January 17, 2014

MicroXlabs from Bangalore, Bodhi Health Care from Gurgaon and Green Agrevolution from Patna declared winners of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2013-14

  • MicroXlabs from Bangalore, Bodhi Health Care from Gurgaon and Green Agrevolution from Patna declared as the top three most promising social ventures
  • National-level competition to discover India’s most promising early-stage social enterprises, the second edition of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge attracted over 160 entries
  • Apart from mentorship support and cash grants, social entrepreneurs identified at the challenge will have a chance to pitch for incubation at IIM Calcutta and interact with venture capitalists

Kolkata: The winners of the second edition of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, hosted by the Tata group in partnership with the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), were announced today at a grand closing ceremony at IIM Calcutta. The challenge aims at discovering, encouraging and mentoring the next generation of social entrepreneurs, and the top three winners were MicroXlabs, Bodhi Health Care and Green Agrevolution, winning prize money of Rs1.75 lakh, Rs1.25 lakh and Rs1 lakh, respectively. The ceremony featured special talks by Dr Harish Hande, co-founder and managing director, SELCO India, and Shankar Venkateswaran, chief, Tata Sustainability Group.

The first prize winner, MicroXlabs, developed a technology to count blood cells based on the upcoming technology of lab on chip and micro electro mechanical systems, which miniaturises the instrument with all the reagents pre-loaded in the cartridge, providing ease of use, portability and low cost, making it useful for rural health care and also usable at point of care. Elated at their victory, Prabhat Kumar and Prakhar Jain from MicroXlabs, Bangalore, the first prize winners, said, “We are very happy that our idea has won the first prize in the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge this year. This is very encouraging for students like us, both in terms of getting recognised and winning patronisation of big names like the Tata group and the Indian Institute of Management.”

On their future plans for their social venture, the second prize winners, Abhinav Girdhar and Shrutika Girdhar from Gurgaon said, “We have started Bodhi Health Care taking into account the low literacy levels of health workers. Complex medical topics have been explained using simple, illustrative videos, which connect to the bottom of the pyramid segment and their issues. The concepts are explained in regional languages and with minimum content to be read. We would like to continue working towards creating resources which are helpful for them as we believe that learned and confident health workers will make the society better.”

The third prize winner, Shashank Kumar is from Patna. Commenting on his project, he said, “Green Agrevolution’s entire business model is based on the gap between growers and consumers of food and the agriculture sector. On one side they provide support to growers during the production cycle and by doing so they also assure quality production as per the market demand. On the other side, they supply quality products directly to the end users without any intermediaries. Hence buyers get competitive prices and high quality as well.”

The Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2013-14 kicked off in October 2013, and invited social entrepreneurs who either had an early stage venture (not older than three years) or a promising idea with a plan that could create sustainable social impact in India. There is no restriction on the business model and it can be for-profit, not-for-profit or even hybrid, but it is necessarily required to demonstrate significant social impact through results or proof of concept. Impact proposals (detailed business plans) were invited in the areas of education, health, agriculture, technology, sanitation, and handicrafts, among others.

This year’s edition attracted over 160 entries from across India, including Assam, Odisha, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata, among others, and an entry from Bulgaria, showing wide interest in the area of social entrepreneurship. The challenge was divided into three rounds:
Round 1: Teams were required to submit impact proposals online in the format specified.

Round 2 — the semi-finals: Twenty teams were selected from round one to go through a three-week mentorship programme. These teams pitched to a panel of esteemed judges consisting of social venture capitalists, social entrepreneurs, Tata executives and faculty from IIM Calcutta.

Round 3 — the grand finale: Ten teams from the 20 semi-finalists were selected for the finals and out of these the three winning teams were selected. The 10 teams pitched to a panel of esteemed judges, including CS practitioners, social venture capitalists and entrepreneurs and faculty from IIM Calcutta.

The ventures were judged on three parameters — business model, social impact and sustainability. Apart from the top three winning ventures, the seven ventures that made it to the top 10 were Mobile Harvest, Pollinate Energy, NewLeaf, Pragathi HandyCrafts, Chipo Labs, ERC Eye Care and eSwaraj.

Over 20 established social entrepreneurs, IIM Calcutta faculty and mentors from various mentorship organisations were engaged in mentoring the top 20 teams. The social VC partners of the initiative were Acumen Fund, Ankur Capital, Ennovent, Villgro and Yunus Social Business Fund Mumbai. The teams also got an opportunity to network with mentors, experts and fellow social entrepreneurs.

The final two days of the event included sessions and workshops by eminent speakers, including Paul Basil, founder and CEO of Villgro; Professor Paul Lillrank, Aalto University, Finland; and Manoj Sinha, co-founder of Husk Power Systems. Professor Saibal Chattopadhyay, director, IIM Calcutta, Dr Hande and Mr Venkateswaran gave away the awards to the winners.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Venkateswaran, said, “The Tata group is very happy to host the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge jointly with IIM Calcutta. This year the programme is in its second year and holds special reference to us since this is the 175th birth anniversary of Jamsetji Tata who believed in the ideology that ‘community is not just another stakeholder in business but the very purpose of its existence’.” He further cited entrepreneurship promotion examples by Tata companies, including the Okhai enterprise in Saurashtra and affirmative action programmes.

In addition to mentorship, investment opportunities, incubation opportunities and cash awards, during the course of the initiative, the finalists of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge will receive continued support from IIM Calcutta, post the event, through cells on campus, including entrepreneurship cell (mentorship support) and INCA (pro-bono consulting).

The Tata Social Enterprise Challenge is a unique initiative, undertaken jointly by an educational institution and a business group, to promote the spirit of social entrepreneurship in India.

For more details and updates on the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, please log on to http://www.tatasechallenge.org/.