Home to more than 1.3 billion citizens, India has the unique demographic advantage of having one of the most productive and talented workforces in the world that has been a key driver for its economic growth. These professionals have been making strides across sectors and worldwide, turning the country into a major talent hub.
As encouraging as these observations are, they leave out millions of Indians who are unable to lead productive lives due to a disability. As per Census 2011, the population of persons with disabilities (PwDs) in India is 26.8 million. However, new conservative estimates show that over 70 million Indians live with some form of disability.
The number is even higher globally. Over one billion people – about 15 percent of the global population – live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organisation.
PwDs have special requirements that might not always be accessible. The inequitable access to several basic facilities often impacts their socio-economic development and puts them in an unfair position skill-wise. In the absence of the required support, it is not uncommon to see them losing out on education and employment opportunities.
With its ability to drive impact with limited resources, technology has emerged as an agent of social change when it comes to empowering those with special needs. At the same time, a growing startup ecosystem like India’s has led to the rise of several disruptive assistive technology solutions that have enabled PwDs to live with dignity.
To that end, Prosus is partnering yet again with Social Alpha, Invest India and World Health Organization for Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (SICA) 2021 that aims to support startups working in the assistive technology sector in their growth journey and foster a culture of innovation in this underserved sector. The challenge will be launched in a virtual event on August 30, 2021 at 4.15pm to invite Indian startups to apply for the challenge.
Making technology more accessible
Launched in August 2020, SICA is an annual challenge seeking to recognise startups building disruptive solutions in the assistive technology space and helping them innovate at scale. Prosus has committed Rs 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.
What’s in store for startups
The challenge represents an opportunity for growth that can open up new avenues for the participants. The participating startups can look forward to:
- Grants for the Top 3 startups
- A chance to participate in a custom mentorship program led by Prosus
- Guidance to refine business models, achieve a better product-market fit and scale
- A chance to receive follow on funding of Rs 90 lakh from Social Alpha
- An opportunity to connect with Prosus and SICA partners’ network of professionals
The finalists will also get a chance to stay connected with Prosus via its SICA LENS program — that aims to build a community of assistive technology startups by bringing together top SICA startups from past challenges.
To learn more about what SICA is looking for, read more about the top startups from SICA 2020 below.
Eyeing bigger milestones after a successful start
SICA believes in the potential of Indian entrepreneurs and is committed to addressing their needs for ecosystem support. The initiative seeks to empower startups that could shape the future of technology across sectors.
After a successful maiden run, the challenge returns this year with the same ethos. SICA’s first cohort of startups featured a bunch of talented entrepreneurs with a knack for leveraging innovation for social progress.
In last year’s challenge, Sohum Innovation Lab bagged the top spot and a grant of Rs 25 lakh for a unique device to detect hearing impairment in newborns and children via a 90-second non-invasive screening process.
Meanwhile, the second spot went to NeoMotion which managed to impress SICA’s jury with an impactful solution. The startup received a grant of Rs 18 lakh for its a customised wheelchair. The product stood out for offering a bespoke solution in a market which was filled with ‘one size fits all’ offerings. The wheelchair was designed to ensure that the user had an accurate posture while sitting and enhanced mobility, while conserving energy.
The third startup to have made it to the Top 3 was Stamurai, which impressed the jury with its cost-effective and accessible speech therapy app that addressed the needs of those with speech and language disabilities. As opposed to one-to-one speech therapy which is often expensive, Stamurai offers automated solutions and serves as a personalised, digital coach for the user. The startup received Rs 12 lakh in grant money.
If you are interested in knowing how startups in India are leveraging assistive technology for a more accessible and inclusive India, register now for the SICA launch event