Started with the single motive of empowering differently abled people in India, Mumbai-based BarrierBreak is now one of the leading providers of products and services for people with different disabilities.
Shilpi Kapoor, Founder, BarrierBreak, talks about her initiative for differently abled people and building a scalable enterprise in conversation with SMEntrepreneur.
Tell us about your company BarrierBreak.
In 2007, I started BarrierBreak while working in the space of providing technology for differently abled people. Websites and applications are forever changing and evolving, so we try and make websites and applications and digital assets accessible to differently abled people as much as to everybody else. So, our first aim is to make websites more inclusive for differently abled people and also providing products them so that they can utilise their systems and technologies better.
How many products do you have? Which is the highest selling product?
We have nearly 60-80 products for the differently abled people. One of the highest selling products will be the screen reader and magnifier for a low vision or visually impaired person that also has Braille display support integrated. An average screen reader cost is Rs 70,000 but we have lowered the price at Rs 21,000, which is much more cost effective for the blind people.
Tell us about the price range of the products sold.
Our price range starts from Rs 4,000 for an adaptive keyboard to Rs 5.5 lakh for somebody who is totally paralysed and has no movement in the body except eyes so they can use a computer, access the Internet and control the whole environment using the eyes as a control.
What are the initiatives taken to support differently abled people?
BarrierBreak runs India’s assistive technology and accessibility exhibition and conference called Techshare India where we help policy makers understand what is required in digital accessibility in India. In 2011, we have also created a portal called signntalk.org, which is a free sign language interpreter. We also created a windows mobile app called Fun with Money for autistic children. This will help them understand the concept of money, how much money they have with them and how to transact money for buying things.
Tell us about the website created for National Institute of Open School (NIOS).
We went on to develop website of NIOS into an accessible websites that people of all disabilities can access it for registering online, checking their curriculum and results online. Under NIOS, there are 50,000 students with different disabilities so one can imagine the impact it can make. We followed the web content accessibility guidelines, i.e. the international guideline on accessibility for creating the website.
How do you market the products?
I wish I could afford the malls for selling the products but I cannot. We do it in a different way by working with opticians and hospitals to provide support to the people through their network, for e.g. in Mumbai we are connected with 120 opticians. Marketing for us is the biggest problem because there is not really any existing channel for marketing such products. So we need to do all that network by our self. Also today people don’t understand the potential and the perception has always been of charity and that is why we are raising money to market the products.
Do you think technology is expensive for differently abled people?
Yes technology is expensive when it is for a smaller number of people. However, it is not about price point, it is about making differently abled people independent and we can make them effective members of our society so that they can get a job for themselves and then these products won’t appear expensive to them.
How do you source your products and what growth do you see ahead?
We import products from manufacturers in the Netherlands, Germany, the US and UK. This eliminates the middlemen. Currently, our turnover is around Rs 2 crore and we are focusing on expanding our market base through different channels partners across India. Also, we expect business growth of 48 per cent year on year.