As India focuses on relaxing the business environment for the industry through initiatives such as Startup India Campaign, here are a few innovative startups that can’t wait to exploit the opportunities.
GreenSole: Bringing Soul in Damaged Soles
Only an innovative mind can construct a socially inclined business plan from worn-out sports shoes and collect accolades from personalities such as American President Barack Obama and Indian business magnate and philanthropist Ratan Tata. Based in the economic capital of India, Mumbai, Maharashtra, two-year-old startup GreenSole refurbishes discarded sports shoes to provide it to the poor and has so far received sponsorship for 10,000 pairs of footwear in the last 12 months. The ideation began when founders – Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami – who are also athletes, realised that they burned through three or four pricey shoes every year in running. As the two figured ways to reuse the soles of the shoes to make sandals, Bhandari, who was a third year bachelor student in management in Jai Hind college in Mumbai, researched further to find that nearly 350 million sports shoes are discarded around the world every year and the makers junk as many as half a billion pairs annually due to manufacturing defects. Additionally, millions are infected or die each year due to the spread of diseases contracted through unprotected feet. The facts, their creative minds and the social conscience gave birth to GreenSole in April 2014 while they were still in their early 20’s. As they entered a business competition through Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the idea was well received, and they won funding to launch the business. Post entering and winning various competitions in the space, the startup that has also entered ecommerce platform, is currently valued at INR 150 million and aims to donate 50,000 pairs of shoes this year.
Ineeddoctor: Healthcare Just a Touch Away
Amit Agarwal’s father, living in Raipur, the capital of the central state of Chhattisgarh, suffered from a chronic lung disease and needed weekly rounds to the doctor. But the routine visits became mental harassment, as the doctors were rarely punctual. This seeded the idea for Ineeddoctor in 2015. What started with just a website with listing of doctors, grew with the introduction of call center 9111-31-9111. “In smaller cities, access to internet and smart-phones is limited; moreover a personal touch is very helpful while talking to patients,” says Agarwal. Through Ineeddoctor, a patient can schedule his consultation with preferred doctors, plan for investigations, treatments, surgeries and hospitalisation and get discounts in almost everything. Bootstrapped by the three partners: ex-Infosys employees for nine years – Agarwal in the US and Abhishek Tiwari in Australia – and ex-TCS employee Akansh Goyal, the startup has been shortlisted by NASSCOM in the fifth batch of their 10,000 startup programme and is also looking for seed investors. “Although, a small city like Raipur has its challenges but it has advantages in terms of people recognition. Apart from having reached out to Raipur’s maximum population, we expanded our operations to entire state of Chhattisgarh last March,” says Agarwal. In the next five years, it plans to expand to pan India to over 100 cities through tie-ups with major hospitals.
Green Creeps: Bringing Jungles to Cities
Green Creeps, a one-year-old startup in its incubation stage, aims at bringing forests to cities. Based in New Delhi and an initiative of Swechha, NGO for environment and social development issues founded by Vimlendu Jha in 2000, Green Creeps designs human habitats using principles of permaculture. It works with individuals, schools and corporates (such as Google, PWC, McKinsey) on urban farming and environmental issues. One of its primary goals is to provide solutions for rising air pollution through workshops on purifying air in indoor spaces using plants, large scale plantations, setting up food forests, butterfly gardens, insect refuges etc. “Metropolitans have lost their green covers, and environmental issues need to be attended to,” says the programme head Gaurav Gurjar, 27, who is an engineer by qualification and the winner of Green Champion 2014, India’s first reality show on environment, broadcasted on television news channel NDTV. As its parent organisation Swechha upcycles waste to make useful products, Green Creeps launched its own range of upcycled planters (made using wastes such as whisky or wine bottles) for interior designing. “It takes conviction and persuasion to convince people about the urgency of sustainable environmental models,” says Gurjar for the startup that is currently sustained through Swechha. “Once we develop a consistent clientele, we’ll start searching for potential investors,” he adds.
Gold Farm: Solar Irrigational Solutions
What started as Surya Power Magic three years ago by Karthic Ravindranath and Abhilash Thirupathy in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, three years ago is now called the Gold Farm. Catering to the irrigational needs of the farmers through solar irrigation system, it was among the 30 shortlisted innovative startups that accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US to first ‘India-US Startup Konnect’ in the Silicon Valley organised by NASSCOM, TiE and IIM Ahmedabad’s CIIE. Gold Farm finds opportunity at a few frailties in Indian agriculture. First, farmers in Tamil Nadu and beyond are heavily dependent on the monsoon to water their crops. Faced with the vagaries of the rains, several farmers have leant heavily on artificial irrigation; however, they battle with poor electricity supply to their pumps. Hence, the need for a solar irrigation system. In its first year the startup sold merely 18 units, 100 in the second while it jumped to 400 in the third year. In terms of geography, accessible as an online and mobile app, it has gone beyond Tamil Nadu to states such as Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and caters to the needs of nearly 2,000 farmers.
YourDOST: For Your Mental Health
“When I was studying in IIT Guwahati in 2008, my friend committed suicide out of fear of not getting a good placement. She didn’t come out and talk about it so counsellors at IIT couldn’t help her,” told Richa Singh to Indian daily DNA. This incident stayed with Singh for a long time as she researched on depression and the aversion among people to seek help. She found that people shied from talking about their mental problem due to the social stigma associated with seeking help. This led to the idea of Yourdost.com to provide a platform for people to discuss their problems, under the safe umbrella of anonymity, and provide them some motivation. Founded in December 2014, YourDOST is now a team of 100, other two co-founders, a panel of expert medical practitioners, software developers and marketing experts. The user has to register on website or app, share their problems and they are provided guidance by professional counsellors. The platform has received close to 70,000 users so far and has been growing at about 40 pc month-on-month. The startup raised close to INR 25 million (EUR 330,000) in the Angel round through attracting established entrepreneurs like Phanindra Sama (Redbus Founder), Aprameya Radhakrishna (TaxiForSure Founder), Aneesh Reddy (Capillary Founder) and many seasoned investors like Sanjay Anandaram (Seedfund) and Venk Krishnan (NuVentures).
Founders Jaydeep Mandal and Sombodhi Ghosh, based in Mumbai, Maharashtra, when they started off, wanted to create a social venture to promote rural livelihood through micro-economy models that promote and commercialise grassroot innovations. Little did they know they would end up making eco-friendly sanitary pads as they found menstrual hygiene was one of the most ignored areas. Additionally, facts such as the US throws away over 20 billion pads and tampons every year that are made of cotton, one of the most toxic crops grown using 20 pc of world’s pesticides and herbicides. Aakar innovations, founded in 2014, empowers communities, especially women, with effective and hygienic menstrual protection, while creating livelihood opportunities for them in an environmentally sustainable manner. It is the only company in India that does a fully compostable sanitary pad that is affordable to even the lower income segment. The startup also ensures that the pads it manufactures adhere to the guidelines. Valued at INR 15 million (EUR 200,000) in 2014-15, the startup is slowly expanding its units to states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat and other western states. With 13 headcounts currently, it has also started shipments in Africa and looking at expanding operations there with partners. Aakar has attracted funds from investors such as CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad and Rianta Capital.