In Exhibit’s Women’s special March issue, Utsavi Jha interacted with the CoFounder of a very special matchmaking app called Inclov. Started for the disabled, the heartfelt venture by Kalyani Khona aims at giving them a better life that society thinks they’re not entitled to. In an insightful e-conversation, Ms Khona discusses her thought process behind the premise of her app, the challenges she faced in building it ground-up and where she sees the app heading.
“ Love is for everyone and in the matters of the heart, there are no limitations. ”
Exhibit: Your app is based on a very different premise. How did you come up with the idea of starting Inclov?
Kalyani Khona: Traditional platforms give users a painful experience of going through cluttered databases of phone numbers and email ids. This leads to humiliating experiences of cold calling and lower response rate that results in faster user churn especially for people with disabilities who get insulted or humiliated by people who understand very little about them. I was disheartened by the general attitude of people on matrimonial portals and generally in society towards those with physical impairment or disability. I kept questioning what exactly would the limitations be? What is stopping people with disability from finding a life partner (considering 42% of them never marry)? To my surprise, the answer was our misconceptions, inhibitions and stereotypes that their mere survival was enough and that they need no more. It was painful for me to see that and hence I had a humble beginning with an offline matchmaking agency moving to a crowd-funded mobile app called Inclov.
I’ve always believed- Love is for everyone and in the matters of the heart, there are no limitations.
Exhibit: How would you state the USP of your dating app?
Kalyani: Inclov is the world’s first matchmaking mobile app designed inclusively to help in finding a life partner for people with disabilities and with health disorder. Dating is just one of the outcome. Matchmaking app is a platform to match intent of the user as well. So if you select that your purpose of using the app is to find a date, we show you profiles of people who are here to date as well and the same goes for friendship and matrimony for all the singles around.Our app is fully accessible to everyone including people with visual impairment, retina disorder, colour blindness, etc.
Exhibit: What hurdles did you have to overcome on your way to setting up Inclov? Was obtaining funding a problem?
Kalyani: Social inhibitions and finding an audience who has mostly stayed within the four walls of their home was extremely challenging. We had to move away from conventional social media marketing because none of that worked for us in discovering our audience. So that has been the toughest thing I am still working on. Obtaining funding is not a problem as long as you have clarity in the vision and problem you are solving.
Exhibit: Despite your unique target audience, do you still tackle any sort of competition?
Kalyani: Inclov is the world’s first mobile app and web portal which is designed keeping in mind people with physical impairments who use technology differently or with different userface. So, we eliminate competition by having easy access, mandatory mobile verification, strong review process and lower churn rate. The online solution is complemented with an offline platform, which we call Social Spaces. Social Spaces brings people with or without disability together to meet in person. Another thing that helps us draw our niche is Inclov Select, our premium matchmaking assistant who curates your profiles, set-up calls and family meetings at a very reasonable cost.
Exhibit: How accepting are Indians of the whole concept of online dating? Any peculiarities you have observed?
Kalyani: I think our audience comes more with the expectations to find a life partner. The concept of dating is very new especially to our audience (age group 28-45 years) and hence asking them their purpose of joining Inclov helps immensely in understanding their expectations from the mobile app.
Exhibit: Tell us your Business Mantras.
Kalyani: Build a hardworking team that cares about the business. You can sleep better at night.
Exhibit: How would you chalk out your greatest strengths and weaknesses with regards to your personal and professional life?
Kalyani: Strength would be my eye for detail and business acumen that I get from my family background. My family is extremely supportive as well, which helps when work gets stressful. Another strength is my ease at building business relationships.
Weakness would be the patience and tolerance required while building business and seeing results of all the work you and your team have put it. I am extremely aggressive and impatient with results.
My biggest professional strength is my cofounder and business partner Shankar Srinivasan. Nothing would be possible without his maturity, patience and guidance in running this business we’ve built together.
“ It is always tougher to be in the game but be the one who plays on the field for longer if not faster. ”
Exhibit: Currently, India is witnessing a great boom with regards to the Startup scene. In your opinion, what are the positives and negatives about India as a Startup hub?
Kalyani: A lot of innovation to important problem solving will come from the boom. The negative is that only those that can make enough business or build a market for themselves will stay.
Exhibit: Where do you see the online dating scene in India heading in the next 5 years?
Kalyani: I am more focused on matchmaking needs and requirements of people looking to find a life partner and my interest lies in catering to the audience who is focused on the same through our online and offline partner. I am not really in the dating space so don’t hold a vision or outlook for the next 5 years.
Exhibit: How big a consumer are you of technology and the Internet on a personal level?
Kalyani: There was no greater time to live than today. Technology has enabled discovery and innovation. I am very passionate about communities on Internet in general and I like to engage with FB groups or LinkedIn conversations quite often because for me, those are the communities that are evolving and discussing early adoption.
Exhibit: What do you like to spend time doing when you are not working?
Kalyani: Yoga, meditation and reading. I’ve also started enjoying cooking very recently.
Exhibit: Which are your favorite influential and inspiring books?
Kalyani: There are many: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Grahman, Zero to One by Peter Thiel, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Exhibit: Seeing in hindsight, what would you have done differently?
Kalyani: My mentor and advisor kept suggesting us to have a web portal too but we delayed it quite a bit due to resources constraint and timelines. We went Android first, iOS and in 2018 we will go for web app. If there was one thing I would have done differently, it would have been to go web first.
- Your most useful gadget that’s not a smartphone or laptop: Smoothie-maker. I am always on the go.
- Most unique gadget you’ve come across: Bleetechsmartwatch that records sounds and sends them as vibrations for people who are hearing impaired.
- Favourite apps: Uber and Instagram.
- One TV show you ardently follow: SharkTank
- Describe Inclov in a statement: Everyone deserves to be loved.
- If you could dirty your hands on any other industry, which would it be: Restaurants & wine imports.
- Your role model: Elon Musk
- Best piece of advice given to you: If people say no but you think it’s a yes, go for it nevertheless.
- Advice you’d give to budding entrepreneurs: It is always tougher to be in the game but be the one who plays on the field for longer if not faster.