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Inspired by his own success, an Ayurvedic doctor has turned full time water conservationist

By  Kavita Kanan Chandra
Mumbai24 Feb 2015

Posted 12-Jan-2012
Vol 3 Issue 2

Little drops of water make a mighty ocean. That adage was proved right by Anil Joshi, an Ayurveda doctor in Fatehgarh village in Madhya Pradesh, who collected one rupee each from one lakh people and constructed a check dam across a local seasonal river called Somli and changed the life of the farmers.

The doctor, who repeated the success story of Fatehgarh by building 11 such dams across rivers and nullahs around the areas, has now turned a full-time water conservationist and is all out to build 100 more such check dams in other villages having water shortage.

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Courtesy : Tusna Park

It’s ingenious but, er, does it make money? Perhaps all the entrepreneurs who feature in this special package would have been asked this question at some point in their startup journey.

Kalyani Khona, who has started up Wanted Umbrella, which she claims is India’s only matrimonial agency for differently-abled people, may have had observers wondering where the money will come from. Her quick answer: “I have married a social cause and business.”

It’s ingenious but, er, why on earth would people want it? That’s a query Alpana Agarwal, co-founder of Con Affetto, which makes edible bouquets — think cupcakes, cookies, truffle — may be used to by now. Ask her about who are the potential customers and she just might tell you about the good lady who placed an order in New Delhi for her grandson’s first birthday and carried it to Jaipur.

It’s ingenious, but will it fly? That’s what Mrinal Pai must be asking himself on the odd bad day. His startup is a farsighted concept that offers custom drone products and services. Pai sees a (near) future when drones will be used to transport organs between hospitals, flying over gridlocked roads; and when you could use his service to drop a quick personalised note of endearment to your beloved. Yes, but will regulations — which have yet to be framed — allow his drones to keep flying?
These are just three of the 10 offbeat startups we’ve deep-dived into; just three of the 800-odd startups added every year; and just three of the over 3,000 startups that are trying to make it big in India.

The 10 that we’ve picked are novel, but being different or a first mover is no guarantee of being the best mover — or moving at all a few years later. After all, success rates in the world of entrepreneurship are notoriously low, as low as 10% in the tech world. And funding is no guarantee of success. CB Insights, a US-based venture capital database, reckons that companies typically die around 20 months after their last round of funding and after having raised $1.3 million.

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Kahol and his Indian engineering team built a prototype of a device called the Swasthya Slate (which translates to “Health Tablet”) in less than three months, for a cost of $11,000. This used an off-the-shelf Android tablet and incorporated a four-lead ECG, medical thermometer, water-quality meter, and heart-rate monitor. They then enhanced this with a 12-lead ECG and sensors for blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, blood haemoglobin, and urine protein and glucose. In June 2012, they sent this device to 80 medical labs for testing, which reported that it was as accurate as the medical equipment they used — but more suitable for use in remote and rural areas, because it was built for the rugged conditions there.

The Swasthya Slate is portable, affordable and offers a wide variety of tests. (Swasthya)

By January 2013, Kahol’s team had incorporated 33 diagnostic tests, including for HIV, syphilis, pulse oximetry, and troponin (relating to heart attack) into the Swasthya Slate and reduced its cost to $800 per unit. They also built a variety of artificial-intelligence–based apps for frontline health workers and started testing these in different parts of India.

In March 2014, the Indian government started a pilot of 4,250 Swasthya Slates in six districts of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a population of 2.5 million. Antenatal testing, which often took 14 days because mothers had to go from clinic to clinic for different diagnostic tests, was done in 45 minutes in a single clinic. The proportion of the time that frontline health workers spent on administrative paperwork, recording data from tests and filling out forms, was reduced from 54 percent to 8 percent of their work day. Hundreds of thousands of people gained access to medical care that had been unavailable to them.

…………..Vivek Wadhwa

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Silicon Valley insider Vivek Wadhwa tells us how India’s entrepreneurs will change the world. As we enter the most innovative period in history, Wadhwa sees an impending internet boom and millions of internet businesses coming up in India, and predicts that within a decade China’s manufacturing industry and India’s call centre industry will be toast.

From Waste to Watts: The Innovative Way One City Converts Trash Into Energy

Turns out, yard trimmings and sewer sludge can be used to power electricity plants.

