Mumbai, April 17, 2013. Competing for the Sankalp-Artha Grand Prize Award are enterprises that together form a vibrant mix of companies looking to solve important grassroot problems, from ‘bio-breaks’ to ‘honey traps’ and more. At the Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013, startups in the space compete not just for recognition and cash prizes but also to catch the eye of impact investors, hidden among the 1,000 odd delegates that are attending India’s biggest international social entrepreneurship summit at The Renaissance Powai in suburban Mumbai.
It’s hard to favour one over another. But the hottest favourites this year seem to be Banka Bioloo, a social enterprise that is the first to commercialise Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Bio-digester technology for human waste management, and Barrix Agro Sciences, which has revolutionised pest management with its pheromone product. Amid applause, D Mayil Vaganan of BARRIX AGRO SCIENCES walked away with not one but two prizes – The Sankalp Award in the agriculture, food and rural business category and The Villgro Award for the innovative enterprise of the year. The company’s pheromone product Barrix fruit fly trap targets 83 species of fruit crop pests while its vegetable fly traps take care of 226 species of vegetable pests.
So far, the company has served around 15,000 farmers, selling around 50,000 traps in 16 districts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Asked how Barrix Agro Sciences’ products are different from those of Pest Control of India, Vaganan said, “Ours is an extended release product and covers a larger area over a longer period of time.” He did not forget to remind the audience that only 2% of the pesticides used on crops kills pests. The rest finds its way back to our plates! Namita Banka of BANKA BIOLOO which won the Sankalp Award in the closely-contested health, water and sanitation category, raised a stink when she told the audience that toilet waste water could be used to water the vegetable garden. Of course, she recommended that it be done through her products – from bio-toilets to bio-tanks and more. Banka Bioloos is based on the Bio-digester technology that is used by DRDO for human waste management at high-altitude defence installations such as Siachen. As someone in the audience rightly said, “She’s redefined the phrase ‘call of nature’”! In the clean energy and clean technology category, GREEN POWER SYSTEMS beat three others to the Sankalp Award.
Its ticket to the award was BioUrja, a technology that can produce 7 kg of liquefied petroleum gas equivalent for each 100 kg of bio-waste. Given the recent stink over the capping of LPG cylinders per household, this one was a clinch. The brains behind BioUrja are Gaurav Kumar, Karthik Wahi and Soumitra Mishra, who have filed a patent for this technology. Walking away with the Sankalp Award in the technology for development space was AWAAZ DE INFOSYSTEMS, which has created a mobile platform for voice-enabled solutions that can be customised in regional languages. Neil Patel of Awaaz De elaborated on the company’s flagship product, Awaaz Otalo, which gives farmers timely advice on crops. With 200 streams, Awaaz De has managed to reach around 20,000 followers in just five months. Education and vocational is the need of the hour for India to step forward. In this category, BEST FIRST STEP EDUCATION (IQST) that offers affordable skill development programmes to the rural youth, walked away with the honours. Aditya B Malik of IQST said the company has trained and placed as many as 1,000 students in Jharkhand and Bihar in the past four years. With tie-ups with more 200 companies, IQST has a placement rate of 97%!
This could be a first small step towards preventing migration and saturation of urban centres. There were two special recognitions at the Sankalp Awards. One was for the Sankalp–Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Award for innovation in clean cooking, which went to SAKHI UNIQUE RURAL ENTERPRISE. Sakhi empowers rural women by giving them livelihood opportunities through creating a supply chain dealing in clean energy products. The DFID Samridhi-Sankalp Recognition for Women Empowerment Enterprise belonged to INVENTURE, which has a technology called InSight to help the rural population do daily accounting through a simple SMS or voice technology free of cost.
Most of the users of InSight are women, who are the main owners of micro-businesses. Among some enterprises that didn’t quite make it but deserve a mention are AXIO BIOSOLUTIONS, AVANI BIO ENERGY, PROJECTWELL MANAGEMENT, NAVDURGA METAL INDUSTRIES (BHARAT) and PHARMASECURE. AXIO BIOSOLUTIONS’ Axiostat is an emergency haemostatic product that prevents bleeding due to capillary wounds, cuts and dental extractions. According to founder Leo Mavely, the product is of special importance to rural India because the time taken there to respond to a medical emergency is an hour versus 8-20 minutes for urban dwellers. “We’re in the business of saving lives” is how Mavely introduced his enterprise.
AVANI BIO ENERGY has developed a process to use pine needles in gasification systems to form ‘producer gas’ which is cleaned and used in combustion systems to generate power. PROJECTWELL MANAGEMENT has pioneered the concept of 80% off-site manufacturing of houses and 20% on-site assembly. It expects the concept to bring in efficiencies of the manufacturing industry into housing and boost affordable housing. NAVDURGA METAL INDUSTRIES (BHARAT) has developed cookstoves that use rice husk as fuel. Saurabh Sagar Jaiswal of Navdurga Metal said the company aims to sell 20 million such cookstoves in five years. Asked if availability of rice husk would be a problem, he said, “We operate in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where availability is not a problem at all. Even if the price of rice goes up because of this, it will still be cheaper than kerosene or LPG.” PHARMASECURE is working on eradicating the menace of counterfeit drugs. The company’s pSID coding is on the strips of medicines. Patients can authenticate the genuineness of the medicine via SMS, mobile applications and the Web. So far, PharmaSecure has issued over 400 million codes, protecting dosages worth more than Rs 200 crore. The company plans to take this service to rural areas by customising it in regional languages with voice-based services. Over 100 applicants applied for the Sankalp Awards this year. Of these, 21 made the lists of finalists. More in a bit on the head that gets to wear the crown.
Author: Kirti for The Alternative.
The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.