Indian start-ups should look at unique solutions to our problems: Shrikant Sinha, Nasscom Foundation
In India itself if you look at the social sector there are so many problems, but a solution which may have worked globally may not work in here, said Sinha.
The Nasscom Foundation, in collaboration with industry leaders Mphasis and Accenture on Wednesday had announced the winners of the ninth edition of the NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum - a platform that fosters innovative use of technology to create sustained social impact. This year the awards received over 1300 applications out of which nine start-ups were chosen in different areas.
The Zeebiz team caught up with Shrikant Sinha, CEO of Nasscom Foundation who spoke about the process to select this years winners, what they would be doing to support these start-ups, start-up trends and what advice he has for young entrepreneurs.
On what basis do you award the start-ups at the social innovation forum?
The IT industry was amongst the first few industries where we started looking at doing business responsibly. So apart from themselves ensuring the community also grows along with them. That's were Nasscom foundation was created.
So far the last 9 years we are running this social innovation forum where we identify early adopters of technology, we understand exactly how the technology is being used on the ground and what kind of an impact it is making. How innovative is it? Is it accessible? Is it affordable? These are the various parameters in which we look at them.
Typically we look at various categories as part of the awards. You have healthcare, education and multiple areas are there where these awards are given. Year on year we get about 1,300 to 1,500 applications, out of which we identify which are the unique applications, which are the unique use of technology. That is where we bring it down to 120 start-ups. From that 120, the first jury sits in and would then bring it down to 30. And then from those 30, the final jury sits down and where they bring it down to the 10 or 11 which are awarded.
The applications are called for in July itself. By November we have the initial jury and final jury. And during the Nasscom conference we award the start-ups.
What are the start-ups that you have selected this year? What is the support they will get?
Emphasis has been supporting this awards for quite some years now and they are keep to look at what are the new disruptive models in education. Emphasis Education Grant is what its called. The winners this year are Headstreams, Mguru and Pratham Books. The reason for them to be selected are for instance Headstreams is running a program called Disha which is helping in English learning for the government schools. While Mguru is looking how English learning and Maths learning modules that have been created by them are used in low income areas where people are able to benefit from these apps. Pratham is well known in the field of education, books, etc. They have been awarded for their open repository of books where people can donate books to people.
In this we would be giving awards worth Rs 40 lakh. Apart from this there is some hand holding that we do. We will be doing an exercise where we identify what are the gaps. Do they lack technology, market access, if they lack knowledge on how they want to grow. We will help them for a period of 1 year where they have an incubation kind of thing. So of the top industry people would mentor them.
What are the trends in the start-ups you see coming up?
We saw a lot of 'me to's' start-ups that are there in the system. Where people feel that what they have designed is innovative and is first, but it has already been done.
What is your advice start-ups?
When you compare start-ups to what they where six years ago, start-ups now are more resilient. If there is something not working, they shake it off and move ahead. The second thing, is that they should try to look at unique solutions to problems. In India itself if you look at the social sector there are so many problems, but a solution which may have worked globally may not work in here. India requires its unique set of solutions. So please work on those solutions. Third, is which is most important, is make it cost effective. Make it simple to use. So that people without education can also use it. Today an icon can be clicked by anyone and anywhere. So my message to the social entrepreneurs and innovators would be to try to address the problems India has. Use technology but make it affordable.
Which segment among start-ups would be something to watch for this year?
I think the new focus that has come is towards assistive technologies. I think with the Accessible India campaign and Indian paralypians winning the gold medals a lot of people have started focusing on it. And as a result accessible technologies is what we can see more and more people joining in. In education we have seen too many start-ups. We still need things in education which strengthen the current education system to make it more robust.