Chinmaya Naik,24, and Nikita Kumari, 22, the alumnus of GHRCE, Nagpur are revolutionising reading and education for the visually challenged through their startup ‘BlisCare’. The EdTech firm is a multilinguistic platform that digitises Braille for the users, thereby opening a new universe of books and learning for the ones who couldn’t see.
The Transition to Online Education
The pandemic has been a hard rock to move for most people across the world. It has brought back the extensive debate on equitable access to education amidst the already widening gap. The switch to online education has exempted the visually challenged from the gift of education. Two graduates from Nagpur were quick to identify this problem and fix it with their new EdTech startup ‘BlisCare’.
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We had a tete a tete with the winners of the 3M YICA Idea Prize, 2021, Chinmaya Naik,24, and Nikita Kumari, 22, the alumnus of GHRCE, Nagpur. Chinmaya and Nikita created ‘BlisCare’, an innovation that digitises Braille. Through this innovation, they wish to establish their EdTech startup to educate visually impaired students.
They could grasp the intricacies of the problems faced by the blind since they knew a friend’s brother, a visually challenged. This is where Chinmaya and Nikita drew inspiration for their innovation from. They aimed to put their engineering knowledge into use to aid such people.
Chinmaya and Nikita worked on their project by listing down all their initial ideas and working on each of them to find the most viable ones. They started by venturing into the ‘Text to Speech’ technology, which converts written text to speech, similar to the podcast app like ‘Audible’, which converts the text on books and novels into speech, which reduces the slack and makes it more comfortable for those Braille users. This, Chinmaya tells us, proved to be a futile exercise since they realized that institutions catering to the blind have access to the said technology.
They identified the fact that core education cannot be delivered by hearing alone. This drove home a lesson to them that there is an ever-growing need for toeing a qualitative, quantitative, technical and analytical approach to resolve this issue. Chinmaya quotes an example of Harry Potter books most of us have read. These books in print are easily accessible at an affordable cost, but one has to pay over the odds to buy these books on the braille versions. So, this proved to be their long-sought solution.
Current Stage of the Innovation
Project Bliscare is at its nascent Minimal Viable Product stage and is yet to be launched to make use of. Throughout this journey, Nikita and Chinmaya researched through manuscript loads of research papers on their previous approaches.
India is home to millions of students who study is various vernacular mediums. This team was quick on their foot to identify the same and make BlisCare into a multi-linguistic platform, where they are testing a few more languages too, to cater to and reach out to every visionless student.
The road less taken
Chinmaya expresses the thrill of starting up from scratch and exploring diversely is what made him forgo an MNC job. The job which would bring home a fat cheque. Working on project Bliscare has given these youngsters exposure, skills and knowledge, more than anything and the 3M YICA Awards have certainly been a huge recognition to these youngsters.
About winning the 3M YICA Award
Chinmaya recollects being anxious and having butterflies in his stomach while awaiting the results, posting their nominations for the YICA Awards. It was a feeling of exuberance and euphoria when they were announced as the winners. They feel that the award would bring more recognition, better partnerships and help them with funds since 3M is an established brand name. They are currently routing for an IP over their prototype.
Onus on the people
They believe that social awareness can help better to tackle impediments to lack of understanding. Activities like local reach outs would find it bridge them with the society. Moreover, the CSR initiatives of MNCs towards the visually challenged would resolve the issues faced by the blind.
Chinmaya and Nikita have come a long way from looking for resources to support the visually impaired. Especially during a pandemic, and then creating an innovative solution. They intend to set up an Edtech startup that would focus on harnessing the talents of the visually challenged. Providing them with education and employment opportunities, to bring them to a fair competition with those who are physically able. They dream of a holistic, sustainable and equitable society.
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