Startup Buzz

 Dominick Rodrigues |  2016-05-01 19:28:00.0  |  New Delhi

Startup Buzz

Start-ups are the new watchword in the continuously-emerging business arena of the Indian industry with the Central government urging entrepreneurs – young and old – to rise up to the challenges facing the country in the wake of the economic downturn worldwide. Leveraging technology to help create healthy, responsible communities in the country is one such startup – Chandigarh-based Trestor – which has embarked on a “Mission Clean” community-driven initiative facilitated by a "Swachh Machine" that has been developed by it in association with students of IIT Bombay. Trestor has developed this machine under the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign to involve and empower people in keeping public places clean, while also providing them ready access to clean drinking water.

Trestor founder Kunal Dixit said that through this 'Swachh Machine', the emphasis would be on inculcating a culture of cleanliness among people by incentivising them for every used bottle or aluminium can (recyclable waste) they put in the machine, in lieu of which they will be rewarded with a digital value token called ‘trest’, which can also be exchanged for 300 ml of clean drinking water. “Lack of access to clean drinking water is a major problem across the country, particularly in large cities like Mumbai which are bursting at the seams. The state of cleanliness and the proactive role people can play in maintaining it, leaves a lot to be desired. Our 'Swachh Machine' is aimed at bridging these gaps.”

The 'Swachh Machine', which is currently being used in the boys’ hostels of IIT Mumbai, has already helped reduce their weekly plastic waste by over 10 kg. With a storage and recycling unit at the bottom and an RO water filtration unit at the top, this Machine is equipped with a seven inch interactive touch screen and internet connectivity, besides an NFC (near field communication) and bluetooth interface for unhindered connectivity and a notification system for administrators to alert them on usage and maintenance.

“So as to earn trests as a reward for disposing of used cans or bottles in the machine, you can log in with your Trestor user ID through the interactive screen on the 'Swachh Machine' and connect it with the Trestor application on your mobile phone, following which the number of trests you have earned will be transferred to your account. You can also get 300 ml of water in return for every bottle or you can dispose of in the machine after putting the Trest token slip you get in return into another slot. The coupons can also be redeemed in the app by adding the coupon code,” Dixit explained.

The recycling unit, which has separate compartments for plastic bottles and aluminium cans, can crush bottles and cans of a maximum capacity of one litre. The collected waste is then crushed to occupy minimum space, and an automated notification is sent to the administrator of the machine when the container reaches 80 per cent of its storage capacity. The container is easily detachable and can be directly emptied in a carriage vehicle for recycling. The water dispenser, equipped with RO and UV filtration, has a storage capacity of eight litres and can provide cold or normal water as per demand. It can be further connected with a source of flowing water to ensure uninterrupted clean drinking water.

Dixit said this initiative would prove to be very beneficial for people in public places like metro stations which lack adequate access to clean drinking water owing to unclean storage systems. He said many government institutions and private companies have evinced keen interest in 'Swachh Machine' and his company has initiated the process of signing letters of intent with some of them.

Trestor, he said, has adopted this social business model entailing community-driven initiatives powered by trest, India’s first indigenous digital value token developed by the Trestor team after two years of painstaking research. Building on the very power of communities to empower them, Trestor has set out to tap the potential of communities as a tremendous resource by incentivising people for connecting with each other. Powered by trest, this social business model demonstrates what communities can achieve through collective effort. The mobile application developed by Trestor enables people to earn in trests through community building activities. The start-up has embarked on community-driven initiatives like urban organic farming (Trestor Grow) and community intranet (Trestor Connect), for which it is providing all the necessary infrastructure and technical support. Trestor’s refreshingly distinctive social entrepreneurship model originated as a pilot project in February 2015. With 27 full-time employees in the age group of 18-33, Trestor is an initiative powered by a like-minded, young brigade drawn from elite institutions like IITs and BITS Pilani and leading companies like Amazon, Flipkart and Housing.com.

Yet another startup that was in the limelight recently was PrivyPlex which, in developing solutions for connecting global celebrities with their fans, brought in India’s star cricketer Virat Kohli as its partner through the launch of its first-of-a-kind “Virat FanBox.” Upmanyu Misra, Co-Founder and Chairman of PrivyPlex, described the Singapore-based start-up as one that works with top sports persons, actors, artists and performers in diverse spheres around the world to develop unique solutions to bring them closer to their fans. He said this Fanbox, which is priced at Rs 16,999, comprises a one-year subscription to the Virat FanBox Club (that gives its members unprecedented access to Virat, both online and in real life), a Moto G Turbo Virat Kohli Edition smartphone, the Virat FanBox app, a miniature bat autographed by Virat Kohli and a welcome letter signed by the cricketer.

Expressing excitement to be the first company worldwide to enable such intimacy between the fan and celebrity, Ahmed Arab, Co-Founder and CEO of PrivyPlex, said that for the first time ever, PrivyPlex is empowering the celebrities to ‘own’ a platform where they can engage and interact with their fans with far greater intimacy and openness. This start-up raised a seed funding from Dubai-based Elyseum Capital Partners in 2015.

