Meet Isha Kanodia, a 16-year-old from Powai’s Jal Vayu Vihar, who designed the website www.staysafepowai.info, which informs residents where to get essential groceries amidst the 21-day nationwide lockdown. An eleventh grade computer science student at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Isha knew she could put her skill to good use and took up the initiative to design a website that will aid the community during these testing times.
Speaking to ‘The Watchdog News’ about what motivated her to embark on this project, the 16-year-old said, “I have lived in Powai for as long as I can remember. Being a computer science student with plans to pursue it in the future. I took the lockdown as an opportunity to refine my skills, thus, investing my time learning the basics of website development. During this ongoing lockdown, I heard my mother say that people were finding it increasingly difficult to buy food and other essentials.”
She continued, “I saw a multitude of fragmented queries being asked on the same on various social forums of Powai. Most of the queries were around shops, their timings, stock availability and delivery options. With the need to stay at home, residents are anxious about their daily needs such as groceries, milk fruits and veggies; access to doctors and medicines; urgent home repairing services, etc. That’s when it struck me; Why not create a quick website that could solve this unique ‘discovery’ problem for the residents of Powai?”
Upon deciding that she will go about investing her time on this endeavour, she began planning how to execute the project, “I realized that the website needed to be launched swiftly to serve its intended purpose during the coronavirus lockdown. It also had to be simple and easy to use, so I shortlisted the categories and designed the table to provide relevant details, after studying what people were looking for and brainstorming with my parents, we came up with the relevant domain name for the website – www.staysafepowai.info,” explained the teen.
“Once the broad template was finalized, I had to quickly learn some more specific elements of website development. For this, I took guidance from a senior developer and a UI designer. Since this is my first website and I ensured I did all the raw coding myself without resorting to readymade website builders. This allowed me to give my website, the exact look, feel and output as desired by me in the template,” added Isha.
She went on to say, “The data needed to be authentic. My sources of this information are our home directory, posts on Social Networks, and Google. I have called up all shopkeepers and checked the mobile apps (where available) before listing them on the website.”
When asked about the challenges she faced during the website development process she said, “The only challenge was time. I am glad, the website was up and running within 36 hours of its conceptualisation. The first version was pretty raw and wasn’t mobile friendly yet. It took me another day to make it mobile friendly and finetune it.”
Speaking about how she went about getting the website to the people, she said, “We posted the website on various Powai forums and WhatsApp groups. The website has got over 10,000 views in its first week of launch. It was so nice to see a lot of people appreciating and finding it to be helpful. I am continuously updating and expanding the categories since then.”
“It’s just been a week that www.staysafepowai.info has gone live. It seems to be serving its purpose during these difficult times. Comments on social media have also been very encouraging. I get several requests from shopkeepers and service providers to get listed on the website."
"Based on these requests, I made it easier for these providers to get listed on my website by making a simple-to-use google form which they could fill. I’ve recently added a feedback page for people to report any issue with the information provided. It also helps me keep the information authentic”, says Isha about the overwhelming response from the community.
“The website needs to improve by adding more categories (breadth) and more listings in each category (depth). For example, I am adding a section on ‘Home-Delivery services for the elderly’. The website will soon have listings from Raheja Vihar and other Chandivali areas of Powai too,” clarified Isha. When asked to explain the websites salient features, the young computer whiz said, “It is simple in its layout and easy to navigate.
It brings all the shops, doctors, chemists supplying essentials to the residents of Powai under one umbrella. The website aims to collect and present a useful directory of otherwise scattered information for Powai’s 1.5 lakh households. During the lockdown, people can find the required information and directly call up the shops from the website.”
Speaking about the people who supported her along the way, Isha said, “I am grateful to my parents for their support and continuous insightful feedback. I am also thankful to Mr. Aakash Bharadwaj, Mr. Ravi Jha and Mr. Ayush Kanodia for their guidance in making the website user-friendly. I hope all users and shopkeepers continue to find it useful.”
When asked if she would like to give any message to the residents of Powai, she said “These are unprecedented times and what will help is for each one of us to keep calm and stay cheerful and hopeful. My request to the residents of Powai is to buy their essentials in reasonable quantities. This will help all of us find our essentials and take advantage of the great efforts of our shopkeepers who are our real warriors in these times of crisis.”
However, Powaiites are not the only ones who are in awe of her design, “I am getting responses from other parts of Mumbai to replicate this model in their respective localities. This will take a lot of effort but is worth doing. With the help of volunteers, we can help all of Mumbai to easily find their essentials. I invite more volunteers from every ward of Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai regions to further this cause.”