Blood donation continues to be a challenge across India and numerous heartbreaking deaths that have occurred just because a patient wasn’t able to find a donor in time.
This widespread reality was what first planted an idea inside Sushil Lalwani to bridge the gap between demand and availability of blood units, and resulted in the birth of MBlood, a unique start-up.
The idea came to Sushil after a close relative of his passed away in 2017, because he was not able to get the required number of blood units in time.
“This was despite the fact that he was privileged and had the necessary resources. A few weeks after his demise, we received a call from a blood donor who received our request via WhatsApp. This added to the trauma our family was going through,” says Sushil in a conversation with The Better India.
Disturbed by the course of events, he began meeting with doctors, hospitals, blood banks and volunteers from the local Rotary Club to understand how he could solve the problem of connecting donors to patients in need of immediate blood!
“After my research I learned that buying blood units is an expensive affair, and finding fresh blood in India is even tougher. In fact, stored blood comes with an expiry. Despite best efforts, when stored blood is not used for long, it is discarded, which means that over a million units of blood are wasted,” he explains.
Using GPS technology, the app enables users to connect with registered blood donors in their area—for free! As of now, there are 2100 blood banks listed. When a requirement is posted, a willing donor is immediately notified.
“It might be possible to save lives if a blood donor is available in time. The idea is to create the largest user base in terms of blood donors and of blood banks which are available to people at the click of a button,” he says.
The MBlood app went live in January 2018 after Sushil was satisfied with the research and development. Within one month, over 10,000 users registered and the app was flooded with requests for blood donation, leaving Sushil feeling overwhelmed.
“It was a technological nightmare. We had to upgrade the app and its features, and fix all the glitches almost overnight. Since then, we have streamlined the app features almost 250 times,” he recalls.
While cities are relatively well connected, it is often difficult to find donors or obtain blood in rural areas.
According to Sushil, there are currently over 27,000 users from states across India, and around 60% hail from semi-urban and rural parts of the country.
Bellary, Darbhanga, Gadag, Guntur, Pali, Ujjain, Ratlam, and Sonipat are just some of the towns that have sent in requests for blood and registered as donors.
MBlood has gradually gained recognition by word of mouth and has managed to connect people from across the country in times of distress.
He recalls a cancer patient from a small town called Pothayyavalasa in Andhra Pradesh. Struggling to get even one unit of blood, it was through MBlood that he was able to get a donor within a couple of days.
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Another moment of joy for Sushil was upon hearing that a blood donor had travelled 30 kilometres to donate blood in Pondicherry.
“I was surprised to see that donors were willing to travel over 20 kilometres just to donate blood,” he says.
According to him, the success of MBlood lies in its potential ability to offer a solution to a problem that millions of Indians face, by using technology to save lives.
Some of the team members at MBlood who are responsible for collecting and updating the database are specially abled– and altogether, he says that it feels good to make a difference in people’s lives.
So, what does Sushil hope to achieve in the future?
“By December 2018, we plan to build a network of 1 million registered users. Once we achieve this, we plan to expand overseas, in countries with a large number of Indians,” he says.
What is most important to this entrepreneur is to create a dedicated medium that can help bridge the gap between blood donors and the ones who need it—making sure that blood donations reach the right people at the right time.
The success of MBlood largely depends on the growth of its users, as it is a not-for-profit. Nevertheless, Sushil remains hopeful that it is indeed possible to make sure that more lives are saved through efficient blood donation.
“Changing the existing perception against misconceptions about blood donation will take time. There are more than a billion people in our country, so there is definitely no shortage of blood donors,” he adds.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)