Ishan Vaish, 17, a student of The Millennium School, Dubai, realised that increased social media use was contributing to weakened literary skills among young people. Writing skills, vocabulary, sequencing of thought process and grammar were all affected, he found. "The pandemic made this problem worse with libraries closing down and schools switching to a virtual learning environment," he says. To help alleviate this problem, he created LiteraryLabs – an app where people of all age groups "could read and relax, express themselves and test their knowledge".

With a passion for computer science, Ishan is also part of the innovation club at his school.

Excerpts from an interview:

Tell us about the LiteraryLabs app?

LiteraryLabs is perfect for those who love reading and writing. While most apps that have e-libraries are paid for, LiteraryLabs’ e-library is free featuring over 200 books from various genres. You can save a lot of time, money and inculcate a useful habit of reading and writing by just using the app a couple of times in a week. Moreover, you can use the app to publish your own literary pieces like short stories, poems and essays as well as view those of others. This would help foster important writing skills while collaborating with other writers. You can also improve your knowledge on grammar by participating in online competitions and quizzes.

What’s been the response to the app?

Since its launch on September 9, there have been over 400 downloads on both platforms with an average rating of 4.5 stars on Android and five stars on IOS.

What were the challenges you faced when developing it and how did you overcome them?

When I started developing my idea, I spent a lot of time creating pitch decks and planning out the features and purpose of this app. I thought that was the hard part, but I was wrong. The hardest part was finding someone who believed enough in my idea to help bring it to life. I spent months pitching my idea to different investors before I found one person who was willing to bet on my idea.

To add on this, I chose to work with an India-based app development firm. I spent a lot of time building the design of the app and then months coding it. After that, there were several rounds of bug fixes that had to take place along with user testing. It was a very time-consuming process but I am happy to say that I made it through.

What three lessons did this experience of developing an app teach you?

1. It is alright to fail; you are not at a dead end – you just found a road that does not take you to your destination.

2. You need to believe in yourself. You should have enough confidence in yourself to know that you will pull through.

3. It is scary to take a road not travelled by many people, but you shouldn’t abandon it. We need to face our fears, as that is how we will grow as a person.

What have been the biggest takeaways from developing the app?

Firstly, I have learnt that whatever I do, it must be a great service or product. It really has to fulfill the needs of people or nobody is going to use it. Secondly, I have learnt to take risks. If I didn’t take certain risks, then I would never be able to progress and launch this application. Lastly, I learnt that you have to be obsessed. If you aren’t drawn towards what you’re doing and always thinking about it then the chances of success are quite less.

What tips can you offer students who are interested in app development?

From my experience, it is good to just begin. Once you have an idea, validate it. Speak to a lot of different people to see if they like it and participate in a lot of innovation competitions and hackathons. Try and make it accessible to everyone at the least cost possible. Make sure you have a team of individuals who you trust and who are as passionate about the project as you are. From there everything will take care of itself.

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