Skill Sector innovation​s​ that promises to be a game changer​

When a biological feature of a user like Fingerprint, Face, Iris, etc is used to identify a user, it is known as biometric verification of the user. One of the important programs from the Indian Government where biometric verification is mandatory, is the Skill India program, where the Indian. Government provides monetary reward to every young person who successfully completes an approved skill training program with an affiliated training provider.

 

The objectives of a biometric verification and attendance solution is to eradicate the following challenges during the process of skill training:

  • Unauthorized beneficiaries: Unauthorized beneficiaries show-up during the training session against a registered Aadhaar ID which results in identity fraud
  • Ghost Beneficiaries:Mismatch in the number of beneficiaries actually present during the training session and numbers shown on attendance reports
  • Non availability of effective portable biometric devices:The existing finger-print solution requires a dedicated scanner and needs to be installed at a given location with provisions for power and electrical wiring.
  • Subsidy leakage:Padding up the number of trained beneficiaries submitted to government bodies not only defeats the overall purpose of skill training, but also leads to financial loss and corruption.
  • High drop-out rate of beneficiaries:Absence of centralized attendance tracking system does not allow the management to have a close check on the actual cause of the high dropout rate of beneficiaries from the classroom sessions.
  • Highinitial price and maintenance cost of existing Finger print hardware: Training sessions are conducted across the country in rural and semi-rural locations. Initial set up of existing fingerprint based hardware devices includes wiring, hardware install and internet setup. Considering the remote locations of most of the training centers, the setup becomes a tedious effort. This creates a lot of maintenance hassles later and long turnaround times, mostly due to time consumed in reaching to these far flung centers to deliver the support.

Aindra Labs has come up with biometric verification and attendance solutions that work even in an infrastructure deficient country like India. Our flagship products, based on our patent-pending Face-recognition engine, are called SmartVerify© and SmartAttendance© and work as user-friendly smartphone application for bio-metric verification of an user’s identity. SmartVerify© and SmartAttendance© work in tandem to help an organization, that is spread out across various branches in distant locations, to capture attendance for both in-the-office and on-the-field beneficiaries. The attendance information is geo-tagged with location and timestamp information, so that the organization can track the beneficiaries in a humanly auditable, smart fashion. SmartVerify© can verify the user’s identity from the facial photo captured in user’s Aadhaar card or a Passport size frontal face photo of the user. SmartAttendance© can produce central reports of periodic attendance for different frequencies like daily, weekly, monthly, etc. at the click of a button, along with other relevant information like location, duration, time-stamp, etc. while providing attendance, helping the management to track and manage the training beneficiaries closely.

A smartphone is usually the device of choice due to the ubiquitous-ness and low cost of the device. SmartVerify© and  SmartAttendance©  utilize user’s existing Smartphone. The face biometric solution from Aindra Labs is hardware-agnostic and also works with laptops, IP camera and even desktops with a webcam – essentially with any smart device that has a camera to take pictures. It is an innovation that promises to be a game-changer in the Skill India program of Indian Government and many other verticals where biometric verification of identity with location and time-stamp information of a mobile workforce is critical.

Based out of Bangalore, Aindra Labs creates Computer Vision and Machine Learning based products that address the problems of a huge magnitude in poor countries.

Our vision is to address problems of a huge magnitude with the aid of deep technology. We have been recognized as one of the top 10 Artificial Intelligence based start-ups in India.

How will India Train 40Cr People by 2022 under Skill Development Initiative?

In India, young people who will soon be entering the labor and manufacturing market, would constitute the largest segment of the demographic structure. In recent years India has rapidly expanded the capacity of educational institutions and enrolments but educational attainment remains low. While India has a well-institutionalized system of vocational training, it has not sufficiently prepared its youth with the skills that today’s industries require.

Thus, to speed its economic growth and take advantage of its “demographic dividend,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched four initiatives as a part of which over 40 crore people will be trained in various skills by 2022. As much as it is important to drive such initiatives, we must accept that the on-going techniques and implementations could be treacherous to track outcome oriented initiatives.

