Talk me through the journey of how you first came up with the idea of Digimeal - what gave you the drive to take it further than just a thought?
Sumita: It was purely a personal experience. When I started my first year of university, I had no idea what to cook, so I would call up my mum and say, ‘I’ve got these ingredients left, what should I do with them?’ I’d need something quite simple and quick, so she’d tell me what to make. I came home for Christmas and my mum said, ‘Oh, that would make a really good app idea for students - if you put in a couple of ingredients, it comes up with recipes!’
Risha: At the same time, my dad was trying to get me involved in the app industry because it’s a really good place for women, well, anyone, to be in at the moment. We saw the iDEA award advertised in The Sunday Times and the brief was ‘a digital solution to an everyday problem.’ We thought the problem my sister had was an everyday problem and, of course, the app would be a digital solution for it. So we put forward the idea - I guess the iDEA award was the reason why we took it further than just an idea. We didn’t expect really to get anywhere past the first stage, but we just kept getting through. It reached the point where we thought, ‘Okay… clearly someone has faith in us and our idea.’ We won the competition and that gave us £15,000 funding so that was really what made us decide to go further with it.
What was the criteria for entering the competition?
S: The very first criteria was you had to be, I’m pretty sure, between 14-25 years old and you just had to have an idea that involved some sort of technology. The first round was just brainstorming ideas: why was there a market for it? What kind of problems does it solve? In the second round, we were given mentors from all different companies in tech and that involved going out and doing quick questionnaires with people from the street, getting about 10-15 responses back about what they’d want. After that you had to come up with a proper business model, a business plan, so how you saw an app going if you were given the initial funding. Then you had to have a prototype.
How involved were you with the app development side of things?
R: In terms of the actual hard coding, myself and my sister didn’t have very much involvement. I have a very, very basic knowledge of coding, my sister has no knowledge whatsoever, but we were very much involved in the design of the app. I drew out the wireframes myself and sent them over to the developer that we use because we couldn’t code ourselves. He basically builds up a mockup of what the app would look like based on my designs, so my sister and I would work on it on a weekly basis and just tweak certain things until we were happy with the final product.
How did you find balancing the project with university work?
R: At the time we were really working on the app I was in my last year of school - that was very hard because A-Level year is so busy and doesn’t give you much free time. My sister, my dad and I would have family meetings at the dinner table, just because we’d have to try and fit it in somewhere. It was hard and it still is hard because we are now both at university, but we do try and fit it in whenever we can.
S: I found it quite difficult to begin because towards the end of the competition we were always on the phone trying to work out what to do. But when you enjoy doing something, you just find the time to do it. It’s about working around everyone’s timetables and if you want to pursue something, you’ll find the time to do it, and that’s what we did.
On a less serious note, what is your favourite recipe on Digimeal?
S: That’s a good question, I feel like the banana crepe recipe. That is really good to have in the morning, on a Sunday morning actually. What other ones do I like? I love all the burger recipes, I think they’re really good, I mean what student doesn’t like a burger? There’s all different types and they’re all really good.
R: I’ve got it saved on my favourites, it’s the chicken and sundried tomato pasta. I don’t make it with chicken myself, just the sundried tomato pasta. The photo looks amazing and as soon as I saw it come up on the app, I just wanted to make it straight away. It’s really healthy, and it’s so hard at university because you want to make something that’s easy, something that’s quick, but you also don’t want to make something that is just out of the oven.
So, what have you got planned next, you guys and/or Digimeal?
R: We’re currently working on a new version that’s going to be released hopefully by the end of March; it’ll be very different to the initial app that is currently available on the appstore. It’ll be a much better app and I think it’s going to look quite different as well. A lot of people have given us good feedback about how it looks so we’ll try not to move too far away from that, but I think it’s going to be a great version of the app.
Besides, of course, Digimeal, what other phone apps do you think are essential for students these days?
R: I personally don’t use that many apps, I do have a couple of cooking ones and fitness ones but I don’t think they’re specific to students. There is one that I’ve heard of though that I haven’t downloaded yet, just because I’m in first year so not in a house yet: you basically enter in all the chores that need to be done and assign them to certain people, like when the bills are due to be paid. It looks really helpful for when you’re in your second and third year and you’re living in a house.
S: I definitely couldn’t live without Twitter, or Snapchat. There is one actually that my friend found, it’s a photo sharing app. On a night out, everyone puts their photos up on there and it comes out as a full video of everyone’s photos. I can’t remember what it’s called, but that one was quite a cool one that we used. I think the main ones I can’t live without are the social media ones.
What do you think the future is like for women in technology?
S: It’s definitely growing, 100% growing. It’s actually quite exciting because not only are my sister and I in tech, we are also young women in tech, and I think it’s about time women got involved. In the next ten years, we will see so many more women having the confidence to enter this male-dominated industry. If I remember correctly, there were a lot of young girls taking part in the iDEA competition, which was really nice to see.
R: I think more and more women are getting involved in technology, mainly because it’s so big at the moment. I went to Microsoft the other day to a taster session for what Microsoft are about and it was aimed just for female undergraduates. Talking to the girls that were there, they weren’t too interested in the coding side and I don’t know whether that will change anytime soon, but I think with regards to technology itself, more women will get involved in it. It’s a great opportunity for women as it is so broad and it will never go out of fashion, so there will always be something you can get involved with in technology.
Do you have any final pieces of advice you’d like to pass on?
S: Whenever I’m asked that question, I usually give the same response: if you have an idea, just go for it. You have no idea where it’s going to end up - my sister and I had no idea we’d have so many downloads, so if you’re passionate about any industry, go for it. If you want to do it, do it.
Sisters Risha and Sumita Jindal won the iDEA competition in 2014 by creating their very own app Digimeal - we talk to them about getting into the technology industry, university life and the apps they couldn't live without...
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