1st June 2020

Meet the founder: Travel Hands

Claire Corlett

We’re finding out more about the team behind Travel Hands one of the startups to join our Accelerator Programme in cohort 10.  

Q: Who are the founders of your startup, and what are your backgrounds?

A:Travel Hands is a story of a person with sight walking together with a person without sight. The founding team is made up of Kazeem Busari and Ishan Jha.

Kazeem is a visually impaired person (VIP) and his role in Travel Hands is to design the UX of the mobile app for VIPs and promote the benefits of the app to VIPs especially.
Kazeem is also one of the lead tutors in the IT skills with assistive technology classes in Blind Aid charity. He is also the studio manager of the Salt FM radio channel.

Ishan is a Service Designer and Engineer by skill and profession. As a social entrepreneur, he has developed solutions for social causes in India, Nepal, Chile and the UK. His role in Travel Hands is to stitch everything together and grow the business. He has previous experience as an Accessibility Expert, Startup Founder, Fundraiser and Software Engineer.

Q: Tell us the story behind your startup – why did you start your company?

A: I (Ishan) was intrigued by the problems faced by the blind, having had some limited personal experience with it myself half a decade ago. I chose the topic, “ways to increase employability for the visually impaired people”, for my thesis in MA Service Design. To understand my user group better, I started volunteering from May 2018 onwards in the IT skills with assistive technology classes organized in the Southwark Community Center through the Blind Aid charity. Here, I met my assistive technology tutor and co-founder – Kazeem Busari, and founded VIP World Services.

I learned to see from the eyes of the blind with Kazeem, and the 40+ VIP students we have taught together in the last 2 years. While dropping Kazeem to his doorstep after an event in London, he shared how travelling with me by his side saved him time and money, and did not hurt his ego. The seed to Travel Hands was laid on that day.

Q: What does success look like for you?

Success for us has many definitions.  Our goal is to make the lives of 285 million visually impaired people (VIP) around the world easy, safe and contribute towards the economy.

In the near future, we would like to see the 42,000 registered VIPs in London travel around the city safely, cheaply and independently. We would like to see them participate in activities around London, get more jobs of their choice, and apply with wonderful ideas to accelerators such as Geovation.

Q: What’s your biggest achievement so far, and why?

A: In terms of the business in VIP World, we have managed to make the lives of the VIP community with our COVID 19 counter attack initiative. We are installing zoom software and teaching the VIP on ways to use zoom online and preparing them to engage with a volunteer (person with sight) on topics of their common interest. For example, a volunteer who wants to talk about vegan-based recipes can initiate a zoom conversation with up to 3 VIPs online. We take care of the technical aspects and bring the VIP and the volunteer onboard.
To explain about our initiative, we have written a blog explaining the challenges faced by VIP and how we are dealing with them – read it here.

Q: What are your plans for your startup over the next six months?

A: We would like to engage more and more VIPs through our COVID 19 Counter Attack initiative. Invite more volunteers from different interests and make the zoom calls diverse, entertaining and useful.
Through this initiative and our blogs, we want to increase the awareness around the lives of the VIP. We would like to engage more volunteers with the VIP World community and encourage new friendships.

The government has instructed people to sneeze around their elbows during the COVID 19 crisis. However, this affects the VIP in a very negative way. They take assistance from a supporter to walk by grabbing the elbow and this seems to be a challenge in the current context. We want to explore alternate initiatives to make the walking with assistance easier and safer.

We hope to continue our initiative of pairing the VIP with the volunteers to walk together in the similar direction of their journeys.

Q: Tell us something interesting about yourself!

A: Kazeem has been completely blind since the age of 13. He is capable of using any device by connecting it with this braille translator device.
Ishan hiked to Annapurna range, the 4th highest peak in the world, last year. He dreams to climb Mount Everest.