UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Statwig

Developing digital solutions to help track and strengthen the delivery of vaccines to children.

Sid Chakravarthy, Co-Founder StaTwig
A girl child plays at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre in Orchha, Narayanpur, Chattisgarh.
UNICEF/UN0272556/Altaf Qadri

30 March 2020

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, StaTwig, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.

Every year, vaccines prevent numerous diseases and save millions of lives. Yet,  one in five infants miss out on basic routine immunizations and as a result 1.5 million children die annually  from diseases that can be prevented.

High immunization coverage is especially difficult to achieve in rural areas where supply chain inefficiencies slow the rate at which vaccines can be delivered; the WHO estimates that nearly 50% of vaccines are at risk of being wasted globally each year due to logistics, temperature control and shipment related issues.

Haat Bazar Immunization and ANC camp in Charpal near Bijapur, Chattisgarh.
UNICEF/UN0272531/Altaf Qadri
An immunization camp in Charpal near Bijapur, Chattisgarh.

At StaTwig, our team has designed and developed two products: VaccineLedger and BabyBoo. With these two products StaTwig can track the journey of each vaccine from manufacturer to child.

At each touchpoint in the vaccine’s journey critical information about it such as temperature, humidity, chain of custody and location are recorded on a blockchain ledger.  

This immutable data is accessible by the stakeholders so that the products deliver trust and transparency in the supply chains.  Every vaccine or shipment is tagged with a QR code. The QR code provides a unique identity for the product. This unique ID is used to store data against it. As the products change hands in the supply chains the stakeholders scan the QR code using the mobile based application.

Screenshot of user experience interacting StaTwig's VaccineLedger Mobile app
StaTwig
Screenshot of user experience interacting with StaTwig's VaccineLedger Mobile app

User testing

Over the past 12 months, our team was able to engage with a wide variety of users in order to gather design requirements and develop a user-centric product. We were able to validate our solution through several paid-pilots in India and the US.

After the UNICEF Innovation Fund blockchain cohort workshop in January 2019, we reached out to our existing clients and new ones. Using the human centered design approach that we learnt at the workshop, we conducted several weeks of research through interviews, field visits and external studies, using this research to draft the requirements for the product. 

Our team has grown in order to support these developments, we have hired three dedicated product managers who continue working with clients, updating requirements and adding new ones.  In addition, Statwig also onboarded two UX/UX team members who took extra care in designing a simple easy to adopt user interfaces for our applications.  We have and are continuing to ensure we hire with diversity to our growing team. This has really enhanced team dynamics and started showing enormous results.

Team StaTwig group photo
StaTwig
Team StaTwig

Piloting

As the supply chains are global, complex and fragmented, our pilots in response were large scale deployments -- involving several stakeholders in the supply chains with pilot durations lasting between  6-12 months. One such pilot was in Arunachal Pradesh, a far eastern state in India where we were able to track the delivery of vaccines from that state’s central warehouse in the capital city to Lohith district. Phase one of the pilot has received positive reviews from both the local state government and the operating partner Smart Village Movement initiated by UC Berkeley (Read more on coverage by The Better India ).

 

Open Source

 

StaTwig has open sourced VaccineLedger, the supply chain management platform under MIT License in agreement with UNICEF Innovation Fund contract. This has strategically been a very good direction for the startup. 

Most vaccine manufacturers prefer open source validated solutions for extended supply chain visibility over proprietary solutions offered by incumbents such as SAP and Oracle. 

Open Source also provides opportunity for a wider development community to participate in, enabling us to scale the platform rapidly and more sustainably. 

Challenges

The biggest challenge has been the long sales cycles in vaccines -- thus, it is a longer timeframe to validate a new solution as a pilot usually takes 12-18 months. This has increased the costs and slowed down product development. 

To sustain, StaTwig has to focus on ensuring enough working capital through loans, venture capital investments or other channels to cope up with the slow moving industry.

Next set of goals.

To deploy the solutions in large scale environments directly and through channel partners to test the scalability of the solution, validate the value propositions and to improve the product quality.  In order to continue to grow our solution in the next year, our team is exploring ways to partner with innovative industry players such as zipline. 

In August 2019, we also got selected to the Gavi Infuse program. Gavi introduced us to various stakeholders in the vaccine supply chains including UNICEF, CHAI, NHM, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and several other critical stakeholders; we aim to continue to engage with programs such as the Gavi Infuse in order to take our solution to the scaling stage. 

Working with the UNICEF Innovation Fund

UNICEF Innovation Fund has played a key role in the success of StaTwig so far. The mentorship received through the Innovation Team and Jorge Fantin has been extremely valuable in identifying the right strategy for us. As our solutions are closely aligned with UNICEF’s supply chains we were able to build stronger partnerships with various UNICEF teams globally. 


 

About the UNICEF Innovation Fund:

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests up to $100k in early stage, open-source, emerging technology digital public goods with the potential to impact children on a global scale. It also provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, access to a network of experts and partners to allow for scale and growth. The investments can go either to UNICEF Country Offices or to private sector companies in UNICEF programme countries.