India's 100 million Poor Hit Hard by Covid Lockdown - How can we help?


If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you have a decent internet connection, basic awareness of COVID-19 and a smart device. During the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak, you are able to access the basic necessities, albeit with some struggle. In a parallel reality, not too far away, there are people who can’t do that. People who neither have food nor money or shelter. Some of them include:

  1. Migrant laborers stranded on the streets, waiting to reach home
  2. Families in remote villages dependent on daily wages
  3. Individuals and families in urban slums who lost their incomes

Our government is getting ready with many vital initiatives. But IT WILL TAKE SOME TIME. Also, it might not always reach everyone, either. In a nation like ours, a tiny pilferage can mean a lot of lives at risks. With restricted mobility, that is bound to happen. Each life is precious. We are striving to cover this last mile and support now – when the system is still in shock and readying itself, as well as going forward for the ones who will be left out.

What it does

We allow privileged people to donate money to the people in need right now INSTANTLY through Whatsapp and Paytm.

  • How do you donate? The user connects with our Whatsapp Chatbot and registers their need (money, shelter, job, etc.) and you can see these people on our app and select whom you would like to support. Your contribution will directly be transferred to their Paytm account within 24 hours. Daily updates of how much we have raised and transferred will be posted on our app.

  • How do we keep misusers away? We ask for an identification proof from every user and ask them to verify through our innovative photo verification technology. You'll be prompted with an example of one of a hundred random emojis. All you have to do is take a selfie mimicking that pose and send it to the us. All photos are reviewed using ML algorithms on our app. Only verified users with be matched with each other.

  • Why Whatsapp and Paytm? Well, currently, there is an estimated active WhatsApp and Paytm user base of 250-300 million in India. Almost every 1 in 5 person has a smartphone, Whatsapp and Paytm.

  • I do not speak English. What do I do? No worries. Our app supports English as well as Hindi to accommodate larger chunk of the population.

How I built it

  • We used Twilio Whatsapp API to build our chatbot. To add AI and bilingual capabilities to our chatbot, we are using Google DialogFlow.
  • The donor can select the person they would like to help using our React Native Web app.

Challenges I ran into

As we were new to the Whatsapp messenger platform, it required a lot of trial and run to get the chatbot up and running. Whatsapp Business Account isn't easily available. It takes days to get it verified and requires legal business name. So we were unable to use the Whatsapp Business API. Integration of NLP engine and Payment gateway (Paytm) using python with React Native app. We initially started implementing the backend with node.js, which was another hurdle. We were not able to fully implement the idea as we faced some technical challenges.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

This idea when implemented on a scalable level with actually benefit a lot of people due to it's utility to save time and reach masses. We did a lot of research on the UI/UX designs considering the customer requirement analysis in our case and came up with a customer friendly User Interface which requires minimum text input.

What I learned

Whatsapp Messenger platform APIs, Twilio, Google Dialogflow, Paytm API, React Native

What's next for On My Block

  • Make the payment gateway fully functional
  • Replace Twilio with whatsapp business API
  • Improve Security of users
  • Add more language support
+ 3 more
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