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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Have you taken the Covid 19 vaccine shot Be grateful to these techies

Have you taken the Covid-19 vaccine shot? Be grateful to these techies

Updated on: 16 May,2021 09:27 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prutha Bhosle |

If you’ve been able to book a vaccine slot via WhatsApp or Telegram s, you have these techies to be grateful to. And India’s young software talent is especially excited to see their open-source tools penetrate rural communities.

Have you taken the Covid-19 vaccine shot? Be grateful to these techies

Berty Thomas under45.in 7.5 lakh users of site have subscribed to Telegram alerts; Shyam Sunder getjab.in More than 4,00,000+ users across India; Shubhendu Sharma findslot.in Over 500K unique users

Berty Thomas, a resident of Pallikaranai in Chennai, had waited three months to get the Coronavirus vaccine. The 35-year-old business analyst and hobbyist programmer learnt on April 28 that the Indian government would now allow those between 18 and 44 years to get the jab and advance registrations had opened. 


He logged onto the national CoWIN app that controls India’s Covid-19 immunisation programme, but was unable to book a slot. Because the app demands that you enter an OTP to check availability of stock at a centre on the basis of the pin code imputed, and a metro like Chennai has hundreds of centres, Thomas realised this was going to be a struggle. He searched for the Application Programming Interface (API), which was publicly available on CoWIN.


A woman takes a jab at Mumbai’s Nair Hospital on May 12 after the government opened vaccination for those between 18 and 44 years of age. Pic/Ashish RajeA woman takes a jab at Mumbai’s Nair Hospital on May 12 after the government opened vaccination for those between 18 and 44 years of age. Pic/Ashish Raje


Thomas had hit gold. He used the API support to write a script, which would check the availability of slots and then notify the user. “I booked a slot for myself and then shared the script with friends and family over WhatsApp. Messages poured in, requesting me to find slots as far as Bengaluru and Coimbatore. But my script was specific to Chennai. I realised that this was not a city-centric issue,” he says. So, Thomas created under45.in, which could be used pan-India. When he tweeted about it, an avalanche of enquires came from across India. “On May 1, the traffic on the portal was overwhelming, so I had to move the script to another server. This was when I thought about linking the solution to district-specific Telegram channels. Telegram is an instant messaging app, which is now being used to send notification alerts directly to users [as soon as a slot is open]. They can then quickly book a slot on CoWIN,” he tells mid-day. As of now, over 7.5 lakh users of under45.in have subscribed to Telegram alerts.

Also Read: How to win race for Covid-19 vaccination registration

Chennai-based Berty Thomas, 35, faced challenges while booking a slot for himself. He used the API from CoWIN app to write a script that sends alerts to users as soon as a vaccination slot opens up in their areaChennai-based Berty Thomas, 35, faced challenges while booking a slot for himself. He used the API from CoWIN app to write a script that sends alerts to users as soon as a vaccination slot opens up in their area

According to The Lancet, a peer-reviewed general medical journal, India has vaccinated less than 2 per cent of its 1.3 billion population. In a report published in the journal dated May 8, titled, India’s Covid-19 emergency, it said: As of May 4, more than 20.2 million cases of Covid-19 had been reported, with a rolling average of 3,78,000 cases a day. At the federal level, India’s vaccination plan has fallen apart. The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states, expanding vaccination to everyone older than 18 years from May 1 onwards...This started creating mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed. India must increase vaccine supply and set up a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban, but also rural and poorer citizens, who constitute more than 65 per cent of the population (over 800 million people).

Getjab.in was co-created by four software developers, Azhar Hussain, Shyam Sunder (in picture), Anurag Kishore and Akshay Nautiyal, to smoothen the process of vaccine slot booking. This website lets you sign up for email alerts when slots open up in your districtGetjab.in was co-created by four software developers, Azhar Hussain, Shyam Sunder (in picture), Anurag Kishore and Akshay Nautiyal, to smoothen the process of vaccine slot booking. This website lets you sign up for email alerts when slots open up in your district

Friends Shyam Sunder, Azhar Hussain, Anurag Kishore and Akshay Nautiyal make up the team behind slot notifier getjab.in. The Indian School of Business (ISB) alumnus, Sunder says, “We knew about the public APIs being available for CoWIN back in mid-April, but didn’t feel the need to build something like this because slots were available on CoWIN for 45+ and walk-in registrations were also going well. By May 1, we realised the gap between demand and supply was widening, and decided that even if one of us were to get a slot soon, we would have to build a tech solution. And so, getjab.in was launched to ensure that we reached as many people as possible across India who were not as tech-savvy as us.”

