January 15, 2017

Pentavalent Bio Sciences emerges winner of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17

  • Fifth edition of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge attracted 214 impact proposals
  • Grand-finale recognises India’s most promising early-stage social ventures

Kolkata: Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17, a joint initiative of the Tata group and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), celebrated India’s most promising early-stage social enterprises, which could bring about long-term solutions to India's social needs.

Members of Pentavalent Bio Sciences, winner of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17, receiving prize money from Harish Bhat, brand custodian, Tata Sons

The grand finale of the fifth edition of the programme held on January 14, 2017, at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), saw Pentavalent Bio Sciences Private from Bangalore (winner), Arogya Medtech from Kolkata (1st runner-up), and Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) from Mumbai (2nd runner-up), emerge as the winning ventures, receiving prize money of Rs2.5 lakh, Rs2 lakh and Rs1.5 lakh, respectively (detailed profiles attached in Annexure 1).

This year’s edition received over 600 registrations from across India, out of which 214 met all the eligibility criteria and moved to the next round of the competition. These impact proposals were in the area of agriculture, food and dairy; healthcare, water and sanitation; technology and development; education and skills development; housing; handicrafts; and energy and microfinance/financial inclusion, among others. The ventures were judged on three parameters – business model, social impact and sustainability.


Maximum of 20 teams were selected for semi-finals and were provided a 3-week mentorship support including 1 day at IIM Calcutta campus.
Funding opportunity
All teams shortlisted for the semi-finals and finals are given an opportunity to pitch to India’s largest social VCs for seed funding.
The top 20 teams will be given an opportunity to pitch for incubation at IIM Calcutta.
Cash Awards
The total prize money is Rs6 lakh for the top three teams. The semi-finalists received travel grants.

The top 20 teams were mentored by Startup Wave Platform, Unitus Seed Fund and pool of mentors from IIM Calcutta Innovation Park. The Social VC partners of the initiative were Villgro, Intellecap, Ankur Capital, Yunus Social Business, Unitus Seed Fund and Ennovent. The teams also had an opportunity to network with mentors, experts and fellow social entrepreneurs.

Apart from the top 3 winning ventures, the seven ventures that have made it to the top 10 finalists are:

  1. Genrich Membranes, Pune
  2. Aavishkar, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
  3. ONganic Foods, Kolkata
  4. ClassIQ Educational Foundation, Kolkata
  5. Scidogma Research, Bangalore
  6. Lumisoft Technologies, Bangalore
  7. Saathi Eco Innovations, Ahmedabad

(Detailed profiles of the ventures are attached in Annexure 1).

Pentavalent Bio Sciences, winner of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17, is a Bangalore-based social enterprise. Pentavalent Bio Sciences is a fully integrated biotech start-up that provides innovative solutions from discovery to development, leveraging cutting-edge science, cost effective molecular diagnostics and new ideas and technologies in the diagnostics market.

They are currently developing an innovative diagnostic tool using novel in-house FlapCut technology that detects tuberculosis (TB) in patients and helps doctors to prescribe patient-specific antibiotics for treatment.

Ecstatic with her win, Bhavani PV said, “This exposure was really required. The Jury’s input and mentoring helped us a lot in improving our business model. Initially it was only us who believed in our product, but Tata Social Enterprise Challenge helped us to believe that our product can reach the end user.”

First runner-up Arogya Medtech, a Kolkata based venture, has developed a product called CEREBROS, a low-cost, less resource intensive, portable, radiation free, non-invasive, multi-modal (Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) and Electroencephalography (EEG/EOG)) brain-scanning device in the form a wearable head-gear, optimised using a proprietary embedded system and ‘smart’ algorithms.

Rajib Sengupta, representing the venture, said, “It was an awesome experience. It’s great to know that there is such a great platform in Eastern India for social entrepreneurship. It’s good to see more and more startups in Bengal; a lot of new and innovative startups are coming up and this platform is going to give us the right impetus.”

The second runner-up position was won by Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) from Mumbai. BOHECO is India’s first industrial and medicinal hemp (cannabis) company, established in 2013. Located in Mumbai the company works with central and state governments to assist farmers to improve their socio-economic standards by utilising cultivation of cannabis for industrial, construction and pharmaceutical purposes.

Jahan Pestonjamas, representing the venture, said, “It was a comprehensive learning experience, the environment was very comfortable and positive. The faculty and academia brought forth the knowledge and experience, and the impact investors who are very relevant to our fields have come into the fore. Also, the fact that that so many varieties of social enterprises have come together on the stage, speaks volumes about the success of the competition as a whole. And of course, it drives us to come back with a new idea and do better.”

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Ashok Banerjee, director, IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, said, “Over the last five years, Tata Social Enterprise Challenge has encouraged many budding entrepreneurs to grow with a vision and create positive sustainable social impact. As we reach this 5-year milestone, we are encouraged with the quality of talent and the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs to make a difference from all across the country and even from overseas. We have also launched, this year, the INVENT programme in association with the Department for International Development (DFID), UK. This three-year programme, which has a total budget of Rs12 crore, aims at providing seed funding support of up to Rs25 lakh to for-profit social enterprise start-ups being incubated under this programme.”

Felicitating the winners, Harish Bhat, brand custodian, Tata Sons, said, “Social entrepreneurship provides an opportunity to provide solutions for critical needs being faced by our society through innovation and enterprise. Tata Social Enterprise Challenge took shape five years ago, with the idea of fostering an ecosystem for early stage social start-ups, in line with our ethos of giving back to society and creating sustainable and meaningful social impact.  The tangible results seen from the ventures identified, mentored and incubated on this platform, encourages us to strengthen our efforts along with our partner IIM-C, towards creating a meaningful social impact.”

The ceremony saw talks by inspiring leaders in the space of social entrepreneurship like Poonam Bir Kasturi, founder of Daily Dump; Sujoy Santra, CEO of iKure, and some of the finalists of the past editions of the challenge including Bodhi Healthcare, ERC Eyecare and Green Agrevolution, among others.

Background on Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17

Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17 kicked-off on August 11, 2016, and invited social entrepreneurs who either had an early stage venture (not older than 3 years) or a promising idea with a plan that could create sustainable social impact in India. Impact proposals (detailed business plans) were invited in the areas of education, health, agriculture, technology, sanitation, and handicrafts, among others. 

The challenge was divided into three rounds:

  • Round 1: Teams were required to submit impact proposals online in the format specified
  • Round 2 – semi-finals: From an initial shortlist of 40 teams, 20 teams were selected 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 – grand finale: 10 teams from the 20 semi-finalists were selected for the finals and out of these the three winning teams were selected by an eminent jury panel.

Background on Tata Social Enterprise Challenge

Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, a unique initiative undertaken jointly by an educational institution and a business group, is a quest to find India’s most promising early-stage social enterprises. It endeavours to create an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and encourage sustainable, scalable and measurable social impact. Started in 2012, Tata Social Enterprise Challenge received 214 impact proposals this year, and in all over 900 impact proposals across the five editions have been received till date.

To expand its reach and impact, Tata Social Enterprise Challenge through its R.A.C.E campaign (RoundtablesAwarenessChallengeEngage) conducts a series of seminars and roundtables across India on the theme of ‘Thinking Social’, bringing together social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and members from the academia, industry and business from across the country on one platform.

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