We are living in a world where sexual harassment is something that is extremely hard to get under control. And even in this harsh world, there are some people who really want to bring a strong change to society. Adiro Labs, offers a DNA kit that will transform the way evidence and samples are collected from victims of sexual assault. It was founded with a great mission to research and design relevant solutions in the public health and law enforcement sectors.
Saaniya Mehra and Zane Barboza, the founders of Adiro Labs, completed undergraduate studies from MIT Institute of Technology, Pune and later went to Himalayan University. They started working on a product to address the needs of evidence collection from victims of sexual assault.
Saniya tells, “During the initial phase of our prototyping and design concept generation, we met the former Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi who assisted us with a letter of encouragement and support. Post the finalization of our prototype, we felt that this product was important and relevant enough to bring into the real world”.
When they were done with their initial research, they observed a lack of standardized methods to deal with various kinds of evidence and sample collection in the country and that led to a drastic drop in the number of viable DNA samples presented at the court. Through this startup, the duo initiated Project AASHA.
It was launched earlier this year and it completely focuses on citizen empowerment and women’s safety. Saniya explains, “DNA evidence allows the court to make a confident, informed decision. This results in an increase in the number of convictions, thereby reducing the number of criminals roaming free in our society. This may even effectively discourage this crime and decrease the number of crimes committed over the years to come”.
According to the founders, AASHA DNA kits will promote a government-approved, systematic, uniform procedure that employs the use of high quality DNA collection equipment to assess a victim of sexual assault from head to toe. It helps in collecting all the documents for forensic analysis. Saniya also says,
“Our primary aim is to equip our Indian investigating officials with equipment and tools of the highest standard to increase the efficiency of investigations in the field”.
To modernize Indian law enforcement and forensic investigation, the startup broadly focuses on evidence detection, collection, storage, and transport in various categories of crime scene investigation, narcotics detection kits, explosive detection kits, and much more.
They aim to make this kit available in every medical and law-enforcement agency all over the country. The products are mainly manufactured at their office space in Mumbai, and can also be customised. Their target audience lies within the B2G space, specially in the public health sector and in law-enforcement. They hope to sell the kits to the state governments that are modernizing investigations in the mentioned fields.
They face many challenges to raise grants for project AASHA. Saaniya says, “With the advent of the DNA bill in July 2019, the importance of DNA-related technologies in India has come to the forefront and we hope that in the coming years, our solution will be adopted on a pan-India level to standardise the approach of medical examiners in the case of evidence collection from victims of sexual assault”.
They are now happy that the content list and guidelines they worked on with various experts in the Government Forensic Community were published as standard guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2018. Many organisations like the Bureau of Police Research and Development HQ, New Delhi; Police Department Andaman and Nicobar; State Forensic Science Laboratory, Uttar Pradesh Police; Home Department, Uttar Pradesh State Government; Chief Medical & Health Officer, Bhopal; Public Health and Family Welfare Department, Madhya Pradesh, and other major hospitals have gladly accepted AASHA kits.
The company is on it’s way to kick-start a pilot project in Maharashtra under the State Health and Family Welfare Department. The project is currently stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
ADIRO Labs is part of the community slate programme at WE Hub, a social enterprise accelerator for women from the Government of Telangana. “Through the programme at WE HUB, we have learned to revisit the core aspects of our business, financial planning, customer planning, and entrepreneurship as a whole.” Saaniya adds.
In this COVID-19 pandemic, ADIRO Labs has adapted to the changing scenario by facilitating essential supplies to local government institutions in Maharashtra, and MCGM – the nodal point for the distribution of PPEs to all state government hospitals.
Their future plans consist of ensuring that AASHA kits are adapted in every state pan-India, and to promote the standardization and modernization of evidence collection procedures. “Through this, we aim to increase the influx of viable evidence into the criminal justice system and further enable speedy prosecution and justice for every citizen in our country,” says Saaniya.
Sexual assault is something that really needs more attention just like other crimes. In our country where women are not safe any more, women empowerment is just a silly joke. Isn’t it? Let us empower our country together and only then women will be empowered!
– Composed by Shreya Roy