'Emerging Trends & Open Spaces in Agritech': The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation presents riveting discussion on farmer-centric innovation - The Daily Guardian
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‘Emerging Trends & Open Spaces in Agritech’: The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation presents riveting discussion on farmer-centric innovation

The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation presented an unmissable discussion on ‘Emerging Trends & Open Spaces in Agritech’ with an aim to spark farmer-centric innovation that improves the economic, social, and environmental outcomes and increase incomes of small and marginal farmers in Indian Agriculture.

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The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation presented an unmissable discussion on ‘Emerging Trends & Open Spaces in Agritech’ with an aim to spark farmer-centric innovation that improves the economic, social, and environmental outcomes and increase income of small and marginal farmers  in Indian Agriculture. NewsX was joined by the expert panel which included Anil Kumar SG, Founder & CEO, Samunnati, Mark Kahn, Managing Partner, Omnivore and Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation. The event was moderated by Priya Sahgal, Senior Executive Editor at ITV Network.

In an attempt to build a better future for our farmers and focusing on especially the small, marginal and women farmer, Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation kickstarted the conversation and said “We started off with the mission to launch and nurture India’s top talent to solve our most critical developmental challenges. There are so many social problems that technology can disrupt in particular, standing out as that space where more than half of India’s poor are engaged in some form of agriculture. The pathways out of poverty see roadblocks in the form of social norms and technology has the potential to disrupt this. Technology can reduce the volume of inputs that go into the soil, which in turn, later translates to the ability of the farmer to sell, while meeting the standards of fuel density of pesticides, or whatever, that’s preventing them from accessing, the range of possibilities was very, very wide. But unfortunately, as you look at active investments in the last few years, a lot of it is customer and consumer proximity. This is almost a void in the farmer-centric space, that puts the farmer at the centre, making their livelihood important.”

Mark Kahn, Managing Partner, Omnivore expressed his views on trends in agri-tech both India and globally. “The amount of investment coming into agriculture annually, tech startups annually in India was $15 million a year. This past 12 month period, we’ve probably crossed $600 million. So it’s been up into the right over the course of the last decade, it is definitely better than it was earlier. When we talk about kind of the trends that we’re seeing globally and in India. What I would say is that the global agri-tech is very different from for an Indian agri-tech. I actually think Indian Agri tech is in some ways better positioned. The defining characteristic of Indian agriculture is the fact that you have 130 million farmers farming in an average landholding up just slightly more. No other nation in the world really has that. If you think about all the debates we’re having from a policy perspective, about our Mandi system, our dairy economy which instead of working with large dairy farms, like everywhere else in the world. The biggest trend that we see in Indian agriculture is digital outreach. We now have the ability to build a base layer to reach all of these disparate groups and that is not to say that every farmer has a smartphone they don’t. If we take one of our portfolio companies they have as an example and is reaching now about six lakh farmer. We at Omnivore say Profitability, sustainability and resilience are the three big challenges faced by Indian agriculture.”

Talking about how agri-tech is helping the small and marginal farmers and addressing the access to technology for the small farmers, Anil Kumar SG, Founder & CEO, Samunnati said “The moment one get into agriculture and talk about smallholder farmers the number one dimension is the smallholder which is where the rubber meets the road. The second dimension is the sector as a whole to the expanse of what agriculture is, as a sector. Now, making the horizontal and vertical is where the entire benefit to the smallholder farmer would have to operate. Before getting into how technology is going to help the farmer I’ll digress a little bit and also share what is declining. I completely agree with both Sudha and Mark and saying that things have changed significantly in the last few years, especially in the last five years. In addition to the capital inflows that Mark mentioned, the entire agriculture ecosystem is seeing the buoyancy: an ecosystem level, not only the entrepreneurial side that we are seeing but also the kind of enablers that the ecosystem is seeing has not been absorbed, because I have spent about 21 years of my professional experience in banking in the rural area. Things have changed significantly in the last five years in addition to the capital inflows. There is a lot of energy in the ecosystem. The moment you see this energy in the ecosystem, there are two dimensions. One is each one of us is several of the entities that are operating in this space and are looking at addressing one or two critical parts of this ecosystem agriculture. On the vertical capital, somebody is looking at satellite imagery in terms of monitoring and there are also entities which are looking at horizontally. How can we be aggregators of all of these individual interactions? The collaboration of this horizontal and vertical is what will bring technology on its way. You take the benefit of technology, the attribution and the result of the technology contributing 200 rupees in their pocket is an important message. How can technology translate into an upliftment in the livelihood is the single largest factor that will determine the adoption rates? The beauty of an ecosystem being active would also mean the smallholder farmer could adopt these technologies. There are players who can also play the role of making these technologies.”

