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Tulalens: Crowdsourcing data for (and by) communities where it's never been done

Somerville, United StatesChennai, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Tulalens is a Yelp for health in under-served communities. We currently crowdsource information on the quality of health clinics for pregnant women living in urban slums in India. Women use this data to seek quality care in the future.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What is under-served communities could share expertise amongst each other to improve the quality of their lives?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We currently work with pregnant women who live in slum areas in India. 80% of these women know of only one health facility near their home. They continue seeking care at this facility even if the quality is poor. Nearly 100% of women do not have access to information on the quality of health facilities in their community to make informed decisions on where to seek care.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We enable people to provide feedback and retrieve crowdsourced information on the quality of health clinics in their area. So far, we've shared data with 850 women living in the slums of Hyderabad and Chennai, and have measured the positive impact this has had within a month. We've collected and shared this information in person. To balance the importance of building trust and of reaching women more quickly, we're working to build a call center system.


Selected for Unreasonable Labs Boston, selected for Y Combinator Female Founders Conference, Selected for Next Mile Project, Won Palladium Make It Possible Innovation Challenge
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A Tulalens data collector meets a young pregnant woman living in the largest slum area in Chennai, India. Our data collector explains to the woman what Tulalens is, and asks her to take a 10 minute survey on her last visit to the prenatal care clinic. The survey captures information on the woman's perception of the infrastructure, accessibility and provider quality at that clinic. The women paid a bribe at the last clinic she visited, and said the doctor yelled at her because he was overburdened with work. The data collector then shares crowdsourced information on the quality of the clinics in her community during the same visit. Based on this information, the pregnant woman can choose to switch to a higher quality clinic.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Thus far, 20% of pregnant women have switched to a higher quality facility, and all of these women said the facility quality was better than their previous facility. 40% of women have advocated for better services, and 92% have discussed the information we shared with their husband. One woman told us that she went to seek care at a health clinic, and was forced to give her baby to the security guard at the clinic. He made her pay a bribe in exchange for her baby. She returned to the clinic because she wasn't aware of other clinics in her community. Once she encountered Tulalens, she switched to a higher quality clinic. In the future, we aim to increase the percentage of women who switch to a higher quality clinic. We also aim to impact not just pregnant women, but any member of an urban slum area who seeks health services.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In the next two years, we aim to expand to serve men and women living in urban slums in at least two other major cities in India. Within five years, we aim to spread to at least two other countries. We aim to spread our work by identifying marketing approaches that allow us to scale through a call center system and perhaps through a franchise model. The technology in the model would be fixed, but the marketing approached would have to be adapted to each locality.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Users will not be charged because they are providing their expertise in exchange for crowdsourced information. Instead, we aim to generate revenue by selling back anonymized and customized data to the companies who invest in the health of low-income communities. This includes corporate social responsibility arms of large companies who invest in the health of low-income communities. Our data will allow companies to make more informed investments.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Mobile technology platforms such as Voto, Gram Vaani and Frontline SMS allow organizations to capture user feedback. Organizations such as MAMA give pregnant women information on staying healthy and attending prenatal care. Our approach is to explore the power of crowdsourced data on the quality of critical services. This has been explored in high and middle income markets, but not in densely populated low-income markets where choice exists, but is hidden due to information asymmetry.

Founding Story

In Guyana, I visited many marginalized communities including Issano. Issano’s single health worker told me that no one from the central Ministry had visited in 10 years. Conditions for users were poor. For example, pregnant women with complications were sent by boat to the capital. The Ministry could have discovered and resolved these issues by frequently interacting with users. I repeatedly saw how little organizations utilized user knowledge. This frustration evolved into Tulalens.


We have a team of four full-time members including me, a Customer Relations Manager in Chennai, and two Customer Relations Agents in India. We have three board members and three advisors with expertise in data science, technology, global health and communications. We also benefit from the expertise of part-time volunteers including data scientists and marketing and communications volunteers.
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

Our eventual aim is to partner with companies with a commitment to health in under-served communities who may be able to use our data to improve their investments and marketing goals. Boehringer Ingelheim is one such organization. Through a partnership, we can better understand how our data can complement Boehringer's short- and long-term commitment to corporate social responsibility.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Relationships/New Contacts, Marketing/Communications Support, Public Policy Knowledge, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

In order to leverage Boehringer Ingelheim's expertise, we think it would be ideal to have access to people who are experts in corporate social responsibility and marketing to understand how they make decisions on the company's work in under-served communities. We might also want to create a longer term partnership in which Tulalens uses its data analytics expertise to customize data for Boehringer that could improve upon the company's work.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Deep understanding of an unmet need in a specific market/context, Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into marketing, Insights into behavior change.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Improving the affordability of healthcare (e.g., microinsurance, reducing the economic cost of care), Packaging of health products and services to address needs currently unmet, Other.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together
Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea
How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?
Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?
What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?
Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.
What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?
Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?
How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?
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