They launched the site on May 2 at 5 pm using commercial SaaS tools like carrd.com, airtable and AWS SES. This website is pretty straightforward in that you register yourself with your name, email ID, and phone number (optional). You also need to select the district you reside in, so that you can receive notifications about available slots at centres in your area. “As of now, we have around 4,00,000+ users. We have confirmation that around 1,600 people have booked slots through us. Unsubscribes are at 3 per cent of the overall user base. I expect that the majority is still trying to get a slot. We don’t have a way of knowing that for sure,” Sunder adds. The founders get about 2,000 sign-ups every 30 minutes. The flood of users has thrown up a unique hurdle—sending emails to lakhs of users. They have had to work with multiple email providers to figure a solution. The website is, of course, free of cost. “We are doing this as a service to our fellow countrymen. We don’t see value in making this commercial,” Sunder says squarely.

Dr Benazir Patil, CEO, SchoolDr Benazir Patil, CEO, School

In Bengaluru, Shubhendu Sharma, the founder of internet access startup Wi-Fi Dabba, was once again inspired by personal disappointment when he tried booking a slot on April 28 and failed. Together with partner Jeroz Nishanth, he launched findslot.in. What started as a tool for self use, ended up becoming a public utility service. “I had no intent to open it up beyond friends and family. On April 30, I shared it with Jeroz, who is a Twitter wizard, and once we had received positive feedback from common people who were able to book real slots, we thought we must open it up to the public,” Sharma says. Nishanth has been leading the online marketing to get it to more people. 

Interestingly, unlike other websites, findslot.in does not send alerts to users. “I am of the opinion that ‘alerts’ give an undue advantage to only a section of people. I believe it should be a level playing field for all to put in an effort and come online to find a slot. The idea was never to ‘game’ the system and offer undue advantage to the tech savvy,” Sharma says, who gives special attention to make it easy enough for senior citizens to use, too. 

Nishanth says that since the launch of the website on April 30, they have had more than 500K unique users search for slots. “We have more than 150k successful slots search out of close to a million searches to our credit in the last 10 days. We do not track or ask the user to register. It is a zero tracking website.”

Jeroz Nishanth, co-founder of data management company TEZR, created findslot.in. Nishanth says that since the launch of the website on April 30, they have had more than 500K unique users search for slotsJeroz Nishanth, co-founder of data management company TEZR, created findslot.in. Nishanth says that since the launch of the website on April 30, they have had more than 500K unique users search for slots

Then, on May 5, the government threw in a spanner. It said that APIs are subject to a rate limit of 100 API calls, per 5 minutes, per IP. “The appointment availability data would now be cached and may be up to 30 minutes old,” the government’s Aarogya Setu website said. In simple words, CoWIN has now limited the API hit rate. “This means, you can’t keep querying their database infinitely. This has certainly presented a challenge for us to fetch real-time slots and present our users with most recent and up-to-date information. We are in touch with concerned authorities to find a solution to this problem,” Sharma informs. The programmers say there is no clarity on why the government made this change given that these notifier sites are not for profit.

The software workarounds, however, are raising fears over whether they handicap the chances of the lesser privileged, and those with no or little access to the Internet. Walk-in appointments were allowed in most states, and they took care of those whose age, digital literacy or net connectivity was posing a problem. But since last week, vaccine by-appointment-only has been made the norm. In Mumbai, the BMC introduced fresh guidelines on May 6 to stop all walk-ins after a crowd that had gathered at BKC Jumbo Centre went out of hand after a long wait, and a near stampede-like situation occurred when the crowd heard that vaccine supply had arrived on site.