Throwing light on funding and the early stages of the incubation and how they prove over the years, Anil Kumar SG said “The other way of looking at it is the number of integrations that have mushroomed. If you see the lifecycle of an entity, reaching up to a stage of being able to get seed funding, there is incubation and plan to touch the incubators. There is proof of concept and there is production capability and demonstrating a reasonable scale is when you get into the equity space. And the same thing CAG report also talks about more than 2000 startups in agriculture in various forms and shapes. From a banker point of view when there is some distance to cover and there is a significant gap that is actually not in the equity funding at the seed stage but it isn’t working capital. There are many entities which don’t need equity but need working capital to be able to deploy their solution product or technology to the intended users. Some of these entities really struggle because the way a debt fund that looks at is still very traditional and still very rudimentary. They would basically look at the percentage of the activity, financial returns and profitability, so on and so forth. But the technology and agriculture space itself is very young. You cannot expect a technology company in agriculture to have demonstrated a vintage of deploying their operations and showing sustainable financial records that’s not available yet.”

“Through our platform, Samaarambh launched on 15 Aug 2020 Samunnati helps Agri startups and Agtech enterprises boost and scale operations with the expertise of industry experts and mentors across the agricultural ecosystem,” added Anil. 

Mark Kahn added to this and said “My general reaction to all of this one should see what 2012 looked like, or 2016, or 2018. It is far, far easier today for an agrotech startup to get funded than it has ever been in the history of funding Agri tech startups. A lot of the money that is going into space is for the ones but that by definition, right, given the sort of logarithmic nature of funding is going to be how that plays out right when your typical seed check is $2 million. t I still think that means not just the volume of funding it’s also the count the number of teams.”

Sudha who comes from the field of socio-entrepreneur said “One thing to note is the changing demographic of rural India. There’s a generational shift, far more farmers today are digitally illiterate have aspirations beyond doing what their parents did. The pandemic also showed us the exodus from the urban centres back to the villages, I think, although a lot of them might come back. We still need to look at India’s development in a more distributed manner that reduces the dependence on the urban centres and revitalizes rural economies. Agriculture already is the labour of the sector. Right. For me, the single biggest whitespace is the opportunity in near farm industries, something that goes beyond the activity of sowing tilling reaping harvesting and kind of get beyond that to expand additional revenue streams for the farming communities. Being agency in a manner where the transfer of ownership from the farmer to the next player in the value chain can happen at a later stage and that’s how you capture the value that one saves by eliminating the middle layers between farm and consumer. And a lot of that is about building capacity building skills, particularly entrepreneurial skills on the government side of things, a lot of rural livelihood missions have put in place structure but then also village-level organizations and institutional structures beyond that roll up all the way to the SRLM, which is a wonderful vehicle to build this capacity. Transformation overall beyond a change in agriculture as a sector is poised for some very radical shifts and innovations, I think, active entrepreneurs have an amazing role to play, to bring to fructify that and make this whole thing, respond to the calls of a triple bottom line, where one, of course, see huge economic returns but also see positive social outcomes and long term environmental outcomes.”

Responding to what else can be done to encourage farmer-centric startups financially, Anil Kumar said “Before getting into how we can encourage financially I also we want to bring in the demand now the transitory role that technology can bring to it is changing the visual of what agriculture would mean.  The moment you say a farmer, and agriculture, we get the visual that of drudgery and impoverished farming family, not making much end, not getting a fair deal of what they’re producing and at the receiving end of everything. How can we make technology drive the youngsters into agriculture and can we transition this visual to young generation working with the gadgets? In his farm, happy children running around, they know, life around and mechanization happening, and making a productive yield out of agriculture. And the bridge to these two worlds is technology, and this technology would also be the incentive and could also be the catalyst for youngsters to move from a physical directory which is what agriculture is in an actual sense to a high tech farming, which is where our country is moving on.”

In terms of the labour, there is the looming fear of layoffs with the coming of more technology and in the rural area is a much more viable concern. Sudha addressing said “Drudgery reduction should not be seen as layoffs. For the simple reason that one wouldn’t say that if we were talking about manual scavenging. Mass entrepreneurship across the country in every sector and particularly in the agricultural sector is really promising to be the ground up stimulus that one needs.”

