Kerala’s efforts towards empowering its ecosystem have been relentless even amidst the pandemic. Early this year in March, via the state’s nodal agency for startups KSUM (Kerala Startup Mission), the government of Kerala partnered with Hitachi to host APPATHON, an innovation challenge on startup ideation.
Open to startups across India, the programme saw 125 applications, out of which 25 startups presented their ideas to the panel. The APPATHON presented these startups with the typical problem areas such as working capital, customer experience, digitisation and more, which are routinely faced by small and medium businesses (SMB) and MSMEs in the country
“The APPATHON was conceived to get out of the box solutions to some of the problem statements identified by Hitachi. MSME being the backbone of the economy needs greater handholding and this APPATHON was a stepping stone towards some of the solutions which will be the need of the hour and forward,” elaborated Ashok Kurian Panjikaran, head, business development, KSUM.
“SMEs are the key pillars of India’s economic growth, contributing to innovation, employment, and GDP. The current pandemic situation has exposed existing vulnerabilities, and SMBs are struggling today to maintain their livelihood,” said Hitachi spokesperson.
Here are the three problem statements that were given to APPATHON participants:
1.Working Capital Management
- ‘Can we develop a digital solution around this problem that is both merchants friendly and gives seamless experience for managing their working capital?’
2.Supporting Digitisation Solutions For Small Merchants
- ‘Can we develop low-cost and easy-to-deploy digitalisation solutions to transform their business from offline to online?’
3.Improve End Consumer Experience
- ‘How can we improve their end-consumer experience at the time of service delivery?’
“The participation was from across the country and very interesting solutions came in. In fact, it was a hard task for us to shortlist the solutions for the challenge. KSUM definitely has more such engagement plans with Hitachi India and other corporates as well in the future,” added Kurian.
The Appathon programme involved various stages which each participating startup had to follow across the pitches.
- Backend development (Technical details)
- UI Development (Architectural wireframe design)
- Final prototype submission (Prototype screen recording video)
- Deliverables (Pitch deck, Video pitch)
The criteria for evaluation in the shortlisting phase:
- Relevance to theme
- Uniqueness and novelty
- Clarity of the proposed solution
- Demonstration quality and complexity
- Application feasibility and scalability
The criteria for evaluation in the final phase:
- Concept clarity
- Easy to use
- Expansion opportunity
- Scalability, feasibility & additional revenue generation capability
Startups Discovered At APPATHON
Fittingly, it was Kerala-based startups that grabbed the top two spots. Kochi-based Doorward Technologies and Agrima Infotech bagged the first and the first runner up place respectively. The second runner up was Bengaluru-based Yobny Tech.
“Hitachi India firmly believes that digitisation can bring in a change and a more resilient ecosystem supporting business continuity and sustainable development of the society, while ensuring high quality of life for citizens,” said the company’s spokesperson.
Here’s a closer look at the finalist startups
Founded in 2018 and incubated under KSUM, the startup focusses on the areas of credit, debit, ATM and commercial cards, including transaction processing and customer service delivery channels.
Fynamics Business Solutions
Incorporated in 2017, the Bengaluru-based startup is a platform for creating financial proposals that can help small businesses secure bank loans and investments.
Incorporated in 2020, this Thiruvananthapuram-based startup participated with an app-based solution for inventory management, cash management, accounts payable & receivable, business analytics and more, for the SMEs.
Thiruvananthapuram-based Inventlabs participated with its product ShopsApp — an ecommerce marketplace — developed in partnership with the Kerala Police during the lockdowns in 2020. The startup’s solution helped ensure social distancing by providing local shops and vendors with a platform to sell their products online with ease and customers with easy discoverability and home deliveries.
Founded in 2015, Bangaluru-based Rapidor is a SaaS product to help businesses create and manage orders, digitise product information and monitor valuable human resources and inventory.
Incorporated in 2019, this Thiruvananthapuram-based startup is enabling MSMEs to manage business workflow through a SaaS product. It also manages scheduling, service booking and payments.
Quadleo Techno Solutions
Founded in 2018, Quadleo is another startup incubated under KSUM. Its product BillerQ is a customisable subscriber/subscription management system to manage invoicing, payment collection, complaint management, subscription management, order management among others.
Founded in 2020, Spotteronline is Kollam-based software development firm that helps brands develop web applications for their custom business requirements.
Incorporated in 2020, this Kannur-based startup is providing a bidding-based marketplace platform to the SMBs through its consumer-facing product — Change Payments. Allowing users to put up their requirements on the platform, it then notifies the vendors, who can bid — providing the best prices to the user and complete the delivery. The startup is not selling anything on the platform but helping vendors reach out to more customers effectively.
Bengaluru-based Havanaa, founded in January this year, is working towards revolutionising the street vending sector by helping vendors and hawkers adapt to digital-first foodtech platforms.
Starting operations in 2019 with its HQ in Thiruvananthapuram, KC4B (Koshy’s Connect 4 Business) is a platform aiming to become a one-stop solution for businesses and offers support for analytics, digital marketing, web development, graphic designing and more.
Founded in 2019, Delhi NCR-based MH Infotech participated with its mobile application, Shoperkart. The product is built for digital inclusion of SMBs, allowing them to connect directly with their existing and new customers online.
Founded in 2020, Agritech360 is a Bengaluru-based aggregator, where farmers can post the available produce online for consumers and businesses to purchase. It also enables buyers to deal directly with farmers and cuts out the costs associated with middlemen.
Founded in 2019, this Thiruvananthapuram-based startup allows small merchants to easily onboard their products for sales, managing price and availability, managing customer complaints, managing vendor purchases and much more.
Incubated in 2019, under KSUM, the platform that provides online visibility for SME gold loan businesses so that they can reach more customers, just like bigger gold lenders.
Founded in 2012, Agrima is headquartered and based in Kochi. It participated in the challenge with its product Kirana AI. Kirana AI is an integrated system for Kirana stores that combines a payments app, weighing-scale, a computer-vision enabled camera and more.
Founded in 2016, PerfectFit Systems based in Kochi helps SMBs list their products online and create their ecommerce store in a few clicks, and sellers with product onboarding and creatives for their online listing.
Founded in 2018, Thiruvananthapuram-based Velosit’s API solution helps merchants upload their currently available items, and customers can get connected to them accordingly. Merchants can use their own or Velosit’s delivery network to deliver the orders.
Ilahi Technologies — founded in 2020 in Puducherry — provides analytical business solutions, enabling SMBs to create and execute strategies for their digital transformation, including software development to marketing solutions.
Founded in 2016 and based in Bengaluru, Antzlab participated with a product HAWKR, which displays hyperlocal flashcards and assists merchants in driving online business, as well as customers in selecting products or services based on their interests.
Incubated under KSUM, Kochi-based Doorward’s primary focus is digitising solutions for elearning. Incorporated in 2019, the startup is working on a digital platform for small merchants, especially from villages.
Founded in 2018, this Bengaluru startup provides digital queueing solutions to help businesses manage online orders. QueueOne allows businesses to create digital queues and move customer journeys on a digital platform.
Founded in 2017, Thrissur-based Travidux is providing business intelligence tools for businesses in the ecommerce market, including R&D, website designing, development & hosting, public/private cloud hosting, reselling and more.
Founded in January this year, Kozhikode-based Reviewbit helps ecommerce merchants collect post-purchase reviews and feedback through social messaging apps such as WhatsApp and others.