Although the situation is better in more developed countries, blood banks are almost perpetually in short supply due to stigmas associated with blood donation in countries like India. Whether it be the fear that losing blood will make them weak or that they’ll contract deadly diseases, concerns like these prevent adequate stocking in blood banks across the country.
Starting out with the assumption, however, that there are many people out there who would happily give a little blood to someone in need, a small Indian startup called Socialblood is trying to use Facebook’s vast network to connect such people to others who need their blood. It was founded by Karthik Naralasetty, who dropped out of Rutgers University in New Jersey to found his own technology company called Redcode Informatics in Bangalore.
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The idea is simple—so simple, in fact, that it is a bit too limited right now. The Socialblood website links to eight different groups on Facebook, one for each blood type. You can request to join the Facebook group for your own blood type and a moderator will approve your request.
If ever you are in need of a blood donation, you can post a message to the group and potential donors who live in your vicinity can chime in to help. Socialblood has already seen participation from 1,500 people across all the blood types and is generating more interest with each passing day. They’ve even saved a three-year-old child who was on the brink of death, Naralasetty proudly says.
However, the flaws in this system become immediately obvious. How would you look for a donor of any blood type besides your own? You’d have to be signed up for all eight groups on Facebook to be prepared for any eventuality. How would you find out if someone can benefit from your blood? Regularly having to check the group for new postings isn’t something most people are likely to do.
Naralasetty says that this is just the seed of an idea and its modest success so far and the flaws exposed in the system have put them on course to come up with a better solution. They are currently working on a website which will allow users to sign up with their Facebook accounts and, using both data from Facebook and fetching the location data from the user’s browser, they’ll place them on a map.
People searching for donors will then be able to press a button on the website and enter the blood type they need and the website will help them locate people within a five-kilometre radius who have registered as donors. If no one is found, the search is expanded to the entire city. We have a screenshot of the planned UI for this website below and Naralasetty says that they have plans to work on Android and iPhone apps as well.
It’s not all smoke and mirrors either—we were shown a functioning prototype of the new website and it seemed to be pretty far ahead in the development cycle. Redcode is working with a couple of Czechoslovakian Web developers to ready the website and should be able to press the trigger by the end of 2011, says Naralasetty.
It is a non-profit effort for the Redcode team and Naralasetty has paid whatever little expenses they have incurred on hosting the website out of his pocket. Since the whole thing works through Facebook groups, it costs pretty much nothing in its current state. Even the developers have all agreed to work for free due to the nature of the task.
However, when the Web app with the location features is launched globally, they will require an infusion of cash to keep the servers running. If any TNW readers—designers, developers or investors—are interested in providing their services towards Socialblood’s development, they can send an email to Naralasetty and figure out ways to contribute.
As grand an idea as it is, Socialblood is only just starting out right now. It seemed to us from our discussion with him that Karthik Naralasetty is determined to give it the shape that it needs and make a service that is useful not just for those residing in India but for anyone anywhere in the world. It’s encouraging to see a startup focus on a project as inspiring as this and we look forward to the end of December to see what they have in store for us.