US-Based Techie Couple Create SOS App to Bring Safety To At-Risk People Back Home

A threat to your safety or any uncomfortable situation, this personal safety app lets you send SOS alerts to their loved ones and even set up a fake call, all with with just one voice command.

After a long day at work, you book a ride back home but the driver takes an unfamiliar route. Alarmed, your sense of self-preservation pushes you to reach for your bag. With one hand clenching a bottle of pepper spray and the other firmly holding your house keys between your fingers, you wait, deliberating on a dilemma–should I be scared or not?

It is this emotion of fear that many women grapple with daily in India. At home, on empty streets, in workplaces or while travelling on public transport, fear is a constant companion in a country where at least one woman gets raped every 15 minutes.

But, imagine if there was a quick solution to this problem- a voice command that would instantly send an SOS alert with your live location to your loved ones. This and a lot more is now possible, thanks to a personal safety system called Sahas.

Started by a US-based Indian couple, Sahas is a personal safety app that lets a user send SOS alerts to their loved ones – with just a voice command. Going beyond alerts, it has multiple SOS ‘Panels’ within the app that give the user access to several safety features to keep them safe.

Empowering with Sahas

Started in 2020, Sahas is a swift response solution to the overwhelming problem of safety that ails the women and several vulnerable and marginalised communities like senior citizens or the LGBTQIA+ community.

A mobile application, Sahas can empower its user to plan an exit strategy to come out of uncomfortable situations using a fake phone call feature or even send an SOS message to their loved ones, with just a single click.

Talking about their motivation behind this innovation, the founder and US-based techie, Nilanjan, says, “There is no single trigger point that led us to start this initiative. It was an ongoing process of frustration building up since the 2012 Nirbhaya case. Despite the huge coverage the case received, there was no dip in the number of rape or sexual violence cases in India revealing an existing gap in public safety. This was further crystallised when the news about the 2019 Hyderabad gang rape came to light. All of that together pushed me and my wife, Shreya, to find a solution that led to the making of the Sahas app.”

But, how does a mobile app solve this? Nilanjan replies, “By empowering the user.”

According to the founder, Sahas lets you send alerts based on the type of situation you are in. It works under two categories — the Orange alert and the Red alert. Once encountered with an uncomfortable situation, the user can select one of these alerts that will automatically connect them to a specific network of friends and family to call for help.

For low severity situations, when the user is feeling slightly unsafe, they can send the Orange alert, which directly goes to a network of people in the ‘Heart circle’- people who are closest to them, be it a flatmate, friend or family member.

For situations where they need instant help, on the other hand, the user can send a Red alert to two networks of people, Heart circle and Life circle. Although similar to the network of people in the heart circle, the life circle comprises trustworthy friends and family living in the same area or city.

Once activated, the alert automatically creates an incident by bridging a line between the user and the two networks, where their live location and other critical information are shared. People in these circles can then chat or have a group call, both audio and video, to plan and coordinate a swift rescue.

“Anytime during the emergency, through the app, you can send a 2-minute audio or video clip to the open incident group with just a tap. However, privacy is paramount for us, so when you are feeling safe and decide to close the incident, the app cuts off the location tracking instantly,” he adds.

Not just this, the app also enables users to come out of any uncomfortable situation by being able to get a fake call on their phones.

“I can think of so many situations when I wished someone would call me, so I could escape. Now I can just set up fake calls anytime I want. The alert features are very advanced. This is truly a revolution”, says Shilpa, a resident of Gurgaon.

Another user, Preeti, from Cochin adds, “A simple and cool app. I can now reach out for help by just talking to my phone. My family can see my live location if something goes wrong, and easily coordinate a rescue. All this for the price of a cup of coffee. It truly is the 21st century.

Launched only a week ago, the application aims to tackle the problem of safety for not just women but all other vulnerable communities, including religious and racial minorities.

All the safety features on the application are available as a subscription service with monthly and yearly plans worth Rs. 199 per month with a 30 day free trial to any new user. Shortly, Nilanjan hopes to upgrade the technology with several features including fall and accident detection, and the integration of vernacular languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, etc.

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