“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw
It was a documentary on autism that inspired Nishtha to understand more about the disorder and the lives of the people it affected. To her dismay, the NGOs which she had reached out were not as active as she had thought them to be. With a desire to do more, she started working with people from AIIMS to develop products for children with autism all the while pursuing her studies at IIT Delhi. This led to the genesis of Hope and Happiness in November 2016, India’s first non-profit which develops and provides technological solutions for people with autism.
Impactpreneurs had a detailed talk with Nishtha Gupta, the founder of Hope and Happiness, and her teammate Gaurav Chhugani, to understand more about their venture. Hope and Happiness is a non-profit run by people who strongly believe that technology can be leveraged to improve the quality of life for people on the autism spectrum. “Our mission is to avail products to people with autism at an affordable cost,“ said Nishtha.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which prevails since childhood and is incurable. The people with autism lack the ability to have a normal communication thereby reducing their social interactions and self-confidence.
On talking about the taboos associated with autism, Nishtha and Gaurav enlisted disconsolate truths like;
- People take autism as a disease which is totally incorrect. It is a disorder and should not be taken as a disease.
- It is true that kids with autism can turn aggressive and violent at times, as a result, people do not allow them to mingle with other kids. Hence, secluding them from the society.
- Often society makes offensive remarks like “is the child normal?” which can make the kid with autism look inferior. Moreover, they use derogatory terms for the kid that can inturn make the parents of the kid with autism hide that kid from the society.
“One in sixty children in India and one in thirty-five to one in hundred (depending on the region) in the world have autism. The difference in the ratio is because Indian parents do not come out with this disorder in public because parents don’t want their children to be surrounded with taboos, hence, many a time, they choose to keep them indoors. The situation is changing and so is the acceptance,” said Nishtha.
Products Offered by the Organization
“Autism varies from child to child. Hence, we customize our products as per the demands and needs of our customers. To give you an example, while sitting on a chair, kids with autism might suddenly be trapped in the thoughts like the chair is disappearing or their body is disappearing etc. So, we have designed soft blankets, snake toys and cushions which help them feel the weight of their body in the space. We also customize the colour and texture as per the choice of the kid,” said Nishtha. To which Gaurav added, “Through our products, we aim to calm down the kids and make them feel comfortable”.
Kids with autism can also find it difficult to understand indirect or metaphorical talks. Hence, to enhance their communication, Hope and Happiness has come up with communication booklets where images as per the demand of the parents are printed. Since, they have a problem in holding the images so the organization has developed sheets which have pockets where these images can be tucked in.
Hope and Happiness pays special attention in the manufacturing of its products. These products are of high-quality, durable, based on unique concept, affordable and are proven and tested. Moreover, some of the products have the capability to substitute the mandatory presence of the operational therapists (of course, not the complete substitution). Nishtha described Hope and Happiness as one of the three vertices of a triangle, doctors and operational therapists being the other vertices. Hope and Happiness also encourages customers to come up with the issues the people with autism face so that they can design and develop products to tackle the problem.
Investment and Operations of the Organization
“We gathered capital from our acquaintances and managed to get INR 25,000. We strive to be a self-sustainable organization. Currently, we save some capital from the sales which are later utilized in the manufacturing of the products. We are totally a not-for-profit organization. Our products are manufactured by disabled and financially under-privileged people. I have made the office of the NGO at my home. Hence, saving the inventory cost. The expenses of the meetings are met by us and not the customers. Since, the products are bulky, we use Ola/Uber Share to deliver the products,” said Nishtha while discussing the investment and operation by the organization.
Marketing of the Organization
Currently, the only source of marketing is through word of mouth. Reaching people in the metros is comparatively easier than those in the rural areas. Hence, they are reaching the rural area through doctors, specialists and therapists.
Positive Side of Autism
“The traits of autism were found in few artists and scientists. You can watch the movie, Rain Man whose character Raymond Babbitt was a savant with autism. Soon we are also going to interview a talented kid-artist with autism,” answered Nishtha. The duo emphasized that they need to focus towards the skill development of kids with autism.
Impact created by Hope and Happiness
The organization has supplied its products to about 130+ children with autism. They have not received any negative feedback yet, moreover, they do have repeat customers. Hope and Happiness is a team of 16 members. It is spread across various parts of India like Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jaipur, Delhi, Pune and more.
Challenges Faced by the Organization
Often after receiving the products, customers do not revert with their feedback. To hide autism from public, many parents are reluctant to get in public with their feedback about the products.
Message to the Society
“India being a society of innovation needs to come up with technologies which can rescue people with autism. If technologies can be utilized to enhance the lifestyle of blind people then why not for people with autism. People should understand that autism is not a disease but is a disorder. Society needs to break-free the taboos associated with autism and accept it,” answered Nishtha.
To know more about autism and the products offered by Hope and Happiness, view the following video.
Image Credit: Hope and Happiness Team