By Paige Brettingen

Covington plant

Even for the most environmentally conscious residents, it’s not always easy—or possible—to recycle everything. From dead tree limbs to busted tires, most people have had to occasionally resort to using the garbage bin. But in Covington, Tenn., hard-to-recycle items are bypassing the landfill and being converted into electricity.

Though Covington has a population of just over 9,000, its biomass waste—which includes tree trimmings and sewer sludge—was adding up enough for David Gordon, who was mayor at the time, to start worrying about storage space. Also, the massive amount of waste required vehicles to transport it, putting an extra strain on the city budget.

While brainstorming solutions, Gordon learned that Covington’s 360 tons of monthly biomass waste could be repurposed thanks to a waste-to-fuel gasification system developed by Nashville-based PHG Energy.

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India needs to overcome 'white hair syndrome', Ratan Tata says

 Tata group’s chairman emeritus Ratan Tata onThursday said Indians have tremendous potential for inventions and innovations but the country needs to overcome its “white hair syndrome” which restricts opportunities.
“I have always really felt India has tremendous potential for inventions and innovations, but we never really had the opportunity because we suffer from the ‘white hair syndrome’. I have white hair (experience) and your idea is never as good as mine,” Tata said at an event where the XPrize organization launched its India chapter.

Tata said he always visualized that an Indian engineer or an inventor solving global problems.

“An Indian engineer or an inventor could solve a global problem but never had a chance to do that from India, and now this may provide a motivation for that to happen. Your ideas have been so visionary. There have always been things considered technically impossible — artificial eyes, autonomous cars, robots, application of robots, things of this nature,” he said.

“This XPrize really broke that tradition to enable a 20-year old to have a great idea and be recognized on a global level for what he has done, with no limitation on his age or wealth or his name, and makes no limitation on what he chooses to do,” Tata said at the event.

XPrize is a USA-based non-profit organization, which motivated development of ideas with large prizes, on whose board Tata serves, along with Google founder Larry Page, acclaimed movie maker James Cameron, Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post as well as PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, among others.

“For me, this is an opportunity. You are very receptive to taking XPrize to India and not restricting it to the USA. Why not look at a country like India which I think has enormous capabilities and strength,” Tata said.

Asked about what his dreams are for XPrize India, Tata said, “I think that depends on imagination. What I would like to see is that we give India, and our entrepreneurs, a chance to participate in an area that the US has excelled in, as well as an opportunity to take a chance, to undertake to do something that is considered impossible, and to achieve that in an organised manner with incentives,” Tata said.

“I would hope that one day, XPrize India becomes globally visible as a Nobel Prize and in many ways a Nobel Prize for innovation,” he said.

India has shown its innovation skills in many areas, Tata said.

“In the medical area also, it has been genome sequencing. It has always been something that is not easy to do. Dreams form a spark and you have the satisfaction of converting it into reality,” he said.

Tata said he got attracted to the XPrize as it encouraged to people and facilitated change.

“I was drawn to technological motivation coupled with the physical feat of doing something and not just doing it in a lab, but out in the real world,” he said.

Eureka! – An International Business Plan Competition

Aimed at encouraging people all around the world to unleash their inventive potential and flesh out ideas spanning multiple dimensions, Eureka! is Asia’s largest B-Plan competition as acknowledged independently by CNN and Thomson Reuters.

Designed to emulate the process of the growth of an idea towards a full-fledged startup. Eureka! prides itself on providing a 360 degree, holistic experience in the 5 month period that it spans. Right from acknowledging that your idea has potential, to writing a B-Plan, and pitching in front of an investor- this platform has it all !

Over the 15 years of its existence, Eureka has grown from a competition in which 50 teams competed for INR 50,000 , to a competition which sees over 6000 entries competing for prizes worth INR 4.5 Million with excellent networking opportunities in India and the Silicon Valley !

Eureka! now serves not only as a launch pad for budding ideas, but now has moved to be recognised as a platform for intensive learning of the entrepreneurial ecosystem by interactions and mentorship from the leaders of this field.

With the vision of promoting both business and social innovations, we follow two tracks:

  • Eureka! Business
  • Eureka! Social

Eureka! Business

The trademark of Eureka!, the business track of Eureka! is aimed at helping ideas develop into businesses that have the potential to revolutionize the world.

Eureka! Social

Now into its 4th successful year, Eureka! Social aims at helping build innovative enterprises and technology to aid the strata at the bottom of the pyramid and/or build a greener tomorrow. With associations like NSEF, Ashoka and Villgro, Eureka! Social runs as a parallel side track to Eureka! Business.

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