Kalyani, co-founder of Inclov, was always a matchmaker waiting in the wings. When in college, this modern-day Emma, would try to match up her friends with each other. The realisation that matchmaking was something she was passionate about and there was a need for a dating app for disabled in the market, led to the inception of Inclov in 2016. Shankar Srinivasan, a friend, joined her in this journey some time later. Srinivasan was working for another start-up in those days but it was acquired, and he decided to move out of the company.
The journey of the start-up is as interesting as the idea. In the initial days, the start-up existed as a small marriage bureau for disabled in Mumbai.
"Parents of people with disability would come to meet me and tell us about their journey and ask us if we can help them in any way," Kalyani recalls.
However, the need for funding and a better ecosystem for her start-up made her move to Gurugram. The challenges still aplenty. While they were facing social inhibition on the consumer side, investors too were apprehensive about investing in the start-up as they doubted its scalability. While they were able to raise funds, the social challenge still stays.
"Social inhibition is in mind and it is the toughest to tackle, because you are trying to create an ecosystem, saying people with disability should go out and chill just like you and I do. They should be getting married, they should fall in love," says Srinivasan.
Today, the start-up exists in the form of an app, a web app and a lighter version called Inclov light, which has been built just for the people with vision impairment. The founders have made the effort to make the platform as inclusive as possible, and it is currently available in Hindi, Punjabi and English. They claim to have 30,000 subscribers across the country. Inclov has raised $500,000 in two rounds of funding so far and is looking at raising Series A.
To give its audience the opportunity of interacting with people they have met on the platform in real life, the start-up holds meet-ups across 14 cities in the country. Called Social Spaces, these meet-ups are held twice a month and the users of the platform need to buy the tickets from the web app or app to attend them.
"The model is defined in a way to keep them more engaged. So it is like, you met somebody interesting online, here is where you can meet them. Here is where you buy your ticket and end up there. We close the loop there," informs Kalyani.
"In fact, many of them travel, if we are holding up Social Spaces in a city nearby," she adds.
The company has tied-up with several travel partners and hotels in these cities, where their users can stay. The meet-ups too are sponsored by the companies.
But holding these meet-ups is a challenge in itself as most hotels, night clubs, restaurants etc. don't have disabled-friendly infrastructure. However, Srinivasan who is responsible for the offline side of business, works with these spaces to make them accessible.
"It is about the mindset of the management. A lot of times I have come across people where they are not very comfortable about hosting something like this. But I have also seen a lot of other places, where people are but they need to know what needs to be done and we help them."
The company uses these multiple online-offline channels to monetise its platform. Going ahead, the company is planning to expand geographically and would be launching in Australia soon.