Bangalore: This year’s search for India’s most innovative assistive technology startups is underway with the launch today of Prosus SICA (Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility)2021.
Created last year by Prosus – in partnership with Invest India, Social Alpha and the World Health Organization – the initiative invites Indian startups with the most promising solutions in the assistive technology space to compete for an annual grant and access to the Prosus SICA mentorship programme.
With more than 70 million Indians estimated to live with some form of disability* the societal impact of improving lives and empowering people through assistive technology can be immense. Prosus SICA was recognised earlier this month as “CSR Initiative of the Year” by the AssisTech Foundation.
Prosus has committed INR 16,500,000 to the initiative over three years, and each year awards grants to three successful startups. Partners including Invest India and Social Alpha provide additional mentoring and financing opportunities, while WHO supports the programme with technical assistance.
In its inaugural edition in 2020, Prosus SICA received over 200 applications from 25 states and seven union territories across India. The top three startups recognised for their ingenuity and impact across a range of assistive technologies were Sohum Innovation Lab (Bengaluru), NeoMotion (Chennai) and Stamuri (New Delhi).
In addition to the top startups, two other finalists were enrolled into the SICA mentorship programme to benefit from Prosus’s experience in supporting entrepreneurs and helping them to succeed: Cogniable (Delhi) and Thinkerbell Solutions (Delhi).
For Prosus SICA 2021, an expert panel of judges will assemble to identify innovative startups with the most potential to positively impact the lives of persons with disabilities. (Information on the 2020 panel here). Eligible startups can submit their applications from now until 19th October. The top startups will be announced in December to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Commenting, Sehraj Singh, India Managing Director, Prosus, said: “Enabling entrepreneurs across the world to improve people’s daily lives is our mission at Prosus. Here in India, the needs of 70 million persons living with some form of disability have remained under-served despite a vibrant startup ecosystem. We believe that there can be a thriving market for assistive technologies and last year’s excellent response to our inaugural Prosus SICA initiative validated this belief. We are so proud to continue the journey this year and I encourage all entrepreneurs in the assistive technology space to join our mission by entering Prosus SICA 2021.”
Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO, Invest India, said: “The excellence of Indian ingenuity has been at the forefront. The ability of our entrepreneurs to pivot and develop impactful frugal solutions is India’s strength. This challenge will lead the way in transforming assistive technologies in the country and propel India to become a world leader in the field.”
Chapal Khasnabis, Head (a.i) Access to Assistive Technology and Medical Devices, WHO, Geneva said “Entrepreneurs across the country are attempting to innovate in a cost-effective and scalable manner to solve for the unique needs and requirements in healthcare aided through assistive technology. Prosus SICA is a unique programme that brings together industry expertise, financing and executional capabilities. We are proud to support the programme to transform India’s healthcare landscape aided by Made-In-India assistive technology for her own population and beyond.”
Manoj Kumar, Founder and CEO, Social Alpha, said, “Assistive technologies is a 25 billion dollar market globally but affordability and user experience issues hinder the market development in India, despite having a large population that needs access to high quality assistive solutions. Over the last few years, Social Alpha has been actively developing the sector through innovation curation, venture development, and financial innovation to facilitate market access and customer adoption. I am optimistic that Prosus SICA 2021 will unlock more opportunities and resources for innovators and help them go to market as they create world class solutions.”
Interested startups can learn more about Prosus SICA 2021 and the application process on https://www.startupindia.gov.in
The top three startups will be awarded grants of:
1. First prize: INR 25 Lakhs
2. Second prize: INR 18 Lakhs
3. Third prize: INR 12 Lakhs
In addition to the grant award, eligible startups receive an opportunity to work with Social Alpha, an incubator that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship across India. As incubation partner, Social Alpha can also provide up to $40,000 in equity to the top startups.
The top five finalists are also inducted into the Prosus SICA mentorship programme where they will benefit from Prosus’s experience in supporting entrepreneurs and helping them to succeed.