“Back when we were much more underprepared for the Pandemic, we were travelling from Pune to Ahmedabad. We wanted to know if the RT-PCR tests would be available with the airline. It took us 15 minutes to connect to the airline for a 5-minute call. That stirred a conversation between me and my friends.”
“About the lack of personalized customer experiences. Most websites lack critical information, leading to about 46% of people barely making it to the transaction page. We wanted to change that.”
Redefining User Experience through AI
Meet Thrifty AI, a startup founded by three 12th graders – Tanishi Mookerjee, Harsh Jha & Yashash Gupta who believed that at the heart of everything, lies the human connection; setting out to give their vision the shape of an AI Assistant.
Thrifty AI aims to help brands give a human face. As their digital ambassador, Thrifty AI Assistants can communicate more effectively when compared to a chatbot.
“With the severe depth in the lack of communication accelerated by COVID-19, we wanted to change the faceless, emotionless chatbot experience that most brands offer. How many of us would decide to buy something based on chat?”
But an idea wasn’t enough. Turning their innovative solution into a reality took them a while. “Getting our idea validated was probably the hardest part of our startup journey”. Tanishi recalls how people would give them reasons why their idea was set to fail during their initial few pitches. “But that only strengthened our resolved to work harder.”
School, Coding, GUSEC
“Getting students interested in science goes a long way in encouraging them to explore and experiment. My first such experience happened when I got to represent an idea at the National Children’s Science Congress.” Tanishi recalls.
“One thing that brought Harsh, Yashash & I together was our curiosity. It always intrigued me to know the Behind Scenes of how applications function or how game interfaces are developed. Learning coding in school only boosted my fascination” she continues.
When asked about how starting up while still in school works, Tanishi says it was anything but easy. “There was so much we didn’t know. We operated through trial and error, not forgetting to mention the lack of mentorship – we had no way of knowing if we were doing things right.”
“At GUSEC, we got mentorship, which got our idea the market validation it needed.” Through GUSEC, Thrifty AI was also able to leverage the Student Startup & Innovation Policy (SSIP) Grant, a Govt. of Gujarat initiative to encourage student startups. Tanishi says that the SSIP grant proved crucial for them in developing their prototype. “SSIP enabled us to purchase software and make recruitments we needed and also got us necessary licenses required to build our MVP.”
Women in Innovation & GUSEC herSTART
Even after joining the startup ecosystem, there were a few things Tanishi couldn’t pump the curiosity brakes on. “Why is there no women representation in this sphere, despite so many notable women in the entrepreneur circle?” she mulled over.
“But then, we participated in the GUSEC herSTART program, a platform that specifically caters to women entrepreneurs looking to scale their ventures. It was for the first time that I saw so many women startup founders, female startup mentors and stakeholders in one place. It was empowering to see and be amongst such notable women experts and risk-takers.”
Speaking of ways to diminish disparities, Tanishi says it is necessary to establish strong female role models and organise awareness campaigns. “Before I became a part of the startup ecosystem through GUSEC, even I had no idea about the schemes and benefits that exist for women innovators.”
Adding to her views, she says, “Our current generation has a balanced view about working women, like the millennial generation before us, but the prevalent view is still one which favours women settling down. We need to be more accepting of the risk-taking mindset. The government has so many beneficial schemes for women entrepreneurs, but awareness about them is non-existent. We cannot encourage women to start up when they don’t know about the benefits available to them.”
Tanishi’s startup made it to the top 10 herSTART Startups, ranking at #2. Despite the debate about the dicey future of AI, Tanishi believes it has immense potential to bring revolution to the user experience.