Written by Veerraju Chitturi, Associate Product Manager at MyGate
Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. On Mar 25, a 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the COVID pandemic. But the execution of the lockdown was left to the State governments. Needless to say that the state governments across the country were overwhelmed since they had no precedent to deal with such a crisis. But here’s the tricky part: How does the State Government ensure the movement of essential services i.e. Groceries, Healthcare, Essential e-commerce, etc, and control the misuse of such privilege. Answer: Issue passes for movement.
There are downsides to issue physical passes. One, people have to go out to police station to get passes and you need a pass to go out(Catch-22 anyone?). Two, this was very inefficient since people were thronging to police stations increasing the risk of the spread among law enforcers. Police authorities needed a tech solution to handle the crisis.
It all started when the State Police’s top brass reached out to one of our founders asking if MyGate could help them to build an ePass solution for essential services in 4 days. And we said YES!
After all, MyGate’s expertise lies in facilitating seamless visitor entries into gated communities and corporate spaces. Since we already have a presence in 1.5 million homes (that’s all the households in the entire country of New Zealand :P) and validate over 60 million visitor validations in a month, so scale was never going to be a problem since our teams built products to scale.
Problem lies in building a solution in such a short period of time. Bottomline was to allow all the essential services to function seamlessly. In a MyGate society, visitors would request for access and residents would approve/deny such requests. However, here we had to facilitate movement of employees/citizens from their home to their workplaces (essentially permission to go outside their residences). It was a problem turned upside down for us.
So, let me try to break this down to 4 different parts.
- Allow Organizations/Individuals to request a pass
- Enable Police authorities to make a decision to approve/deny
- Enable Organizations/Individuals to carry a digital/physical pass
- Mechanism for authorities on ground to validate the passes
Product Engineering/Design Considerations:
- Resources and Time: Easy to develop from an engineering perspective
- Use existing solutions: Building features on top of existing systems (apps/web applications) by tweaking according to requirements
- Scalability: Since the system has to support potentially thousands of organisations and lakhs of citizens it has to work at scale
- Seamless, Secure and prevent misuse: Making it easy for organisations to request/approve and use/carry passes using online/offline channels
I know usage of the word “wartime” is at an all time high as per Google Trends but I can’t help not using it in this context. It was indeed a wartime and we were working on a tight deadline of 96 hours which meant that the entire Product Lifecycle i.e. Ideation to Release had to be done in 4 days. What this meant for us as an organisation was that we had to invest enormous resources i.e. leadership, engineering, product and design working simultaneously taking some of the decisions independently once the basic specifications as to what needs to be built were arrived at.
Such an enormous project with a steep deadline meant we needed extraordinary coordination among various teams. And where were all our resources? ‘At Home!’ We were all working remotely and that meant we had to coordinate digitally using whatever medium we could lay our hands on i.e. Meets/Hangouts/Zoom/Whatsapp. Of late we have all read zillions of articles,or experienced it ourselves, how difficult it is to work from home.
It was like an extended Hackathon. From founders to engineers, everyone who had to work on the project got together in a war room and brainstormed for 2–3 hours on what our plain vanilla product would be. We had arrived at an exhaustive list of product specifications for all the individual products that were going to build and got to work at midnight.
We had split ourselves into various teams with digital war rooms where all the discussion took place. We had war rooms for all possible purposes: Leadership, Product, Dashboard, Android App, Checker App, Backend. Most of us had already bookmarked Google Meet War Room links and some of us even knew the URLs by heart at the end of the exercise.
After deliberating in war rooms for 2–3 hours, we arrived at the following product specifications
- Build a web application for the companies to register and login to request for a Pass
- Create Super Admin/Admin roles on the same web application to approve/deny organisation requests
- Build an app for individual pass requests where one can view/print a pass
- Build an app for authorities to validate the passes
This was the final output of our efforts. We named the product as KSP CLEAR Pass using a set of acronyms
KSP: Karnataka State Police
CLEAR: COVID, Law Enforcement Assistance to Residents
KSP CLEAR Pass Web Application
This web applications we had built served three purposes:
- Enable organisations to register and request passes for their employees
- Enable Police authorities to approve/deny organisation request(s)
- View reports of all the organization requests that were approved/rejected jurisdiction/city wise
Product Blog: https://mygate.com/blog/ksp-clearpass-companies/
KSP CLEAR Pass for Individuals
We built an Android application
KSP Checker App
We needed to control the misuse of the passes and hence we built an app which can scan the QR code embedded in the ePass to verify authenticity. And we made the app completely offline.
Additional Products we built for Karnataka State Police
Inter State Pass: As soon as there was Lockdown 2.0, we quickly leveraged existing systems to build Inter State Pass for individuals who had to travel out of state due to Emergency purposes
Inter District Pass: We used the existing framework to facilitate inter district movement of people
We finally shipped the product in 96 hours!! Some of us had slogged and only slept for couple of hours in a day. This was a tremendous experience for us as an organization to ship a comprehensive product which pushed all our capabilities to the limit.
Our product received enormous response from organisations and citizens of Bengaluru. This has allowed resumption of all essential e-commerce services within Bengaluru much quickly. We are glad that we could help the government authorities during such tough times and restore the city’s economy much faster that the rest of the country.
Links to some of the news articles that covered us for the ePass effort
Read this story on Medium.