Over all, here are some of the challenges pertaining in skill development initiatives:

  • Lack of common certification systems
  • Lack of awareness and mentoring process due to poor mobilizations
  • Lack of replicable mobilization model
  • Lack of basic infrastructure, training facilities and a sense of social disapproval for women attending skill training courses
  • Lack of soft skill training and its practices
  • Lack of effective assessment criteria

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Some of the up-gradation and changes which must be inculcated:

  • Robust monitoring & evaluation mechanism to ensure successful implementation of the policy initiatives
  • Unless modern technological tools like internet are used to impart vocational training, skilling cannot be scaled up in a country where millions of youths are to be covered in our diverse land scape
  • Mobile based portable authentication solutions to ensure the scheduled training are delivered in all the rural, semi-rural areas and urban area
  • Mechanism for on-the-field assessments of the trained candidates
  • Solutions driven by scalable and portable technology for trainers and skill development intuitions to have strong hold on their trainee to avoid surprise drop out, lack of interest or social disapproval
  • National as well International level Industrially approved common certification systems
  • Mass awareness and counselling channels with technically advanced tool for replicable mobilization
  • To formalize convenient yet effective career counselling bodies
  • Formulating outcome oriented policies
  • Impart mechanisms to reward the success and penalize the failures

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Why should a startup use its own products

Once a product has been built, what is the best way to understand your customers concerns and experience the product usage pattern? I ‘m sure all product managers talk to their customers regularly to understand and get feedback. They could have the customers respond to product satisfaction surveys or have focused group discussions.

But, this might still not be enough to unearth all the latent issues that your customers are facing. What then, is a good way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes ?

We believe it is by actually using your own product. As a proper customer.

While it may be a lot easier for a B2C product startup to have its people use its products, it is not entirely impossible for a B2B startup to do so.

At Aindra Systems, our valuable employees and stake holders use our SmartAttendance SME product to mark their daily attendance as they come into the office and start work. We haven’t installed any dedicated device, scanner or RFID booth for the daily attendance but all of us are using our smart phones to give our daily mobile based face recognition; biometric attendance. This has manifold outcomes. While the direct benefit is, using the product on a regular basis brings out all the corner case defects, that would have otherwise gone unnoticed even after all the testing that is done on the product before it is made live.

The next benefit is that, the whole team becomes empathetic to the concerns of the customer. Every fix and every feature that is discussed and deliberated goes through the ‘Customer filter’, before getting implemented. With this approach we should, hopefully, be able to address the issue of the “Curse of Knowledge in product design” as well. The effects of which have been wonderfully articulated by Ben Yoskovitz in his blog post.

I am sure most of the Indian B2C product startups are doing this regularly. But I am curious to know if the B2B startups are doing this and what are their experiences.

This is still an experiment in progress for us and we will share more of our insights as we go along.

 

Does your Start-Up have the right culture?

What makes up the culture of a start-up ? Is it the presence of a youthful team ? Is it how the team interacts ? Is it in working long hours ? Is it the collective actions of the people in the start-up in reaching out to a common and shared vision ? Is it about displaying extreme passion and pride in what we do ?

We, at Aindra believe this is, but only some of the aspects of what should form the culture at our start-up. Have we got it nailed down and is it done and dusted ? I guess not. But we are working towards building it. And how can we dream of achieving a culture that both aligns with our value system and our vision of where we want to go ? It is of course, by having the right kind of people within the start-up. People who will be a part of the journey of building the culture at the start-up.

We have had instances where really motivated guys joined us with pay cuts. We have had instances when our early people, who left the start-up and moved to the US to continue with their higher studies continue to work with us remotely as interns, while they continue with their coursework. We believe this happens when there is perfect alignment of the underlying values of the people with the start-up.

While we have been lucky to have had an awesome set of people working with us, we also had unfortunate instances when there were misfits. Extremely sharp people who, unfortunately, did not have the cultural fit that we wanted in our start-up. When there is extreme pressure to hire within a short period, it becomes difficult to correctly gauge the cultural fit of the candidate. We have learnt the hard way, that this later could turn out to be an extremely costly mistake. When the values of a new hire does not align with our values as a start-up, then it is bound to create dissonance. And this dissonance starts becoming acute, until we reach a point and realize that it is better to let the person move on, and not spend both mental and physical resources to deal with the dissonance. We were in this unfortunate situation once and realize the enormous cost of dealing with this.

This alignment of personal values to the culture at the start-up, determines the environment at the start-up and become the driving force. While this could be true for even a large company, it could mean the difference between a start-up succeeding or struggling to make it big. There are highs and lows that are a regular occurrence in a start-ups early years. It is the collective culture that sees the start-up through these phases. And what is the best way to create a culture that you would want at your start-up ? The whole team has to live those values at work, day-in and day-out. Be ready to let go of critical people when this doesn’t happen, even at the cost of missing out on a milestone.

And most importantly, the core team has to lead by example.

 

What are we aiming for, as Culture in our start-up ?

  • Transparency in our work life
  • Honesty and Integrity while dealing with Customers
  • Personal attention to Customer issues
  • Camaraderie between the team
  • Freedom with boundaries and Flexibility with constraints

 

We would be happy to hear your thoughts on this and hear how you have built the culture at your start-ups.