The Nest I/O has incubated over 10 social startups in just a short span of 4 years and many of them have gone on to achieve wonderful things not just locally, but also internationally. One of these startups is ConnectHear which was part of out batch 6 cycle but are still carrying out their daily operations from inside The Nest I/O as part of the acceleration program.
Azima Dhanjee, Co-Founder ConnectHear, grew up with deaf and mute parents and watched them struggle while communicating with the outside world. She saw raw talent go unrecognized because of the barrier that is language. Using that as motivation, she has always wanted to create a platform to remove this communication gap and help the deaf and mute people reach their potential. She found the perfect opportunity when she met her co-founders, Areej Al-Medinah and Arhum Ishtiaq. Together they created ConnectHear.
ConnectHear is a social entrepreneurial start up with the aim to connect the deaf and mute community with the society using sign language interpretation services – in person and via video call – and an audio to Pakistan Sign Language (PSL) software. They started gaining traction soon after their launch in 2017 when a deaf and mute man from a small town used their services to get himself an ATM card. However, that was just a beginning of what appears to be a long and successful journey.
The team got its first break break right after their graduation from The Nest I/O when they received their first equity free grant from the Motwani Foundation as they saw ConnectHear as “becoming one of the key players in bringing the handicapped population into the mainstream workforce”. However, their biggest achievement of 2018 was yet to come.
In April 2018, ConnectHear hosted Pakistan’s first ever deaf inclusive concert at a local university with one of Pakistan’s most popular and beloved bands, Strings. “We talked to people later and it felt great to hear them say they couldn’t tell who was differently abled and who wasn’t. The interpreter was on the same stage as the musicians and everyone was enjoying the concert the same way”, said Azima after the concert. With attendance of over 300 deaf folks, the concert was a great hit and received a very positive response not just from the local community but also appreciation from around the world.
Connect has become one of the few local startups that is working tirelessly to make the country more inclusive for the deaf and mute community of Pakistan. The startup continues to hold event around the city like the “Ishara Theatre Competition” to include the deaf and mute youngsters in recreational activities while at the same time increasing awareness by showcasing their talents and holding sign language workshops. The startup did not only provide live election commentary available for the community but have also managed to sign a few projects with local news channels where they will be interpreting the news live to make it more accessible.
This trio of youngsters is all set to make great waves in the near future and is just beginning its journey to make Pakistan a more inclusive country, one sign at a time.