Scores of city residents in need of blood are able to get it quicker without much hassle, thanks to Chennai-based startup Blod India (blod.in).
Run by a group of college students, blod.in is a website app that facilitates blood donation. The app, a brainchild of two friends - Varun Nair and Aditya Vikram was launched two months ago on 11 July.
However, within this short period, the team has managed to get over 18,000 verified and reliable blood donors and has helped in saving lives of over 160 people.
How Did it All Start?
The most striking feature of the app is its pin-code search that allows users to search for blood donors in and around their location.
When the second wave of COVID-19 was at its peak, SOS blood requests were flooded across all social media platforms. People were desperately looking for blood for their family members, who were admitted in hospitals for surgeries or other medical treatments," Varun Nair, one of the founders of blod.in and a Bio-Medical engineering graduate, told The Quint.
Varun also faced a "nightmarish" experience while trying to find blood for his relative during this period. He told The Quint that most people found it extremely difficult to arrange blood within the crucial hour because of several reasons.
Firstly, everyone would not know people who donate blood. Another important reason is that although there are several websites that provide contacts of blood donors, he says most of them are not verified.
As a result, people had to spend a lot of time in just finding the right websites and blood donors, he said.
Besides, due to the COVID-19 situation, there were transport restrictions. In addition, the numerous advertisements on the 'blood donor' websites were also hindering the blood search, he said.
Sourcing Blood Difficult Even in Normal Times
The problem, however is prevalent even in normal times. Most hospitals, Varun says, put the onus of arranging blood on the the patient's family.
"Having experienced the difficulties in arranging blood firsthand, I didn't want anyone else to face the same."
So, Varun came up with the idea of creating a website, with phone numbers of only verified blood donors. However, he had to launch it soon, "as people required it ASAP".
But the 20-something-old had a challenge at hand. He had to quickly learn programming to collect the contacts of blood donors.
"Back then, I had no idea about coding. But since I wanted to make it workable, I spent around 128 hours at a stretch and learnt programming languages such as Java and Python."Varun
'Feel Happy to Help People, Save Lives'
After days of rigorous hard work, Varun finally wrote a programme that worked. It got him over 18,000 contacts of blood donors.
The programme he said was created in such a way that it got phone numbers of all blood donors that were publicly available online. Varun then took his idea to his 100-plus friends, who instantly pitched in to help.
One of his friends, Aditya Vikram, who is pursuing Computer Science Engineering came forward to program the rest of the website.
Soon Varun and his friends took it upon themselves to call and verify the numbers. However, they soon realised it was a tedious process. Thus, they got a software to do the verification. But, that came at a cost. Subsequently, they decided to conduct events to raise donations for the verification.
The website was launched on 11 July with 4,000 verified contacts. The duo then roped in other interested college students in their team.
Within days, hundreds of people began using the app.
"Ever since then, 'Thank you' messages have been pouring in from people who got benefitted from us. It makes us very happy that we are able to save many lives," said Zahabiya, a college student who works with the marketing team of Blod.
The team also showed The Quint some texts of people thanking them for their help.
Impressed with blod.in, social media influencer Sarath Kumar and actor Niki Galrani too posted videos about the app on Instagram, which got the website, a huge traction.
'Manage to Work Late Nights After Studying'
Currently, around 30 youngsters are working for Blod India.
But how does the team juggle college and work?
Zahabiya said they are able to manage as they are required to spend only two to three hours everyday at Blod.
"Varun and I do put in additional hours of work. We sleep only for 4 hours on most days," says Aditya Vikram, the co-founder of Blod. "I manage to work late night, after studying for my exams," he adds.
The team also creatively uses Instagram reels to promote their company in a fun and light-hearted way. And their effort seems to be paying off. Varun says that more youngsters are now signing up as blood donors.
Recently, they also conducted a 'hugely successful' football tournament, that saw participation from 32 teams.
HOW TO GET BLOOD DONORS THROUGH BLOD?
To get blood donors from blod.in, visit the website (https://blod.in/). And select the required blood group and pin code of the location where blood is needed. Within seconds, the App lists several blood donor contacts.
It also provides a facility to get blood donors from across Chennai. Another unique aspect of the website is that it is advertisement-free.
One can also choose to sign up as blood donors on the App. As of now, the App has blood donors for 8 blood groups including rare groups like AB negative and B negative.
The website also has a provision to report a blood donor if he/she denies to donate blood.
In future, Varun says that they plan to expand their operation across Tamil Nadu and that they are also trying to get in touch with the state government to pitch the idea of having Blod kiosks at every hospital.