Get set to run a virtual marathon

Awarathon, a mobile phone app which aims to spread social awareness through gaming, will run its first lap from December 17-24. Phorum Dalal speaks to co-founder Harshal Shah

Picture this: On a sunny morning, hundreds of runners take their position at the starting line to run a marathon. At the blow of a whistle, they begin to sprint towards the finish line. It’s an exhilarating experience. Now, come December 17, and you can run a marathon via a mobile app Awarathon that tests your social alertness.

Co-founder Harshal Shah thought of Awarathon  when he lost a game of Temple Run to his nine-year-old twin cousins. Pic/Sameer Markande

The idea to exploit the mobile gaming space to spread social awareness among youngsters first came to co-founder Harshal Shah when he lost a game of Temple Run while playing against his nine-year-old twin cousins in 2013. “I used to be an avid player of the game, but their high score got me thinking. This generation spends much more time on the phone than we do,” says Shah, a lawyer who has studied international tax at Harvard Law School in the US.

Roping in partners and NGOs
Recognising the power of the mobile gaming space, the 29-year-old, along with his wife Bhargavi, who was a Harvard Law School Research Fellow then, started work on the app in 2014 while he practiced law in Boston. When the duo returned to Mumbai, they met their third partner, Rahul Ghatalia, who has designed the app. Awarathon today comprises six members, who come from different professional fields. “We met partners on the way. Most of them are friends of friends. We contacted them for their expertise and they ended up becoming actively involved in the cause. Now, we have a team of 15 people,” explains Shah.

Awarathon has also partnered with non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Teach For India, World For All, NASEOH and Akshara for their Awarathon this month. The NGOs will distribute prizes and felicitate the winners of the virtual marathon. Awarathon has participated in the Mumbai Christmas Fest at Turf Club, Mahalaxmi today.

How it works
The Awarathon app will be available on iOS app store as well as Android play store from December 17. Gamers can choose one out of five causes such as disability, animal welfare, women’s empowerment, sports development in India and underprivileged children. They can begin the virtual marathon by answering questions on their chosen topic. With every right answer, the user will ‘stride’ ahead in the race. Users can also recommend friends via email. “The idea is not to tell kids what to do, but to expose them to information on a plethora of topics, which they can utilise,”
says Shah.

To download the app, log on to, or follow them on Twitter @awarathon

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