Maitri: A mobile app to connect kids at orphanages with old age homes
Five Indian high school girls are ready to take Silicon Valley by storm. The Tech Witches team from Amity International School, Noida, is among the finalists at Technovation Girls, an annual competition inviting girls aged between 10 and 18 to identify a problem in their community and create a mobile app to solve it. The Indian team comprising five girls – 17-year-old Ananya Grover, 18-year-old Anushka Sharma, 17-year-old Arefa, 16-year-old Vanshika Yadav and 17-year-old Vasudha Sudhinder – created an app, Maitri, an app that allows children at orphanages to spend time with senior citizens in old-age homes, thus improving their social and mental well-being. The goal is to connect those individuals suffering from loneliness and depression and those lacking the nurturing love of elderly role models. Users can also volunteer and donate to old-age homes and orphanages through the app.
The name of the group plays on the more commonly-used tech-wizards. “We flipped the gender of the term to break the status quo, separate the term witches from the negative connotations it carries and make an empowering statement that even girls can be technologically adept,” said Grover, the 17-year-old CEO of the group.
The girls went to San Francisco, U.S. this month to participate in the Technovation Challenge, the world’s largest technology and entrepreneurship program for girls, where they clinched the bronze medal for their innovative app.
“Maitri allows old-age homes and orphanages to sign up and organize meetings, thus facilitating children and senior citizens to spend time together. The app has seen over 1,000 downloads till date and has 13 old-age homes and 7 orphanages connected through it,” explains Ananya.
“During our initial phase, we are focussing on the Delhi-NCR area only but plan to take this App pan-India by getting more and more orphanages and old-age homes registered on it. Maitri allows only validated facilities to register and provides contact details and map locations for assistance,” she added.
Grover’s teammate, Sudhinder – chief design and communication officer for the app – suggested linking old age homes with orphanages since children go through similar emotions.
The team conducted a survey of 145 people to understand their target market. They also interviewed the administrators of old-age homes and orphanages who would be the direct users of the app. Arefa, the chief technical officer of the group, used her Java knowledge from school and the coding curriculum shared by Technovation to build the code for the Android app.
Thus, Maitri, which means friendship in Sanskrit, was born.
The app has been active on Google Play Store for a few weeks now and two meetings between old age homes and orphanages have already been facilitated, the girls told Quartz.
Maitri also offers need-based donations where old-age homes and orphanages can specify their needs, be it of an item like a blanket or a specific sum of money for a clear purpose. Users can view their profiles, their contact details and directly donate to the organization.
According to the creators, the app is unique. Sixteen-year-old Vanshika Yadav, the chief marketing and analytical officer, identified two indirect competitors – DonateKart and Justdial – but doesn’t see them servicing the same needs. “While DonateKart provides a platform in general for donations for all types of organizations, relief funds, and campaigns, Maitri is extremely focused on old-age homes and orphanages,” Yadav said. “Similarly, Justdial only provides the contact information while Maitri acts as a go-between individual, old age homes and orphanages.”
Operating as a non-profit, the app is free and intends to stay that way. So, to raise capital, the girls are turning to corporate social responsibility funds, crowdfunding and advertisement revenues. They plan to be listed on India’s Social Stock Exchange as proposed in the 2019 union budget.