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AI for Good: Meet the Techies Who Distributed 6.3 Million Meals During the COVID Lockdown

Gupshup, a conversational engagement platform that is working on using technology for good, cofounded by Beerud Sheth, has helped change millions of lives with its AI solutions.

AI for Good: Meet the Techies Who Distributed 6.3 Million Meals During the COVID Lockdown

This article has been sponsored by Gupshup.

During the first lockdown in March 2020, millions of migrants were left without a place to live, and food to eat. The worst crisis faced by the world affected them the most as they were displaced, and desperately seeking ways to go home. 

During these bleak times, we saw a few Good Samaritans come forward to help them find transportation, medical aid and food. One such group of friends came together and started distributing food packets on the Western Express Highway in Mumbai, on 27 March 2020.

They distributed 1,200 meals on the first day, and soon were getting requests for 10,000 meals per day.

Khaana Chahiye team distributing food
Khaana Chahiye’s team members distributing food

That’s when they started a hunger mapping initiative to find different city clusters to distribute food. When they realised this technology wasn’t accessible to all, they partnered with Gupshup, a conversational engagement platform working on using technology for good, to launch a WhatsApp chatbot to provide round-the-clock assistance to citizens in need of food. 

The idea came about when the Khaana Chahiye team realised the urgent need for a conversational solution that could reach their beneficiaries, most of whom were economically vulnerable and not regular smartphone users. 

“Even after the lockdowns, when we got requests for food, we realised that hunger is not a lockdown problem. We decided to extend our initiative and provide food for those in need. We’ve been able to share seven million meals so far and have provided 71,000 grocery kits. As we focused on long-term projects, we needed to have a strong database. We then partnered with Gupshup to help serve those who may have not been mapped. This started in June 2021,” says Swaraj Shetty, cofounder of Khaana Chahiye Foundation.

Gupshup’s use of Tech for Good

Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, Gupshup.
Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, Gupshup.

Since this chatbot is on Whatsapp, it helps reach many more people. Gupshup’s WhatsApp solution allowed Khaana Chahiye to meet and engage with those in need, right on WhatsApp, no additional app downloads or complicated steps were needed, thus simplifying the process.  

“Anyone with a basic smartphone can just drop a message. When we get a message, Gupshup has provided manual intervention tools with which we can chat with them or call them directly. One person had just messaged, ‘Hi, bohot problem hai’. We just called him and spoke to him. As it is on Whatsapp, everyone can reach out to us. Chatbot has helped us close the gap in terms of finding the absolute needy,” adds Swaraj.

An effort that began in Mumbai in March of 2020, led Khaana Chahiye to serve over 4.6 million meals in the first lockdown, and 1.7 million in the second. The WhatsApp solution helped the organisation increase its user engagement and click-through rates, leading to the team connecting with and helping millions of Indians in need.

Khaana Chahiye team
Gupshup helped Khaana Chahiye reach out to more people in need

“The WhatsApp chatbot Gupshup built for Khaana Chahiye helped the team reach out to citizens and converse seamlessly in three languages including Hindi, Marathi, and English. It provided a very natural conversational interface that allowed the needy or reporters of the needy to reach out to the team for help, anytime and anywhere. This led to a boost in the organisation’s reach, helping their volunteers engage with virtually hundreds of people with ease,” says Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, Gupshup.                                                                                                                                                       

Sheth adds, “By creating an easy-to-use, multilingual chatbot on a platform favoured by Indians across the board, Gupshup was able to deliver a conversational engagement solution for a good cause that helped capture the details of citizens in need and ensure that meals were provided throughout the lockdown period.”

Besides Khaana Chahiye, Gupshup has also extended its WhatsApp solution to enable numerous NGOs and Government bodies like COVID meals for India, United by Blood, Umeed by Sonu Sood, Khan Academy and Sewa hi Sangathan, to facilitate communication with people and streamline their workflow.

“We believe that conversational technology can be used for the benefit of non-profit organisations that can leverage it to amplify their good intentions and efforts and to have a far greater impact. Given the scale of Gupshup’s operations, we did work with several non-profit organizations like Khaana Chahiye, especially during Covid, to connect people in need with resources and help in times of need,” says Sheth.

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Gupshup plans to continue this approach of helping organisations looking to do good, through technological partnerships. They are also looking to invest in services that can aid communities in need and the nation at large. 

“Gupshup’s conversational engagement technology has a very broad impact, and it is our intention and goal to continue our efforts to extend our support and partnership to any non-profit that’s looking to uplift the lives of people in need,” adds Sheth.

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