‘Smart Jab’: Teen Innovator Behind 'Swadeshi Tech' Launches App To Help Find Vaccination Slots

Karan Kamble

Jun 12, 2021, 05:27 PM | Updated 05:27 PM IST

Chirag Bhansali is a tech innovator studying in Class XII.
Chirag Bhansali is a tech innovator studying in Class XII.
  • A Class XII student has developed a mobile app to help find Covid-19 vaccination slots.
  • The app maker is a young champ from Noida who is a recipient of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award 2021.
  • Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is a top-of-the-list action item in India. But the process of booking a slot to get the jab isn't always smooth or easy, as evidenced by the poor rating for the CoWIN app — one of the main platforms used for booking vaccination appointments — on the Google app store.

    However, a young innovator has come up with a technology solution to try and make this process more friendly.

    Class XII student Chirag Bhansali, who received recognition last year for developing a platform that serves up Indian alternatives to Chinese apps and products, is back with a new beneficial tech offering in the form of a mobile application.

    Called “Smart Jab”, Bhansali's app can help people find Covid-19 vaccination slots. It comes with an alarm feature that can prevent the stress of having to check CoWIN constantly to secure a slot.

    “In the second week of May, I was trying to find slots for my parents and myself. It was a very frustrating process on CoWIN. Within two minutes of seeing the notification, the slots would vanish. Even if I could see slots available on the home page, by the time I logged in, the slots vanished,” Bhansali tells Swarajya.

    He found that he also couldn’t rely on notifications on email or messaging apps to make a booking because there would inevitably be a time gap between the availability of slots, receiving the notification on the phone, and ultimately seeking a slot on CoWIN.

    For the young, mostly self-taught coder, this was a problem he could solve. He made up his mind to create an app that would sound an alarm upon slot availability.

    “I decided to create an app in which there is an alarm. So when there is an alarm, a sound is triggered. So then you immediately go to CoWIN and attempt your booking,” he says.

    Screenshots from the Smart Jab app
    Screenshots from the Smart Jab app

    The app makes it possible to apply various filters, and in the process set multiple alarms if necessary, and choose when the alarm should ring according to the minimum number of available slots specified by the user.

    Particularly useful is the introduction of the radius feature.

    “You can check all slots within a radius, not having to select each pin code when looking for slots,” he says.

    This came about because, as a resident of Noida, Bhansali kept having to switch state and district when looking for available slots in areas around Noida on CoWIN. It was cumbersome. But with Smart Jab, one can choose a radius of up to 40 km instead of searching by districts alone.

    Further, one can see the directions to a centre on the app.

    Building The App

    In developing Smart Jab, Chirag Bhansali had the help of several mates from school.

    “My role is about designing and managing the overall efforts, synchronising all the work. Arnav Bansal’s work is mainly app development and the API part of it. And Aditya Bhatt’s work is creating the alarm and all the other features which require deep knowledge of native Android,” Bhansali says, explaining the role of each of the members who have worked on the app.

    In addition, students Srijan Kumar and Shivanya Chandra worked on the website.

    Arnav Bansal (Left) and Aditya Bhatt (Right) have worked on Smart Jab alongside Chirag Bhansali.
    Arnav Bansal (Left) and Aditya Bhatt (Right) have worked on Smart Jab alongside Chirag Bhansali.

    As the team receives feedback from users and well wishers, they plan to make further enhancements to the app. For instance, they are looking at adding regional languages to the currently English-language app.

    Bhansali had noticed a pattern in appointment booking that he wishes to bring to his app soon.

    “I started noticing that each centre opens at a particular time of day. The people who were able to book in the first few weeks were those who knew about these patterns, so they could prepare early, log into CoWIN, and book at that time,” he says.

    For about a couple of weeks, the team has been collecting data from the top 100 districts in India, including vaccination centre timings.

    “We see that many districts have patterns of when the slots open. Soon, people can click on the centre and they can see the predicted time range for when to go on CoWIN to book the slot,” he says.

    Before Smart Jab

    On this day last year, Bhansali launched a website called Swadeshi Tech. It was a platform created to suggest people Indian alternatives to Chinese-made stuff, including apps and products.

    The young techie was inspired by a video released by Sonam Wangchuk, in which the engineer and educator made an appeal to Indian civil society to boycott Chinese products in response to the heightened tensions between India and China, and instead buy local.

    The then Class XI student felt that if India needed to move away from Chinese software and goods, there needed to be knowledge of alternatives already to make the switch. Thus was born Swadeshi Tech.

    Bhansali collected a list of popular Chinese apps and identified Indian, including non-Chinese, alternatives. In just a week’s time, the website was ready for use.

    To put his app out there, he tagged a number of influencers on social media. One of the persons he had tagged was Wangchuk, who took notice of the initiative and shared it on his social media.

    Then, two weeks after the launch of the app, the Government of India banned 59 Chinese-owned apps, including the well-known TikTok, ShareIt, and UC Browser.

    This event triggered a peak in app installations. “The website reached around 2 lakh views after that,” he reveals.

    Chirag Bhansali is among the 32 recipients of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award 2021
    Chirag Bhansali is among the 32 recipients of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award 2021

    Problem Solving

    Even besides Swadeshi Tech, the young computer champ has applied his skill and creativity and earned a few accomplishments.

    He began in secondary school. In Class VII, Bhansali had an idea for an app to exchange books with friends. This, he felt, would do away with having to buy a new book each time.

    This was how he got started in web development.

    Since then, he has learnt coding largely by himself, with the help of lessons on YouTube and online learning portals like Udemy and Coursera.

    In Class X, he won second place in the Adobe Creativity Challenge 2019 for designing an app as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, sharing the relevance of the great man’s ideas in modern times.

    In 2020, he worked on a research project to detect eye strain using deep learning. He submitted it to various science fairs and qualified at the national level.

    He also emerged as a runner-up in Google’s international coding competition last year.

    As a result of his achievements in technology, Bhansali was chosen as one among 32 children to receive the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award 2021.

    The driving force behind his work with technology, according to him, has been problem solving.

    “If you see all the work I’ve done till now, it has all been based on a problem that I and many others have faced. So, I look at a problem and I try to look at ways how I can solve it using technology or any other way. That’s the inspiration behind my projects,” Bhansali says.

    The latest in his endeavour to solve a real-life problem is Smart Jab.

    The app was launched on 8 June this year, nearly a year after Swadeshi Tech, and has recorded a modest beginning so far. In the four days of its existence, it has been installed just under a 100 times and currently enjoys a perfect, five-star rating from the 21 people who have rated the app on Google Play.

    With just the right enhancements, Smart Jab may just become a handy tool in helping people all across India find slots and get vaccinated.

    Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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