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Solving The Big Issues: How Tech Startups Are Using KSUM Support For Social Innovation


Since its inception, KSUM has focussed on the social innovation sector to help the state and the country counter social issues

It not only promotes idea-stage startups in the social tech sector but also helps established ones grow and scale-up

Currently, more than 150 startups in the state are working in the social innovation sector

Technology has disrupted our lives for the better but it has not managed to get rid of all our problems. While it has definitely made the information data flow easier, there is a lot that technology can do to improve the everyday lives of citizens, particularly those who need help the most. With the many environmental, social and economic issues on the rise, more focus is being put on the innovations that are focussing on providing solutions for these. Riding on this wave many startups have emerged to solve the issues and are being supported by the government.

In this regard, Kerala has gone a step ahead to help startups in the social tech and innovation field. With its nodal agency, Kerala Startup Mission or KSUM, the government is not only helping startups understand where to focus when it comes to social innovation but is also enabling them to go to market with their products and services.

Since its inception in 2015, the agency has been focussing on social issues and innovations, be it on women entrepreneurship, rural development, student entrepreneurship and more.

How KSUM Startups Are Making A Difference

To boost the social tech innovation sector in the state, KSUM is providing them with various benefits such as mentorship, connecting them to corporate giants, participation in various events and more.

National Coconut Challenge 2019

At the recently-concluded National Coconut Challenge 2019, KSUM invited startups and entrepreneurs to come forward and provide innovative solutions, with the help of tech, to the ailing coconut agriculture sector of the state, one of the key contributors to Kerala’s economy.

The event had many benefits such as:

  • Top three teams get prize up to INR 3 Lakhs
  • Top 10 teams get an opportunity to pitch for Innovation Grant of up to INR 12 Lakh
  • Seed support of up to INR 25 Lakhs for selected teams
  • Top 10 ideas to get exposure during international conferences
  • Opportunity to seek support from government agencies

Rural Innovators Meet

KSUM in association with The Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) hosts an annual programme, Rural Innovators Meet (RIM). The focus of RIM is to promote innovative minds from the rural part of the state. It gives them a platform to showcase and present their ideas, network with stalwarts as well as fellow innovators and more. It also helps them in gaining mentorship relating to various challenges from experienced entrepreneurs.

Startup Dreams Project

KSUM in association with Scheduled Caste Development Department (SCDD) of the government of Kerala is implementing the project ‘Startup Dreams’. This is a startup incubation programme which focusses on the SC community. It includes execution of incubation programmes, conduction of various training, workshops, sessions, business connect/networks, setting up and connecting various R&D Labs, branding and other operational activities.

Grants And Funds

Apart from helping the startups with incubation and acceleration, the government is providing the startups with grants and funds to help them with their products and funds.

  • Innovation Grant: KSUM provides innovative startups with a non-repayable grant of up to INR 12 Lakhs to help them scale their products and innovation
  • Government-As-A-Marketplace: In this initiative, the government asks startups to build products for them and post-signing a tenure, provides them with funds of up to INR 1 Cr to build the products
  • R&D Grants: To help startups with research and development, KSUM provides startups with a non-repayable grant of up to INR 30 Lakhs

Other Measures To Help Social Innovation

There are various other measures through which the startups can take their social innovation products and services to as many people and markets.

  • Sponsorship for national and international business seminars, events and workshops
  • Market access support and incubation
  • Seed loans
  • Accelerator programmes
  • Hardware purchase support and media and PR support
  • Mentorship
  • Networking with the industry

Some Social Innovation Startups From The KSUM Portfolio

Through its various initiatives and policies, KSUM has enabled more than 150 startups working in the social innovation sector in the state. Some of them are:

Embright Infotech

A tech-driven startup recognised by Startup India, Embright specialises in products and services related to virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, AI and IoT. Focussing on assistive tech products related to the well-being and healthcare sector, it develops therapy modules for people suffering from autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Benefits From KSUM:

  • Participation in Gitex Dubai
  • 1 year moratorium period seed loan
  • Part of the K Accelerator Programme
  • Innovation Grant
  • Government-As-A-Marketplace Grant
  • Purchased by Kerala Social Security Mission

DAAD: Digital Arts Academy For The Deaf

Operating from KSUM’s incubation programme in Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, DAAD is developing a unique web-based application for the deaf. Its app focuses on providing computer courses in the Indian Sign Language (ISL). The uniqueness of DAAD’s product is that it is developed entirely by the deaf, all three of its founders as well as six of their eight employees are deaf.

It also offers online certificate courses on popular job-oriented computer topics, such as basic programming and Adobe Photoshop. The videos and tutorials are in the ISL with English subtitles. The startup is working towards developing an AI-based tool that will automatically translate spoken languages to the ISL.

Benefits From KSUM:

  • Part of the incubation programme of KSUM
  • Idea grant of INR 2 Lakhs
  • Hardware purchase support
  • Media outreach and PR support
  • Industry connect to scale their product globally

GenRobotics Innovations

GenRobotic Innovations specialises in the design and development of robotic solutions to address the most pressing social issues. Its solutions combine the use of robotics and AI. Their product ‘Bandicoot’ is a semi-robotic device with a human-controlled interface to clean manholes. Launched in multiple states in the country, Bandicoot is solving the pressing issue in society to eradicate manual scavenging.

According to the startup, its latest G2 (generation two) model is capable of performing multifarious tasks such as handling logistics in combat military operations, at construction sites, perform roles for firefighting and rescue missions and more.

Benefits From KSUM:

  • Scale-up grant of INR 12 Lakhs
  • International business support
  • Government-As-A-Marketplace Grant: The startup got work order from the Kerala water authority
  • INR 4.28 Lakhs grant from Kerala water authority innovation zone

I Love 9 Months:

A maternity wellness organisation, I Love 9 Months has developed an m-health app through which it is providing maternity and antenatal wellness services and tips to millions of women irrespective of their socio-economic status. The services are in line with UNICEF’s ‘priority interventions’ during the critical window between pre-conception to post-pregnancy. The app also acts as a medium through which the government can monitor real-time data which can be used for policy development on health care initiatives.

Benefits From KSUM:

  • INR 5 Lakhs 1 year moratorium period seed loan
  • INR 7 Lakhs productisation grant
  • 2 international business delegation sponsorship

Future Focus Of KSUM In The Social Innovation Sector

KSUM has been the biggest enabler for innovative startups in Kerala over the years. Through its focus on the social innovation sector, the agency is helping the country counter the many social issues that plague the country.

Elaborating on this, Ashok Kurian Panjikaran, head, business linkages and incubation, KSUM said, “Our focus has been on social innovations and impacts for society since the very beginning. Initiatives such as Government-As-A-Marketplace have extended the scope of social startups in the state. Going further, we aim to expand the focus to more segments from the sector and invite startups and corporates from across the country to be part of our initiatives.”

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