The Artoo Story

Once upon a time, Sameer was a good little boy who enjoyed Science Day at school. He decided to be an engineer when he grew up. But in engineering college, Sameer got bored with the science around him. He began to think that coding was for losers and became just another engineer who wanted to get an MBA. He read Muhammad Yunus’s Banker to the Poor and got curious about microfinance. He was glad to score a summer internship with Ujjivan (the third largest microfinance institution in India) but something unexpected happened while he was there.

Ujjivan offered its customers the opportunity to preclose their loans and take out new loans of higher amounts. Field agents were unable to calculate the customer’s outstanding loan amount making this process a time consuming one.

Sameer, seeing how money was such a volatile commodity for Ujjivan’s customers, wondered if there was a way to speed up the process and make it possible for customers to preclose when they had the money to pay up instead of having to wait about 15 days after their initial request until all formalities were completed.

Sameer thought the best way to improve service quality for the customers would be to empower field agents. He designed a simple software solution for preclosure using SMS technology. Field agents could just send an SMS with a customer ID to query the database and they would receive an instant reply with the exact amount to be paid by the customer to preclose the loan. Something that had taken 15 days could now be done in an instant. Sameer was overwhelmed by how happy his solution made customers, field agents, and senior management.

Just like that, Sameer discovered his passion for inclusive technology. He wondered why the world’s most intuitive technology wasn’t available to the people who needed it the most. Why weren’t iPhone like interfaces available to first-time technology users? Why wasn’t social enterprise software as slick and easy-to-use as Facebook? And little by little, the idea of Artoo began to come together in his mind. He tore up a couple of netbooks before he decided to work on the software side of things. Sameer now works on Android and Cloud on a beautiful Bangalore rooftop.