After being diagnosed with degenerative eye disease in 2013, Ishan Jha decided to get the most out of each day and to create solutions for blind and partially sighted people. Below he tells us how graduating with an MA in Service Design in 2018 from the London College of Communication and being awarded a Start-Up Visa in 2019 were crucial for him to be able to start his entrepreneurial journey…
You’ve graduated in Service Design at LCC; tell us about your creative journey and the key things you learned…
I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, Keratoconus, in 2013 and was losing my eyesight quickly. I realised that my dreams of creating innovative solutions to solve problems wouldn’t happen if I didn’t make the most of each day. So, I quit my corporate job, hustled with start-up ideas from 2013-17, raised investment, served clients, failed many times, and learned about myself, my skills, and most importantly my life goals.
Call it karma or luck, my entrepreneurial journey brought me to London, where I studied Service Design. MA at London College of Communication in 2017-18. Because of this, the NHS provided me with solutions that have improved my eyesight and changed my life.
My first step in creating valuable solutions for blind or partially sighted people, I published a white paper for my MA in Service Design degree on the topic, “How to increase employability for the VIP (visually impaired) in the UK?”. I also volunteered with the Blind Aid charity, which helped me to define the challenges, and so, VIP World Services Limited was born, connecting corporates with VIP to create accessible solutions. (www.ishanvjha.com/employability-for-blind)
I was awarded a Start-Up Visa in 2019 to develop the concept further. However, the pandemic hit my plans hard; co-founders quit, the disabled community was not easily reachable online, and revenue streams were dry. So to keep things going, I started different initiatives to support the VIP World community to participate in online activities (https://www.vipworldservices.com/post/covid-19-counter-attack-by-vip-world).
During this phase, a set of volunteers and the VIP World community worked with me to develop the concept of Travel Hands. My idea won Innovate UK and Sport England grants in 2020. In July 2021, I was awarded the Innovator Visa (2021) by Innovate in Britain for creating a social impact in the UK.
How did you come up with this idea/concept?
In the past couple of years, I have been developing accessible solutions for Visually Impaired People (VIP). One of the biggest challenges they face is traveling outdoors alone, which often forces them to get taxis, even for short distances. Traveling safely, cheaply, and sustainably is incredibly challenging for the 285 million VIP across the world.
I applied the service design skills I learned in my course to research more about the challenges faced by VIP. We discovered that they are primarily concerned about the emissions caused by their requirement to use taxis for short journeys.
We prototyped the project as a call centre service in May 2021 and have managed to support over 300 successful journeys s far. And then from this, we created the mobile app.
What is Travel Hands and what it will provide to VIP (Visually Impaired People) users?
Travel Hands is a service designed to improve the outdoor commute of VIP by pairing them with sighted & verified volunteers to walk together to similar destinations ensuring a safe, convenient, and inexpensive travel experience.
With Travel Hands, a VIP can submit a trip request that is automatically sent to a volunteer near them, alerting the volunteer to their location. The volunteer will then come and pick the VIP up and they will walk to the required destination together.
The VIP pay a small fee per journey in exchange for independent, safe travel. Volunteers are DBS and fully trained.
As a Thank You, our volunteers receive rewards and incentives that can be redeemed from our app. The distance walked with VIP is converted to points, points then converted to goodies as incentives from affiliated companies.
How can people join the Travel Hands community/become a volunteer?
UAL alumni can register to help their VIP neighbors and have new experiences whilst being outdoors.
Once you sign up, you will receive training and links to the next steps. The training material is online and takes one hour to complete. Additionally, we will process your Enhanced DBS application and pay for it.
Register Here: https://bit.ly/2Khh9GM
Phone number: +44 20 3966 1650
Learn More: Travel Hands
Any questions? firstname.lastname@example.org
Ishan Jha is also a member of the UAL Alumni Enterprising Association; would you like to join? Register your interest by emailing email@example.com