Shankar Srinivasan Tells Us How He Plays Cupid And Matches Hearts Of People With Disabilities
- IWB Post
- February 14, 2018
While a swipe to the right may sweep your soul mate off their feet, it often fails to match the hearts of millions of people with disabilities who live in India, and of them, many live with the disheartening notion that finding love is an impossible feat for them. So what happens when someone decides to make them believe in happily-ever-after again?
Launched in 2016, INCLOV is the world’s first matchmaking app focusing on people with disabilities and health disorders that helps them to find love. With the desire of changing lives and making a significant difference, Kalyani Khona (founder) and Shankar Srinivasan (co-founder) embarked on the journey of bonding hearts. The app matches people based on their medical condition, lifestyle pattern, level of independence and cure availability.
So when you get a chance to converse with the pioneers of the most unique love stories, what do you do? Nab it, of course! Meet Shankar Srinivasan, 25, who is connecting soul mates and making their dreams come true! Excerpts:
You are literally a writer of love stories, aren’t you? Let’s begin from the beginning.
Both, me and Kalyani were very interested in doing something in the matchmaking sphere. But we were not interested in the usual stuff, anything that has been already done. We already have many dating apps, creating another similar application would make no sense. So, we decided to solve a real-life problem – disability. Everyone deserves to be happy and a mere disability shouldn’t take that away!
In India, being disabled means that you lack opportunities in different fields of life. They find it hard to form friendships, getting into a relationship and finding a suitable partner is many-a-times out of question. The society finds it hard to accept them and their life is confined to their homes and work, so a rather absent social life.
We realized that this is the real problem we can attempt to solve and change the life of many. And we did! We have made close to six thousand matches which have turned into close friendships, relationships, and even marriages!
That is remarkable! You are connecting people who might have never found love. Not a two-person job, then. Tell me about INCLOV’s wonderful team.
We are a small family of eight people. I, for one, head Social Spaces with another colleague from the team. Our tech team and marketing team comprises of two people each. We have a wonderful matchmaker, Swati Kamboj, who is super pro at understanding different people and matching them accordingly. She even sets up meetings, when things progress between potential partners. And then there is Kalyani as the head of our family!
The zeal with which your team works and the number of couples you’ve already matched deserves an award. Why don’t you tell me about the most wonderful love story INCLOV made a reality?
Though we have matched many, I’ll forever cherish the very first couple we united. It was OUR first love story. Both of them had almost given up on ever finding love in their life after years lost in looking for someone who would accept them for what they are. At that time, the app, INCLOV, was in its initial stage and was to be launched. We had approached about 1000 such people to try the app out.
I spent days, trying to convince the lady to give INCLOV a chance and she finally got on the app. I said, “You tried different apps and other platforms for 8 years, just give us 6 months and see the results for yourself.” And you won’t believe it but within 10 days of the app’s launch, she called me up to tell me that she met someone! Their parents were meeting a week later after which she called to give me the happy news – they were getting married in 3 months! Yeah, it was that quick! Both of them are from Gujarat and are suffering from Polio.
The wedding took place on May 13th, 2016 and I attended the beginning of the love story that we were lucky to be a part of.
Awww! Looks like the phrase “match made in heaven” is soon going to be replaced by “match made on INCLOV.”
We both laugh.
So, tell me, is the app only for the people with disabilities?
No, no! INCLOV is an inclusive community which is focusing on the disabled but is not restricted to them. It is open for everybody, as long as they are single, of course! (Laughs)
In fact, we have a couple wherein one of them is without a disability. This breaks all those stereotypes that a physically sound person would never choose a disabled person as their partner. This proves two things, first, that there are people who are willing to look beyond disabilities and second, what matters is compatibility; it is what keeps a marriage alive, which is never based on disabilities. This couple hails from Delhi. They deeply care for each other.
Some women can be more hesitant in trying out such dating platforms compared to men, who are more daring in trying things out. Is it true?
We have users right from the age of 18 to 55, but most of them lie between 28 to 40. And yes, women, in general, are pretty unsure when it comes to trying the app and add to it the fact that this kind of app is happening for the first time so it is an entirely new thing for them. This makes them resistant to change. So, I think that’s where it comes from.
What are the activities you do to promote positivity in relationships?
We do meetups called Social Spaces, where our users get to come out of their houses and ditch their hesitations for once and converse in real life. We have done about 25 meetups in the last 1 and half year across the country, and they have been great! Recently, we have also launched India’s first, nightlife meet-up for people with disabilities. There were many who were living this moment for the first time. This month we did a sports meet up, which had wheelchair basketball.
We are attempting to break barriers and giving them the chance to do things they could never try before. Now they get to become a part of the community.
Apart from the app and events, wherever we go, wherever we get a platform, be it a government event or corporate initiative, any venue partnerships, we always promote the whole cause of disabled people. We are always pushing for every aspect of society to be more inclusive for such people, like building rams, having assessable washrooms, etc.
You must encounter users who suffer from depression. How do you address such issues?
This happens mostly because they don’t have that support system that they desperately need. They are being subjected to the thought that they can’t lead an independent lifestyle or find a partner. And they end up believing in it. There is no one to reinstate the fact that they too can do everything that anyone else can. So when they meet people who went through the same and still stand strong, they are inspired and realize that they too have that strength hidden in them. We had introverts, who would shy away from social situations and today you can see them refusing to hide behind their insecurities anymore.
This interview was first published on November 13, 2017.