Taking on Google’s ‘Build for Digital India’ Challenge – FIIB’s Rashi Rathore guns for Empowering the Visually Impaired

Challenging yourself to learn something new without losing the focus of the purpose, is what brings you closer to innovation.” – Rashi Rathore, FIIB Student, Batch 2019-21

It is often said that ‘Innovation is the process of uncovering unsolved problems that are worth solving’. But, what exactly drives innovation? A positive mindset, zeal to go beyond the obvious, or a will to take on challenges? 

In Rashi’s opinion, all three play a vital role in pushing yourself to create something more valuable for the society. While talking about her Google’s Build for Digital India journey, she said “it was quite challenging for me to go beyond my knowledge boundaries and learn the basics of technology. But she also understood that to unleash her true potential, she would need to step out of her comfort zone   and do something new and different. 

Here are the bytes from the interview with Rashi Rathore, who’s technology innovation project “i-Can” is amongst the top 61 student tech innovations selected for the ongoing ‘Build for Digital India’ campaign conducted by Google and the Ministry of E&IT. 

1.How does it feel to be selected for Google’s Build For Digital India Bootcamp?

It is really an amazing feeling to get selected for an initiative which is backed by Google. Well, I think luck has also played a very big role in this as I got this opportunity through my friend Nimish with whom I’m working together on this plan and developing the idea. This is indeed a great opportunity for my career.

2.What in particular encouraged you to build a solution for blind community?

Undoubtedly, visual impairment is one of the areas that require innovative solutions as out of 62 million visual impairment cases in India, 54 million persons have low vision, and 8 million are blind. 

Since I did not generate the idea myself, I had no clue about how this particular section of society feels to live life this way. However, as soon as I got involved in this project, I started realizing how difficult it is for them to do even the basic things on their own. Consequently, it caught my interest and my friend and I decided to do something for them. The best part of it is that the people we are testing our prototype on are liking it and they say “i-CAN” is like they are given their eyes back. So it is their response and feedback that encourages me to be a part of this change in our society. 

3.As you are currently pursuing an MBA program, do you think bringing a business mindset to creating technological innovations has helped you in any form? 

Being an MBA student now and having a commerce background earlier it was quite challenging for me to understand how technical things work. But when Nimish introduced me with this idea, I started focusing on technology around and started learning about it. After all, it’s never too late to learn something new. For my MBA, this has changed me in a sense that now I can understand many technical things and combine my two domain learnings to create something that can bring happiness to the lives of many.

4.Navigation is one of the most difficult challenges facing an individual with a vision impairment. Do you think your invention has the potential to tackle this problem?

Ease of navigation was the top-notch priority of our prototype as navigation problems create 80% of the troubles for the visually impaired according to our survey . Putting a GPS in our product helped us get positive results. The most satisfying part was that people could walk around on their own when they tried our prototype. Even while shooting the videos of prototype testing we realized that people were admiring this feature the most.  

5.Building innovative solutions for a good cause is not as simple as it sounds. From decoding research to preparing a business pitch, there’s a lot to get done. What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome those barriers?

Yes, I second you on that! From generating an idea to do proper research for it to make sure that the document reads well was not an easy task. But, what helped us make sure that everything goes as planned was keeping our SOPs clear right from the beginning.  Nimish handled the technological part of the project, and I, because of my MBA background, took care of our business plan and of creating a catchy pitch.   

Managing both my MBA and project work made me encounter many challenges. But I was fortunate enough to have good support from my  institute, my mentors and my faculty. It would not have been possible for me to develop a business plan that got selected by Google’s Build for Digital India, if Dr. Ekta Singhal, my Faculty Mentor hadn’t helped and guided me right from the start. 

6.What’s next? What does the future look like for people who are blind?

Our main motive behind registering for the Build for Digital India campaign was to develop the idea technically before launching it into the market. Currently, we are being associated with the National Association of Blind in India and are actively looking to get sponsorship from the big corporate houses and collaboration with the government organizations. We have certain other plans for the society as well, but right now “i-CAN” is our main focus.