She is no middle-aged matchmaker doing the rounds of homes and arranging marriages. Instead, 22-year-old Kalyani Khona is a matchmaker with a special mission. Her Loveability app will help people with disabilities find their perfect life partners.
While most people her age were busy finishing college and figuring out what to do next, Kalyani was already ready with a plan at the age of 21. It wasn’t the usual route to a career, but an innovative plan that could change the lives of the differently-abled for good.
Having an immense interest in connecting with and meeting new people, Kalyani’s initial plan was to launch a regular matchmaking agency. But, even as she tried to find a niche for herself in the crowded marketplace of such agencies, Kalyani realized that due mainly to inaccessible infrastructure issues, there were very few places and opportunities for people with disabilities to meet and connect with new people.
This struck a chord and Kalyani changed her plan of launching a regular matrimonial agency to a platform for connecting people with disabilities.
“There are many initiatives working towards education, employment, mobility, etc., for differently-abled people, but I realized there is not enough importance given to finding right partners for people with disabilities. This is when I launched a matchmaking agency called Wanted Umbrella, which aims to provide a safe and innovative platform to every member joining us through curated events and group dinner meetings so that they can connect with like-minded people for the purpose of matrimony or otherwise.”
According to a report published by the United Nations, about 80 million with disabilities live in India and out of these only five percent get married. This fact was shocking to Kalyani and she came up with the idea of launching an international mobile app that will reach out to over 200 million people with disabilities.
So, after a year of its inception, Wanted Umbrella is all set to launch this unique mobile app that will enable people with disabilities to meet other like-minded people and take the relationship forward if they are interested in the connection.
“After our initial research we observed that matchmaking among people with disabilities happens on an intellectual level or (on the basis of a) complementing impairment,” says Kalyani. Therefore, the Loveability team focused more on giving out personal information like medical condition, possibility of cure, level of independence, instruments used, work information, educational background, etc., and less on caste, religion or physical appearance. In India, most of the dating apps focus on appearance and rather than the personality of a person. We want to change that through our ‘exclusive’ app which is ‘inclusive’,” says Kalyani.
The app is also easily accessible to people with visual impairment. This takes place through ‘screen readers’, a software program that allows blind or visually impaired users to read text displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or Braille display.
“Working with other issues like water scarcity or polio might be relevant in one country but not in another. But disability is one issue that is present globally. Differently-abled persons everywhere face the same problem and we want to provide them resources to overcome some of their biggest challenges,” says Kalyani.
“Loveability is not just an app. We want to use this platform to break stereotypes and give hope to differently-abled people. Sometimes they don’t even think about finding a partner as they don’t have enough resources, but the app will help them connect with like minded people who will understand them better,” adds Kalyani.
Loveability and Wanted Umbrella are for-profit entities. Users will be charged based on the number of connections they make.
“It is not a charity. If I treat it like one, I won’t be able to take it across the world and it will get restricted to a few NGOs or people. I want people to know that this is very much a commercial app, just like any other for-profit model,” says Kalyani.
The road to success is never easy. Kalyani’s ambitions to be an entrepreneur also met with roadblocks.
“Initially it was hard to get people to believe that I was actually doing this. But when I received some media recognition, my family also started believing in me. And I am just 22 right now, I can experiment and I have ample time to make it work,” she says confidently.
In the future, Kalyani wants to include other social issues like widow remarriages, etc., in the spectrum of her work.
“The idea is to create a free world where people have the liberty to find the right partner, irrespective of their physical (or social) condition.”