Describing the FanBox  as his personal endeavour to get closer to fans by connecting and chatting with them and even meeting them in real life, Virat Kohli said this was the venture that highlighted his aim in growing the way he sought to, on and off the cricketing field while also positively encouraging and motivating his fans. “I learnt over time that honesty is the best policy but there is also a need to keep out senseless comments. I am looking forward to watch all biopics including Azaharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar whom I idolised as a youngster. Real Madrid is my favourite football club,” he said in fielding questions from the media that had him scoring boundaries and sixers in his vocal responses, which brought echoes of laughter from his audience.

Startups Conquering the World
India is likely to witness over 11,500 start-ups ecosystem by the year 2020, according to a conference on Business Labs comprising Investor, Incubator start-ups ecosystem organised in Delhi during end of 2016 to highlight specific areas of growth opportunities and challenges being faced in and by the incubation ecosystem. With India becoming the world’s fastest growing start-up ecosystem country today, Startup India is the new buzzword by the government of India and the numbers are telling – from 3,100 startups in 2014 to a projection of more than 11,500 by 2020 – that this is certainly not a passing trend. Venture capital investments in India reached Rs 15,600 crore ($2363) till June 2015, surpassing the total Rs 14,850 crore ($2250) invested in entire 2014, setting the stage for another record year as interest in local technology start-ups peak. 

Noting that India needs several-fold increase in mechanisms such as incubation and acceleration that can assimilate entrepreneurs to make them globally successful, Dr Raghunandan Rajamani, Executive Director, Indian Steps & Business Incubators Association, described Incubation in India as being not more than a decade old, but also having – and being able to create – a huge impact. 

“Incubation in healthcare and life sciences is far too complex if we were to compare it with IT. Healthcare is a very social subject – hence tightly regulated and needs a completely different and dynamic ecosystem to take the product from bench-side to bed-side.

Themed Creating Value 360, the Incubation India 2015 conference provided an opportunity for interactive discussions and insights on incubation trends, solutions and unique initiatives. Various key decision-makers, start-ups, incubators, VC’s and young entrepreneurs were a part of this first-of-its-kind niche Conference – “Incubating in Healthcare sector: Opportunities and Challenges” – in India to discuss Initiatives taken to promote the concept of technology and business incubation in India, marketing and communication strategies for early stage start-ups.

Kapil Malhotra, Founder Marketing Director, Total Solutions Group, said that  TSG had – over the past decade – been investing in start-ups ranging from telecom, FMCG, IT, skill development as India is at the perfect point to offer entrepreneurs opportunities for growth through incubation that has not been previously available. “Events like Incubation India are the perfect platform for bringing entrepreneurs, incubators, funders and mentors together. We believe that many of the start-ups present today will become unicorns of the future,” he added.

Israel looks to collaborate with Nabard
In another agricultural start-up, Israel evinced keen interest in working along with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), through its plans to expand the number of “Centres for Excellence” to promote its technologies in dairy farming, post-harvest and water management.

"Israel has succeeded in making its desert bloom fruitfully and hopes to recreate this in the drought-affected Indian landscape with its technology, besides establishing 15 more Centres of Excellence in Agriculture in India through collaboration with various states," Uri Ariel, Israel Minister of Agriculture, said in Mumbai recently.

“We need to survey the drought-affected areas in India and see how best we can employ our technology that has successfully created green farming in Israel,” the Minister told Millennium Post, adding that Israel’s success in making its desert a verdant environment – despite less or no rainfall – lay in its key strengths and courage of its beliefs and practices prevailing from thousands of years ago that had led to its achievements in agriculture.

“The combination of Jewish beliefs and scientific ability, coupled with India-Israel collaboration, can help achieve greater success and forward outlook for both countries. We have found an excellent potential partner here in NABARD and are discussing cooperation in R&D, agricultural startups, post-harvest technologies, water reclamation and water issues to provide solutions,” he said.

To a question whether Israel could help Indian farmers – in regard to crop failures due to bad monsoons, and also preventing farmers’ suicides, the Minister said that once the specific farming industry problems were identified, both India and Israel could collaborate in solving them successfully as it had done in Israel – which Indian agricultural industry and media needed to witness first-hand for itself.

The Minister had made a quick visit to NABARD in Mumbai during his Indian whistle-stop tour, while heading a 17-member Israeli delegation to explore opportunities for collaboration in the field of agro-technologies and water conservation technologies. He was accompanied by Daniel Carmon, Ambassador of Israel to India; Shlomo Beneliyahu, Head of the Agriculture Ministry, Israel; Gil Haskal, Head of Mashav, the Agency for International Cooperation, Israel; Yakov Poleg, Director of CINADCO (wing of the Ministry of Agriculture in Israel), and David Akov, Israeli consul-general in Mumbai.

The delegation discussed expanding the Agricultural Centres of Excellence supported by the governments of Israel and India, dissemination of critical Israeli technologies in water management, water purification technologies, promoting Israeli dairy technologies and post-harvest technologies. The discussions related to building capacities of farmers, bankers and appropriate instruments for financing the technologies for use in the Indian context. The team also explored NABARD’s interest in leveraging Israeli R&D fund for adapting Israeli technologies to the Indian context. The delegation offered to build capacities of Indian stakeholders in Israel and in India. 

Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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