I recently connected with Sachin Malhan, CEO and co-founder of inclusive planet, an online platform that enables people with print impairments to find each other, connect, interact, build communities, and share accessible content and solutions. Started in India, this project is rapidly growing to be a world-wide resource for the visually impaired to both learn and interact.
About Sachin Malhan
Sachin began his career as a corporate lawyer with a firm in Mumbai. After a yearlong stint with the corporate law Sachin left to take over the reigns of a startup that he had co-founded in his third year in law school. The startup, Law School Tutorials (LST, lawentrance.com), provided distance learning and web based tutorials for students aspiring for admission to the top law schools in the country. LST went on to be a market leader in this space now training over 6000 students in 50+ cities, and is a case study in education entrepreneurship at leading business schools such as the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and the China Europe Institute of Business in Shanghai. In 2006 Sachin co-founded Rainmaker, now India's leading executive search and corporate training firm for the law industry. In 2008 he moved on to focus on entrepreneurship in the social sector - the result was the co-founding of Inclusive Planet.
Q. Why did you decide to create inclusive planet?
In 2008, when I moved on from Rainmaker, I wanted to do creative work in either disability or education. Disability, because I had encountered it within the family and become sensitized to how underserved the disabled were the world over, and education because it's an issue that I feel emotionally and intellectually drawn to and it's also an area I've worked in since my graduation from law school. My research in these areas led me to connect with Rahul Cherian and Reuben Jacob, my present co-founders, who were also examining the disability space for problems. A common theme emerged: using our strengths in policy, tech and design to create large-scale solutions for the disabled. That was the seed of Inclusive Planet. Our initial exposure was to organizations working mostly with the print-impaired and thus we decided to focus further on solutions for the print-impaired.
Q. Who does inclusive planet aim to help?
Inclusive Planet helps the print-impaired - specifically by improving 'accessibility' for the print-impaired. Accessibility to information, knowledge and environments.
Q. Let's get the big picture! Besides building the online tool and community, what else is inclusive planet trying to achieve?
The online community for accessible content sharing (inclusiveplanet.com's current core offering) is just the beginning. Inclusive Planet is also engaged in:
Domestic and international policy change - our work has led to an invitation to present before the parliamentary standing committee on the amendments to the copyright act and an invitation to Geneva to participate in the WIPO talks on the proposed global agreement for the blind.
Our learnings in tech and design for the print-impaired has led to our proficiency in advising IT firms, site owners and tech developers on accessibility of systems
We are working on a new product that could enable the blind to use the web despite the significant accessibility challenges. This should be ready in 6 weeks.
Q. Do you have any success stories to share with us?
There are several users who have become absolute regulars on the platform and have used it not just for content but to build friendships with others across the world. Let me paste here one story shared by a user:
Inclusive planet became for me a podium, where all the cream of strength of the planeteers is let out
This platform is to share not only the handicaps’s problems but all the experiences with each other so that we can also help the problem facing person;
And the platform also at the same tryes to boost up the inner strength of the numerous visually chalengeds both on the professional and on the personal fronts.
It is a plateau as wel to all, where we can and must share our achievements,experiences and troubles with every one of us, without any hesitation or restriction for a full-frontal discussion and more than that for the trial to solve the running and upcoming tussles from the various social structures.
Last but not the least this also at the same displays of the varied qualities and capabilities of the physicaly impaireds,to the society Who has put restricted expectations from them.
This is a flaming lamp for the society, to recheck the orthodoxies and improve to become a little more “HUMANE”.
Here is a plateau which not only get us to know of the achievers, but also displays a encouraging ray by the illustrations of the BEST and the most of the WINNERS.
Q. Do you have any lessons learned from getting a venture like this started?
The challenges with a venture like this are substantial:
Raising seed funding / grants in a space like this.
The accessible content / socialisation needs of print-impaired vary from region to region and demographic to demographic - hence, in order to get the platform going requires different seeding strategies for different pockets. This is time and resource consuming. For instance, people in the US or EU don't need basic learning content while people in the developing world do - so choices have to be made - and the time period to scale fully becomes long.
Navigating the legal issues - people across the world will share different types of accessible content including material restricted by copyright laws in their country. Navigating the potential legal challenges, especially where content-sharers and seekers don't have a lternative means to get the content, is very hard.
Currently we're at 4010 users - getting from here to around 12000-15000 users (at which point we hope the flywheel will kick in) is the next challenge - its the critical seeding phase.
Q. How can people get involved with inclusive planet or follow your work?