Around six months ago, Rajesh Choudhary, 33, was at a college workshop where the topic was the lack of public toilets in Bengaluru. Some of the participants suddenly stood up, broke open a pack of adult diapers and put them on to protest the lack of public toilets in the IT hub. They then clicked photos of themselves and uploaded them on to social media sites.
The moment inspired Choudhary to create iPunch, an Android app which helps netizens crowdsource pictures and information on civic issues and highlight the problem before law enforcement agencies and civic bodies.
“We wanted to create an engagement model for citizens, where they can vent their feelings about a problem... and want positive action to solve it,” said Choudhary. “The platform also measures how good a citizen you are and you even receive appreciation for your posts from other users. The main aim is to crowdsource social and civic issues, via pictures.”
An avid biker, who has ridden the trail in Ladakh, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, Choudhary grew up in Delhi and graduated in electrical engineering from IIT Madras. After a stint in a corporate firm, he got involved with Janaagraha, an NGO which worked on Tata Tea's Jaago Re campaign. “A batch-mate from IIT was associated with this campaign and he pulled me in,” he said. “Since then, I have always wanted to do something more in this space and the adult diaper incident was a trigger.”
iPunch was launched in late 2014 and the first issue it raised was Bengaluru's poor waste management. Choudhary and others visited the garbage dump at Mandur, near Bengaluru, photographed it and uploaded the images on the app. “We wanted to tell people that... a time is not far off when their surroundings would be filled with garbage,” said Choudhary.
The current focus of iPunch is on traffic violations. This is how iPunch works—download the app on to your phone, click a photo of a traffic violation and upload it. Other users will respond with emoticons and applause. The complaint will then be forwarded to the police. Users can check on the status of their crowdsourced complaint through the app. The complaints trending on the app are about bikers without helmets, parking on footpaths and blank number plates.
An iPunch user can get rewards based on other users' feedback on photos. Users also get points when they download the app. A user who collects a set number of points can cash them for coffee or other gifts. Costa Coffee has tied up with iPunch for the rewards programme.
Brands that have tied up with iPunch get visibility through pop-ups on the app. “We are able to generate some revenue because of our association with the brands,” said Choudhary. “We charge them for every pop-up display. We want to expand this further by associating with more brands in the future.”
Recently, the iPunch team met B. Dayananda, additional commissioner of police (traffic), Bengaluru City, after he showed keen interest in the app. The Bangalore Traffic Police and iPunch have now tied up to crowdsource traffic violations. In a matter of a few weeks, the app recorded 500 traffic violations.
“The BTP is already overworked and stretched,” said Vijay Pamarathi, who manages the traffic campaign for iPunch. “It is not possible for them to respond to every traffic violation in a large city like Bengaluru. The pictures are shared with the BTP to raise a complaint.”
Initial investment for iPunch came from Singapore, and the company now plans to branch out to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.