Recently, I participated in the India Innovation Series Hackathon conducted by Incubate India. The hackathon was at Kochi, Kerala, which pretty much 02:30 hours from Amritapuri, and for that reason, we had taken it very lightly and (honestly) planned to participate it only to get out of the campus in the weekend. I decided team-up with 2 girls at our club – Drishya & Swathi, who could be said relatively inexperienced in coding and thought it would be a good experience to for me and them to work together. I had no expectations of getting help from them in coding, so I also took in my most trusted partner – Harshith Pabbati, with whom I have long worked in the web team of the club. Drishya and Swathi are however really proactive and passionate people, and especially good at pitching and talking to people, so the plan was made that I and Harshith will code, while they will work on presentation.

When the themes for the hackathon came out, I had no doubt in choosing – “Women Security Solutions”, and to be frank, the motive was not really the passion about empowering women and ensuring their security, but to take advantage of the touchy topic especially since we had 2 girls on-board who could passionately talk and capture the judges. Well, Drishya & Swathi took it passionately, in a day’s time, they had made up an idea in their mind, they had identified a clear problem. While there was still a week to go for the hackathon, they came forward to us wanting to discuss about the hackathon, but again, we really took it lightly and postponed it for few days. Finally, when the meeting was held, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm and energy the girls had about the hackathon, it was a masterstroke to choose that topic.

In the meeting, we discussed various instances where women were exposed, but we strictly limit ourselves to situations where some app could be sold to solve it as we couldn’t make any sort of IoT/hardware stuff. We identified the lack of last mile connectivity that public transport offers, and realised that women are most vulnerable when they are walking from their public transit station/stop to their destination (both home or office).

Then, we took the analogy of google maps, which showed the “fastest” route and thought why can’t we make a map that could showed the “safest” route. It was pretty easy to ask for that feature, but I really had questions in my mind how will one identify and rate the safest route (a metric). It was then Swathi came up and told – “The problem is we don’t have much options to complain, we don’t have systems in place for that”, and Drishya followed up saying – “there is a police system in this country, but most victims are either ashamed to go there, on in minor cases, never take the pain to go there, as it all takes time”.

It was clear that there was a scope to make a system that was more hassle-free, trustable for women to report such incidences. This solution could be easily be put into a app, and also we could use this data to actually create a safeness heatmap for places, and recommend the safest route for women commuters. Now, it was all about implementing! I was very confident of the team, and really excited to go for the hackathon.

At the beginning of the hackathon, I assigned the task of designing ui wireframes to Drishya, and Swathi assigned to do documentation of the problem statement and solution. Meanwhile, I and Harshith set up the Django and React Apps.  Then, Harshith was given the responsibility to integrate google maps (Places & Directions API) while I was into creating the backend django models to later serve the frontend.

We identified that with Google Places API, we could get details of places like nearby police stations, hospitals, bars, clubs etc. which could be potentially used as base factors to judge the safeness of a neighborhood. Harshith immediately started playing around and testing it.

It was night by then, and at the dinner we evaluated each other’s progress. Drishya and Swathi had completed their work, and started asking for more work, but I couldn’t give them any coding part, as they had little experience over it. Then to keep them engaged, I asked them to start making the presentation and a short intro video. Meanwhile, Harshith had made great progress and app had started working and sketching heatmaps on screen.

Also in between, different mentors at the event came around, and talking with whom we got more ideas on the project. We also had evaluations at the night, which was quite managed by Swathi and Drishya presenting really passionately.

By morning, we had a minimum viable product (MVP) ready. I was really happy at work, and it was finally the time to pitch the project. I decided (quite selfishly) that I will pitch, and we did a pretty decent presentation.  We won the third prize and 7.5k INR 😉

It was a pretty diverse team – an introvert who works extremely hard and gets thing done, a very creative and enthusiastic girl who couldn’t code, a really cute girl who could talk and convince anybody 😂😅

Hard work beats talent, and passion beats everything. ✌️