Co-Founder of Connect Hear, Azima Dhanjee; On Serving the Deaf Community

The Why

Connect Hear aims to provide sign language accessibility to deaf community in Pakistan. According to WHO statistics, 5% of world population has hearing impairment and using that figure, in Pakistan there are about 10 million individuals with hearing impairment. Connect Hear aims to work for them through technology to provide them sign language interpretation services. We also want to make spaces inclusive for the deaf. I’m one of the co-founders of Connect Hear and I have served the deaf community since I was 12. I am a sign language translator and bring in that expertise to our startup.

The Team

We are a team of three people. Areej, Arham and I, the co-founders are high school friends and we were in our second year of university when we started working on Connect Hear. We have a team of seven people – three are language interpreters, one marketing lead, a managing director and a videographer. The best part of the team is that we all are youngsters and we’re all are below 21 years of age. 60% of people in our team have families who have one or two hearing impaired persons. Areej has attended Stanford and Harvard Summer schools and she has studied product design and business development and that’s what she brings in to the table. Arham has self-studied machine learning and other technologies and he looks after the technical aspects.

Idea Initiation

The idea was initiated last year. My parents are hearing impaired, I grew up seeing my parents struggle to communicate every day in their life. If my parents have to call someone or if they need to go to a bank or if they need to go to a hospital, it is difficult to communicate on their own. Even during our parent teacher meetings, it was always a struggle because they couldn’t communicate because of the language barrier. This used to frustrate me a lot and I used to think that maybe someday I would come up with a solution for it. This kept me motivated and last year, I discussed this issue with my high school friends and we built up an idea. We had no resources and we just had an idea; we didn’t know how to go about it. We went to Nest I/O, which is a Google incubator. We met with them and discussed our idea – we had our summer vacations during that time and we wanted to spend them productively. Nest I/O immediately asked us to join. We got a lot of resources and a lot of mentorship along the way. We started teaching sign language on Facebook and started to interact with the deaf community. Now, we have established interpreter systems. We see incredible potential for We see incredible potential for our idea. There exists a market among corporates, a lot of retail stores, public sector banks because they want to be inclusive. Considering that the community with people having disabilities is asking for it, institutions want to have a solution in case a deaf customer walks in. It’s amazing and the demand is increasing, the recent government is advocating for disabled people’s rights. Imran khan has included in his mandate the need for interpreters, he mentioned the need for having service at all sectors and that’s what we are hoping for. We started to make personal connections and now we have a personal connection with the deaf community. We want to get on the B2B level and use the businesses to provide the deaf community with services. We have been in the market for about a year and two months and we have recently started our video interpretation services in Jan 2018.

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