The size of its demography and unmet demands for social and economic services make India a fertile ground for social impact investing.
Priority sectors such as primary education, health, housing, water and sanitation cry out for funds which governments are not able to summon on their own.
This has opened up big opportunities for private entrepreneurial play. Startups are best placed to provide innovative and unorthodox solutions to fill development gaps here.
They have made a good account of themselves in Kerala, offering solutions in sectors as varied as rural IT infrastructure, manual scavenging, solar-enabled mobility and traffic emergencies.
While tech start-ups have become synonymous with urban areas that offer improved access to talent, resources and infrastructure, rural areas are catching up, as exemplified by the success of Corporate360, a sales-tech company.
Based in rural Kerala, Corporate360 offers SaaS-based marketing data cloud software for B2B marketers. Tency Tomson, Content Manager, says the start-up seeks to promote meaningful job creation in the rural outback.
Women empowerment is another professed aim, with 80 per cent of employed being women. The startup provides digital learning for rural youth, grants them internships and trainee opportunities for being job-ready.
Areas covered include computer training, communication, digital data tasks, design jobs, digital marketing and Big Data. Over 50 youth from nearby villages have been employed as full-timers. At least 150 more jobs have been created, impacting 600 family members.
Another social impact model leads the solar boat revolution in India. Water transport is energy-intensive, and one of the most pragmatic solutions here is a solar ferry, pioneered by Navgathi, a local designer of boats and marine constructions. Aditya, India’s first solar-powered 75-seater ferry boat designed by the Kochi-based startup in association with joint venture partners, has recently completed one year of successful operations in the placid waters of the Vembanad lake.
Separately, a group of engineers from the State has designed a spider-shaped robot called Bandicoot that cleans up manholes and sewers. It has debuted successfully in in Thiruvananthapuram.
The robot, which takes 15 minutes to clear up small sewers and around 45 minutes to unclog bigger ones, was developed by Genrobotics, a company founded by nine young engineers two years ago.
The youngsters may have found a way to ending the dehumanising practice of manual scavenging. But they also didn’t want the labourers to go without work; so they made the user interface of the robots so simple that the latter could operate them.
Another start-up, Traffitizer, has developed a unique solution to help ambulances navigate through heavy road traffic. The Traffitizer- Emergency Response System (T-ERS) is a centralised Internet of Things (IoT)-based system.
It employs artificial intelligence at different levels, and enables automatic switching of traffic lights to green for ambulances to pass through.
All that an ambulance driver has got to do to turn on the T-ERS configured in the ambulance unit. Traffic junctions will automatically initiate a green channel when the ambulance enters a pre-defined zone near a traffic junction.