Keywords: Pakistan, mobile app, sign language, deaf 

DeafTawk

DeafTawk is a mobile application available on both IOS and Anroid platform. It is a video calling solution in which deaf users connect with a certified sign language interpreter in real time. Whenever they need to visit the doctor, educational institute or communicating with general public they just log in the app and within few seconds they are connected with an interpreter.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationDeafTawk
Type of organisationStart-up company
Country
of Implementation
Pakistan and Singapore
Year started2018
Funding modelBusiness model is comprised of both B2B as well as B2C. For B2B, DeafTawk offers software as a service on a monthly subscription. For B2C DeafTawk offers interpretation services on demand and taking a gross margin of 40% by connecting deaf users with interpreters.

IMPACT

Impact and growth 

In 2 years of service, 70,000 hours of interpretation services have been rendered to 14,600 users in Pakistan and Singapore. More than 500 deaf users got jobs by using our services. 79 deaf users have been enrolled at higher education level, and on daily basis 24 to 28 users are facilitated at hospitals. DeafTawk provides direct job opportunities to more than 760 interpreters. 

DeafTawk was piloted in one city of Pakistan, with a small number of interpreters. After expanding its services fully in Pakistan, DeafTawk has also launched its services in Singapore market. Deaftawk envisions to be the Google Translate for half a billion deaf people across the globe. DeafTawk aims to expand its services further in the Asian market initially. 

Our value proposition is 24/7 availability, affordable for all economical backgrounds of users, and accessible in just one click. DeafTawk is also developing datasets for machine learning and AI sign language bot.  

Target group 

DeafTawk support 3-4 communities directly or indirectly. Primary users are Deaf Community but due to earning opportunities sign language interpreters are also getting benefits through this service, and encourage others to join this profession. DeafTawk also support businesses and educational institutes and hospitals to make their services accessible for deaf community. 

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpactIndicators
Deaf CommunityMarketing and awareness drive through digital platforms—onboarding of deaf users providing 24/7 access to certified interpreters in just one click away.Empowerment of the deaf community so that they can take full and effective participation in society.16400 users
Sign Language InterpretersOnline training for sign language for using technology and providing digital servicesCreating an industry for sign language interpreters for their better livelihood and economic empowerment.Onboarded +960 interpreters
Hospitals and educational institutesDevelopment of B2B partnerships by providing tools to make their services inclusive for deaf community. Increase in customer value.Developing products and services accessible and inclusive for deaf community in order to have barrier-free interaction in the society.Developed partnerships with corporate and public institutes to service the deaf community.

REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

We have already replicated our innovation 

We have piloted in Pakistan and then replicated in Singapore. In order to scale in the Singapore market, we changed the unit economics and added geofencing in the mobile application. We have partnered with the Singapore government through SG Enable and Enterprise SG. Accelerating Asia, a regional accelerator, funded us to launch our services in Singapore. The key learning from experience is that product unit economics should be customized to the market, and the interpreter supply should be local. The other key learning is to hire local people for marketing purposes and customer engagement. The key challenge was identifying the key unit economics for the market fit. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Capacity 

We need to develop human resources as well as raise funding for replication. We have talent and investments for the Singapore market,  but not for the U.S., Europe, or Africa. We were recently accepted into Google for Startups Accelerator for Southeast Asia to develop our AI bot. 

Yes, we have a project owner for this program, with the necessary skills and seniority 

Ali Shabbar is the co-founder and CEO of DeafTawk. He was born blind. He has completed M.S in Supply Chain Management and MBA in marketing. Ali worked for disability inclusion and advocacy for 8 years, and then he took the initiative of DeafTawk with their Co-Founders, who are persons with disabilities. In 2 years of operations, they expanded the DeafTawk services to Singapore and piloted from Pakistan. They have successfully raised investments and won various international awards such as UNDP Youth Co:Lab, Engro, TiE, World Bank, etc. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ali-shabbar-040b3216b/ 

Strategy 

As per our long-term vision, we would like to develop the Google translator for the deaf community. While we’ve replicated our model in Singapore, we are now hoping to enter the European market through the RVO program in the Netherlands. Scaling or replication has been of critical importance in our business strategy, and that’s why we are working on AI bot for sign language interpretation services which can easily do the translation of 26 languages. Currently, we have interpreters who can interpret in 10 global languages, which helps us to scale in the Asian market and European market. 

Current priority of DeafTawk is to launch Artificial intelligence bot within a year, because it will give more control to community over their communication. As the main purpose of this model is to gather datasets for machine learning. This service is very popular among deaf community due to which DeafTawk is receiving lots of attraction from different countries and in next 5 years DeafTawk will try to cover 3 more countries in Asian region. 

MOTIVATION

We strongly believe that the Zero Project Impact Transfer program will help us scale our services. The biggest motivation is the mentorship, which we will be receiving during this program. As an impact startup, we will have mentors on the business side and fundraising. However, we need assistance on scaleability as well as generating the impact in the right manner. We need guidance on how to achieving faster product-market fit. 

What is the organisation hoping to learn from taking part in the programme? 

The following are the challenges that we want to find possible solutions, such as how to manage the low supply side of interpreters in different markets and languages. What are the key aspects of developing sustainable unit economics? How to scale smoothly? How to manage a diverse team and work on employer branding?  How to raise investment in the human rights domain through ed-tech, health tech, etc? We are facing challenges in finding the appropriate investors who align with us in terms of purpose and profit.