In recent years, social impact and climate revolution have gained traction all over the world. India is no exception. Numerous innovations for the advancement of society and the environment are on the rise in the country. A large number of startups are seen leveraging technology to build sustainable solutions to bring about an impact. Indeed, there is a new surge of social tech entrepreneurs in the country working to solve India’s long-standing social issues. According to the trade association of the Indian IT industry, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), there are over 400 such social impact startups, and they are growing at the rate of 20% as of Dec 2019 . The increasing number of internet and smartphone users have been a boost to these tech-enabled social startups.
These social impact startups have started to gain global attention and attract significant corporate investments from India and from across the globe. In addition, the government initiatives towards this sector have been impressive. Fund of Funds for Startups with a corpus of INR 100 billion is mobilised to extend funding support to innovation-driven startups . The ease of regulations and the development of a robust ecosystem has fueled the growth. Several incubators such as Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) in IIM Ahmedabad, Rural Technology and Business Incubator in IIT Madras, and SheLeadsTech by Facebook, NASSCOM’s 10,000 startups, to name a few, are facilitating access to mentors, funds, tools, technologies, and knowledge .
These social innovations come from various segments. These include HealthTech, CleanTech, WaterTech, and AgriTech.
The healthcare sector in India has long been an area of necessary improvement, and the pandemic has emphasised this even further. The resources currently available are insufficient to meet the needs of the vast population resulting in higher mortality and morbidity rates. The social HealthTech startups are working to bridge this gap to provide speedy and efficient services, early detection, and affordability. However, there are limitations as these can provide only primary care, diagnosis and screening services .
Key Players: iKure Techsoft, Chikitsak, Niramai, Maatritva, Bempu’s TempWatch monitors
Climate change is fast becoming an area of significant concern due to rising environmental issues, emphasising the need for sustainable development and innovation. The CleanTech startups are creating significant social impact by enabling clean and green electrification methods to develop electric mobility solutions to harness solar energy, biomass, biofuels etc..
Key Players: Solar Labs, Ecolibrium Energy, ZunRoof
The depleting groundwater levels and water scarcity in several parts of the country are exciting social tech entrepreneurs to devise solutions to conserve this precious resource and provide access to clean drinking water. It is evident that technology can save the population from an upcoming water crisis .
Key Players: Swajal, WeGoT’s IoT-based water management digital platform – VenAqua
Startups in 2020 that impacted the society
Agriculture is the livelihood of India’s majority of the population, and it is the heart of India’s social, economic and cultural foundation. The sector has been affected by droughts, lack of irrigation, and lower crop yields in recent years. Social tech startups have capitalised on the opportunities to alleviate these crises. These solutions range from affordable agricultural equipment to marketing solutions. Significant investments are being made in this segment both globally and locally .
Key Players: DeHaat, KrishiHub, Our Food, AgriBolo
- TBOF: Two Brothers Organic Farm: Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange promoted organic farming while training 9000 farmers to switch to organic and traditional fertilisers.
- ProBano: Aditya Bose started this Delhi based organisation to provide affordable career counselling to students from underprivileged backgrounds.
- Distinct Horizon: This Delhi based AgriTech startup curated the tool DH Vriddhi that places fertilisers deep into the soil using the UDP technique and thus reducing the use of fertilisers by 30-40 per cent and increasing crop productivity.
- Rural Invest: Founded by Naman Tekriwal, Raghav Sharma, Satyam Mehta, and Madhav Sharma, the startup has developed a mobile application for rural residents to invest in mutual funds through systematic investment plans (SIPs).
- Villa Mart: Dr Ramesh Chandra Biswal and Gopal Krushna Pradhan founded the startup to buy farmers produce at their doorstep for double the price and remove the middlemen from taking away the profits.