Kalyani Khona: ‘Everyone should have someone to come home to’

In today’s interview, I speak with Kalyani Khona, co-founder of India’s first accessible matchmaking app for persons with disabilities ‘Inclov’. As someone who is working with an NGO dedicated to the empowerment of persons with blindness, I am very excited to be in conversation with this brilliant young woman.  Ever punctual and highly responsive, organizing an interview with her was a dream.

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Kalyani Khona, the inspiring founder of Inclov
  1. Tell me a little bit about yourself Kalyani.

I graduated from the H.R. College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. My specialization was in finance. I didn’t go for the traditional route of placements in my final year. Rather, I was thinking about other opportunities. Starting Inclov was just an idea that occurred to me in the period after I had graduated college. I don’t have any family members with disabilities. I started investigating the area of finding a suitable life partner among persons with disabilities to see if it is a pain point. From my experiences, I observed that the problem was real. I undertook the whole journey of exploring this space one step at a time. I started out with distributing papers will profiles printed on them. Based on the responses I received, I started arranging Skype interviews with people and their families. At this point I decided that the idea needs pivoting and scalability. That is when I decided to work on the app. But, I did not have enough funds for it.

  1. Then how did you go about creating the app? What was the process like?

Right from the inception stage of the app till the launch, it took me about six months. I spoke with many people and took feedback from them. We ensured that the app was tested by a lot of people before the launch, as using it should be a seamless experience. We wanted the app to be an accessible experience for people with all different kinds of disabilities. The USP and the differentiating factor of the app is its accessibility.

  1. Tell me more about your Wishberry crowd funding campaign for the app.

Last year in June, I started a campaign for Project Loveability on Wishberry, a crowd funding website. The campaign was supported by 143 backers. I positioned the idea of the app as the first app which would be a 100 percent accessible. I used a narrative that I firmly believe in. I believe that Inclov is spreading love. We are not operating from a point of view of sympathy for disability. Here is how we look at it. There are people out there who are different than us, and they deserve to get married too. They are really accomplished people; many of them more so than able-bodied individuals. We want to showcase these sides of theirs that break stereotypes and perceptions.

  1. Please give some advice for people who wish to start a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The most important thing with any crowdfunding campaign is the content and how you present your idea. If the content fails to connect with people, they will not put in money. You have to share the details of your project and plan clearly.  And then you mention how lack of money is preventing you from executing the project. The money opportunity cost should come across.

  1. How big is the Inclov team currently?

80 percent of the team is the tech team. The other 20 percent is looking after the marketing, non-tech side of the business. We are a lean startup and we believe in using the internet to solve people’s problems. My co-founder, Shankar had joined the start-up in 2015.

  1. You were a consultant for the Government of India for the Accessible India campaign. What was that experience like?

PM Narendra Modi had launched the Accessible India campaign on December 3, 2015. I consulted with the government for a short duration. I was part of the accessible technology team. It was a good experience. It was a good support system for the start-up.

  1. Where do you see Inclov in the next five years?

We plan to have a global reach. We want everyone, including persons with disabilities to have someone to come home to. We believe that for the healthy functioning of any society it is important for social wants and needs to be met.

  1. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I’m looking forward to travelling a lot more, that’s for sure. I also want to explore assisted living for persons with disabilities in terms of technology. The possibilities are endless!

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Age is no bar for making positive social impact
  1. Any plans for an MBA?

No, I don’t want to do an MBA at the moment or any time soon. But let’s see. You never know what future may hold.

  1. What is the role that your advisors and mentors have played in getting Inclov off the ground?

Good advisors and mentors have been the game-changers for me. There are many people out there who are passionate about sharing their insights and giving back to society. Our mentors include Mr V.R. Ferose whom I met at the India Inclusion Summit. The founder of Match.com, Will Bunker has also guided us. Mr Sarabvir Singh, former MD of Capital 18 and media entrepreneur Raghav Bahl are also our supporters.  Dave Datta, co-founder of Tulseais is one of our advisors as well.

  1. Do you have any message for the readers of Indspire Me? What is one book/movie you would recommend to them?

Don’t quit your job, just because everyone is starting up and it is the fashionable thing to do. You must have the right reason to take this decision. Just starting up for the sake of starting up is not very good. One book that I would like to recommend to the readers of Indspire Me is Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

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