited to their prototype’s financial aspect. So far, two languages, Hindi and Bengali, have been incorporated into the software. Manny says that language addition is not a tedious task. And hence can be included as and when needed.

Currently, the product is in the test phase. Upon successful completion of which, they will reach all companies in all sectors in India. Further, they will also plan to work with agriculture-based apps that enable farmers to know raw materials’ prices.

The eSaathi Assistant prompts the user with instruction audio and indicative icons

eSaathi has developed a proof of concept, for two apps, Paytm and Real me Paisa app. The software hasn’t been patented as of now. Their focus is to get one partnership by April and later apply for the patent after registering the company and. “We want to take things one step at a time,” informs Mann.

The team has also won the 3M – CII YICA 2020 award in the category of Service Innovation. Winning this award has made the team confident and has given them the push they needed to start this innovation. “The entire journey to 3M and the process has helped us shape ourselves in a much more professional way. 3M has been very kind, so much that even after the award, they are still mentoring us,” says Mann,  beaming with gratitude.


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