Have you ever felt helpless at not finding your favourite street dog at his usual spot? Quite often, one from the pack could stray away and go missing. In April 2020, Mumbai-based Akshay Ridlan could not find Kalu, a dog that he fed and played with every day.
“I decided to find a solution that could be replicated by others as well,” recalls the 23-year-old. One option was to microchip the dogs, but there were various concerns. “How would dog lovers meet the cost of microchipping community dogs? Additionally, a scanner is required to access chip details. All this made me think of an idea that is pocket-friendly and easy. A desi solution.”
Lockdown and digitalisation gave this post graduate in Information Technology the idea of QR (Quick Response) codes that can be accessed on the mobile phone. “From making payments to accessing menus, everyone was scanning codes with their phones, it seemed to me as the most practical solution,” says Akshay.
Presently working as deputy manager of data engineering at a finance company, Akshay says he has always been an animal lover. ”I have been working since the age of 18 to support my mother and to feed dogs,” he says, explaining why it was important for him to find a practical fix accessible to all ages and budgets.
Finally, “On Valentine’s day — February 14, 2023 — I attached QR codes to 25 strays that I feed. I printed them on acrylic sheets and made something similar to name tags,” he explains. Acrylic sheets are ideal because they are sturdy and waterproof in addition to being light. To generate a QR code and dispatch it digitally to a customer Akshay charges ₹50; for those who want the QR code printed on an acrylic sheet, the cost is ₹70.
The QR code contains “the name of the stray, age, gender, address, whether it is spayed or not, special needs, physical ailments, medication requirements and feeder’s/owner’s contact.” Akshay began by attaching the tags to vulnerable dogs like puppies and old dogs around his locality.
Funnily, Akshay says other dog lovers who pet these dogs on a regular basis, scanned the codes to see what they were meant for. “Upon seeing the details of the dogs, I got messages congratulating me on the work, some even enquiring where to get the codes done. Senior and the friendliest of them all, namely Kalu, Whitey and Brownie had many people accessing the codes. Some even left suggestions on attaching them to collars, but that is not possible because my machine cannot print on any other surface. I also want the codes to be clearly visible for all,” he says.
How it works
“Most of the time we get to see messages on social media about missing dogs. When a new dog is spotted in an area or we see an injured dog with a QR tag, rescuers can scan the code, access the details and treat it accordingly or contact the feeder,” says Akshay.
Ever since news of his tag hit social media, he has been flooded with orders from feeders from various States. He has currently sent out 600 tags.
“This is making nervous and happy at the same time,” says Akshay. “I work full-time and am worried about meeting every order since I do this after my work hours. Some kids I know who love dogs are now assisting me in printing and dispatch. Data management is a huge task and these people are a great help.”
While most of the orders are from feeders in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, some are from pet owners as well. He is expecting the numbers to go up.
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