This article has been sponsored by Villgro
The starting point of any positive change, movement or revolution is often a single idea. And at a time when the world is grappling with a pandemic and several socio-economic problems that have followed it, an idea, supported with a sound business plan, is something that can help us navigate through the testing circumstances.
This very belief has been driving Villgro, a prominent social enterprise incubator, for the past 20 years. With expert guidance, proper industry exposure and capital funding, Villgro has given promising social startups working in various impact areas a chance to grow and create a substantial impact. These areas include agriculture, healthcare, clean energy, livelihoods and more.
In addition to their core incubation program, Villgro also runs iPitch, their annual deal discovery platform that gets social entrepreneurs, incubators and impacts investors to discover each other.
This year, Villgro along with its Funding Partners – Beyond Capital Fund, Upaya Social Ventures, Shell Foundation, Caspian Debt and Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter: Habitat for Humanity are offering seed funding and debt solutions between 15 lakhs and 2 crores each to selected startups.
Now in its 4th year, iPitch was a turning point for these four enterprises –
Committed to creating a more accessible world through design and technology, Sreehari KG and Habib Ali started BeAble in 2017. The idea for the startup however came from a personal pain. “My uncle suffered a stroke a few years ago. He was paralysed and passed away after 45 days of struggle. Having lost him, I knew of the pain felt by patients and their family in these circumstances and wanted to do something to help,” says Sreehari, who got in touch with his friend Habib, a biomedical engineer with a passion for rehabilitation engineering.
With Sreehari’s expertise in media and communication and Habib’s technical guidance, the duo created a game-based solution for individuals suffering from hemiplegia or hemiparesis, a condition in which one side of the body becomes weak or paralysed after a stroke.
They created two segments:
- The hardware called ArmAble that can help them perform certain activities and play games as part of the rehab therapy
- The software called BeOne, which is a cloud-based application that records real-time data of the individual’s progress and shares it with their family and doctors.
“In most cases a patient suffering from paralysis in the upper limb post stroke is asked to undergo regular rehab everyday. It is not only expensive but also ends up becoming exhausting. But this game-based therapy is both engaging, consistent and efficient in carrying out therapy,” says Habib.
“We applied for iPitch and won in 2019. The constant mentorship and guidance in creating maximum social impact while also helping us accelerate our growth was extremely valuable,” adds Sreehari.
In 2015, when Kalyan Sivasailam’s friend Syed Ahmed was admitted in the hospital , it took almost two days to get his MRI reports. This inconvenience led to an innovative idea towards a sustainable solution.
“I truly believe that proper diagnosis is three-fourths the remedy. So we thought, how about we create a platform that reduces this turnaround time and ensures the patients receive their reports without any hassles?” says Sivasailam, who is a Computer Science engineer from National Institute of Technology, Surathkal, and has a postgraduate degree in Intellectual Property Law from National Law School, Bengaluru.
The result was a joint venture by Ahmed and Sivasailam, called 5C Network, in 2016.
5C Network is a cloud-based platform that connects hospitals and diagnostic centres with specialist radiologists on-demand for the diagnosis of X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans. It ensures collaboration between five main stakeholders—the patient, the hospital or diagnostic centre, an on-demand radiologist, the doctor, and the technician, to ensure that the patient gets a timely and better diagnosis.
At a click of a button, thanks to 5C Network, any hospital or diagnostic centre can send medical images to 5C, along with patient history and symptoms that can be added to their website or mobile app. Once all of it is available online, one can easily seek assistance from the best available radiologist in any case and get a diagnosis in just 39 minutes, as opposed to the usual wait of two days. Owing to its efficiency, the platform handles more than 3,000 cases daily.
“The journey began back in October 2016 with just one client in Mysuru. Today, we are India’s largest radiology group with more than 400 clients in 24 states and 180 on-demand radiologists,” he adds.
They pitched this idea to Villgro for the iPitch competition in 2018. “I still remember collecting the oversized cheque after winning at the Villgro Unconvention. The team at Villgro has been amazing, supportive and insightful. Our growth post winning iPitch has been tremendous, and with guys like Villgro at our corner, we hope to grow more and make an even greater impact,” shares Sivasailam.
“In spite of working in the engineering field for many years, my passion was always farming. I grew up in a family with an agricultural background where my grandfather grew sugarcane and made jaggery. It was surprising to see that he would make much more money than my father ever did at his job in the city. Years later, the situation of farmers in the country is not the same anymore. So I wanted to use my technical expertise to help solve the issue,” says Mallesh Tigali, founder CultYvate. The startup helps farmers growing bananas, grapes, pomegranate, paddy and sugarcane, to increase profit by up to 30 per cent using AI and IoT-based farm and crop irrigation solutions.
Founded in 2017, his venture’s goal was to help farmers be more sustainable at an affordable cost. From calculating and analysing several parameters that ensure proper water supply, the agro-scientific set-up allows for optimum use of water and less labour. This helps farmers save up to 50 per cent water.
“Our technology helps farmers analyze the dynamic climatic conditions and plan their farm cultivation for both local and foreign crop varieties. It also helps them understand and reduce the possibility of disease and pest infestation, while also boosting the production cycle considerably,” adds Mallesh who launched the finished technology in 2019 after two long years of research and development.
So far, they have reached out to 1,800 farmers,who have been able to save more than 12 crore litres of water through this technology.
“The outreach and the impact would not have been possible without Villgro’s help. After winning iPitch, I was not only helped with the funding, but it goes beyond that. They are extremely thorough and are invested in the journey of a startup’s development by providing adequate mentorship and industry exposure,” says Mallesh.
Founded in 2015 by IIT Kanpur alumni K Shri Harsha Karumanchi, Vinay Chataraju and Prudhvi Sagar, Kritsnam was born out of a vision to empower developing nations with data-driven and cost effective water resource management techniques. It started as an extension of Sri Harsha’s MTech thesis, and grew into a company that aims to empower farmers and increase canal irrigation efficiency in just 5 years.
Through its solutions, IShWAR and DHARMA, they are striving to ensure equitable access to water, both for agriculture as well as drinking purposes. Additionally, Kritsnam’s IoT-enabled ground sensors aid in real-time decision making.
In 2019, they were incubated by Villgro, and received an iPitch grant of Rs 50 lakh. So far, Kritsnam has saved over 30 million litres of groundwater in just a single season, with the help of 150 farmers. This also resulted in saving Rs 1200-1800 in irrigation and diesel costs per farmer, in one season.
In all these years Villgro has incubated over 315 enterprises and has impacted 20 million lives, inspiring a substantial shift in the startup-model in India. Through their work Villgro has not only supported hundreds of ideas but has also helped several marginalised communities be the drivers of change.
This year, Villgro has remodelled iPitch considering the impact that the COVID-19 has had on the health, well-being and livelihoods of millions across the country. The aim in 2020 is to support as many impact creating solutions as possible with a broadened scope of sectors and stages.
The 2020 iPitch applications close on 30 September 2020. To apply, click here.
(Edited By Gayatri Mishra)