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Delta App is building India's first LGBT community and networking space

The Delta App is a platform that helps like-minded people meet, provides a safe community space for users to share and access resources.

The Indian LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Queers) community is by far the most marginalised. There are thousands who face discrimination and cannot express themselves due to societal pressures. There is a very limited space for them to freely express themselves without being stereotyped. But what if one could imagine a space without any such discrimination? Well, Ishaan Sethi, from Delhi, hopes to create such a space. He intends to create India's first LGBT community and networking app, with Delta .

It will be a platform that helps individuals meet like-minded people, provides a safe community space for users to share and access to support and resources in terms of LGBT-friendly listings, therapists, FAQs, mentors and more.

Speaking about discrimination against the LGBT community, Ishaan recalls his own struggle, "I struggled with my sexuality all through school, was bullied, called names, isolated myself and then lived in denial because I thought the only way out was to vehemently oppose the thoughts in my head. I thought something was very wrong and I was willing to do whatever it took to 'rid' myself of my feelings."

Ishaan went to Brown University to pursue Economics. It was here he realised that one's work speaks for itself, regardless of gender, orientation, religion, and other prejudices that divides the society "I met several individuals who had come out of the closet and were living their lives without the fear of wondering what everyone thought, or being labeled 'the other'. My faculty and friends encouraged me to come out so I could really start embracing who I am and with time, that is exactly what happened," he says.

Ishaan moved back to India in 2014. He set up his own startup in the analytics arena called PropheSee with two other co-founders. Meanwhile, he was petrified initially about his identity being revealed. Therefore, he remarks,

"I decided that no matter what happens and what anyone else might say - I would fight it out. During this time I met incredible allies and LGBT individuals from various walks of life - few in the closet, few out and proud and few still questioning their feelings or figuring out how to deal with the idea of sexuality."

Meanwhile, Ishaan met Sachin Bhatia (Founder and ex-CMO of MakeMyTrip), and Rahul Kumar, Co-founder of TrulyMadly, who were the clients of PropheSee. While speaking about Truly Madly dating app, Ishaan says, "There were two fundamental principles that made Truly Madly successful. One was it provided a safe and secure platform for women as the profiles were verified. Secondly, the matches were not based on looks. Rather, it runs on a recommendation engine based on interests, compatibility and thus, helps find like-minded people. The safe and secure feature raised a lot of queries among the LGBT community in India asking for why these features are mostly available for heterosexuals, leaving the LGBT community aloof. That's how Sachin connected with me to ask why I cannot look into something like this."

That time Ishaan was not able to take this forward as he was working with PropheSee. However, after exiting from PropheSee in April this year, this idea for the LGBT community came up again. Ishaan excitedly says,

"I took me only two seconds to realise this is definitely something I want to do. There are two reasons to it. I have hundreds of friends who identify themselves as LGBT around the world. And in my own experience , there are many problems faced by them. I realised access to a community, resources and the ability to meet like-minded people was nearly absent and if easily accessible, could really help people lead their lives to the fullest extent."

To empower the LGBT community in India, "with some incredible people we began work on what we later named Delta," remarks Ishaan.

"One thing which is largely missing in LGBTQ community in the Indian context is the lack of access to the community where people can meet, connect or share. This platform will help them connect with people and talk about their problem in a platonic way,"says Ishaan.

Once an account is created on Delta, the verification engine checks the details that has been entered to look for any inconsistency or potential red flags. Once these checks are passed, users are approved into the community. Delta's algorithms then leverage compatibility matching based on shared interests and deep learning to drive deeper engagements that go beyond superficial aspects such as location and looks.

The second component of the app is offline aspect of community building called the delta network. It is a LGBTQ network - inclusive and friendly businesses across industries - to bring forward non-discriminatory entities and drive firms towards LGBTQ-inclusive policies relating from LGBT-friendly hotels, restaurants, brands, business and so on.

"We have several such brands that have already signed up with us and have become a part of Delta network. These include companies like Godrej, Urbanclap, Kama Ayurveda, the Lalit Group of Hotels, IBM and many more," says Ishaan.

Speaking about the idea of the Delta network, Ishaan highlights that it is to provide the community and its allies the benefit of being inclusive. Stating an example, Ishaan goes on to explain, "If one is a transgender and is travelling to Jaipur and goes to the Lalit Hotel there. With the Delta network I am aware that in this hotel, one will not face discrimination or harassment. That I will be treated with respect and dignity as any other human being." Therefore, this will be the Delta network offline community feature. The idea is to empower people with the knowledge about safe spaces and increasingly sensitise businesses to the needs of the LGBT community and provide mutually-beneficial relationships.

The third component of the Delta network is location-based data. This aspect will provide a network of professionals to help the people of LGBT community find their closest LGBT friendly therapists, legal aid, healthcare etc. Additionally, this will also include features such as online support, counseling, therapy and access to information such as coming out queries, sexual awareness and health, legal frameworks and several other resources that can positively impact members of the community.

Moreover, all the features will not be rolled out in the first attempt. The alpha phase will have matchmaking feature. Later, the beta phase will have the matchmaking with the first set of community and support feature. Thereafter, iteration will be made according to the needs.

"We want this app to be a homegrown swadeshi app that will address the unique problem of the Indian LGBT community. This is an app that is built by and for the LGBT community in India. We are not just doing it because it is a great market opportunity but what it could do is really change the landscape."

The Delta App is trying raise the funds through a crowdfunding campaign.

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