On a concluding note the three experts mentioned their priotity list and the role that they see different stakeholders playing in order to make agriculture more innovative get a better ecosystem in place.  Mark Kahn said ” I would like the government to create a standard set of rules that they stick with inorder to stabilize and allow an enabling environment that lets people make long term investments and decisions. I would like Indian agri corporates to behave as partnersand  not predators and actually work with startups, rather than trying to get them or copy them. I would like universities to recognize that agriculture is not just say, 15% of the GDP but when we take all of the agribusiness associated with agriculture or we take all of the food processing, the logistics, the financing, the insurance, everything that goes along with it, we’re talking about a quarter of our economy and half our population and appropriately focus on that, with respect to the directions that they’re pushing young people because honestly, if we don’t get this right, India doesn’t have the future. Also I would like venture capitals which I increasingly believe is happening to see the opportunity in this space and support it.”

Anil Kumar focusing on innovation and tech said “I would say, many more integrative approaches and models that integrate wonderful work that is happening. I would also see some shining examples of farmer collectives if one or more can inspire this country for the good. The potential in this particular form of farmer collectives represents is a significant opportunity that we have on how do we harness this opportunity, how do we harvest this opportunity is important. Well functioning cooperatives, is an important dimension, and a lot of policy focus would also mean many support structures coming in. How do we as private sector players participate, and how do we as private sector players get the equal opportunity from the policymakers to participate to be an important dimension, because we have to appreciate that. Now, it’s just not that the state or the public sector, the private sector also can play a significant role in making these services reach the smallholder farmer.”

Focusing on the betterment of lives and equality, Sudha said  “The principles of free markets have helped every other sector. And agriculture almost feels like a sector that has been kept away from. And I’m hoping you know that will change soon and enable a certain vibrancy to come from large numbers of players committing to look at the livelihood of farming and enhancing it. The second thing I have on my wish list is for entrepreneurs to peel the onion in agriculture a lot more. I think intuitively sitting in a relatively privileged cosy urban environments where a lot of flattened innovation particularly happens with entrepreneurs that have solved problems in other sectors and are starting to look at agriculture. You intuitively think it’s about market linkages or just getting a better price for the farmer, removing the middleman right and you kind of start peeling the onion a little bit and hit very foundational bottlenecks in terms of land use patterns. Mark mentioned the small land holding itself being a barrier tenancy and the problems that come with it, the dependence on informal loans. That in turn later downstream you to the informal money lender, in terms of where your produce goes, access to other markets being cut out because of that. Gender issues as well come into play as so much of farming is done by women. but so little ownership of property and land is with them. Foundational issues that keep the cycle of poverty perpetuating even though opportunities open up are important to solve as well. In the medium term at least if not in the immediate future I hope some of the innovation could be directed to these. And that could kind of script a very equitable pathway to prosperity and kind of reduce the inequalities we are seeing across the country.”

Watch the entire telecast here:

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FIVE YOUNG LEADERS SHARE THEIR VISION FOR INDIA AND ITS FUTURE

NewsX was recently joined by five young leaders from Global Youth India who expressed their views, vision and goals towards the country.

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Five young leaders from Global Youth India joined NewsX for a special interview which was titled, ‘What They Think: Youth Vision and Leadership in India’. These young emerging leaders talked of their expectations, hope and vision for the country.

The first panellist was Jyotismita Khataniar, an undergraduate student of sociology at Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi. She is a fierce feminist and has a keen interest in European and South Asian politics and different forms of humanitarian issues revolving around the division. She is the co-founder of ‘Feel to Heal’ mental health forum and the president of Sri Venkateswara College Chapter-Global Youth. “The Youth can take the right action only when they are in the right headspace,” she said.

Talking about her forum and the main focus of the same, Jyotismita said, “The youth can take the right action by being in the right headspace. We can be change-makers and rather than being a liability, we can be essential assets of the country only when we have the access to proper healthcare. I want to make this forum as intersectional as possible so that people coming from different backgrounds can feel inclusive and realize that they are being heard and understood.”

On a concluding note, Jyotismita shared a message of belief and hope. ‘’I believe that ‘little act of kindness’ goes a long way and kindness is one of the most important traits that a human can have and develop,” she said.

Next was Ashraf Nehal, a third-year student at the University of Delhi who has been writing on Politics and International Politics. He is also a Parliamentary Researcher with the AICC and is also a Research Associate with Red Lantern Analytica whereby he is researching China. As a policy enthusiast, he believes that the government must follow a policy-centred approach rather than a political one. He joined Global Youth during his 2nd year and has been serving as the Deputy Chairperson of the Brazil Forum.

When asked about the challenges faced by India and how they can be addressed, Ashraf commented, “Youth today is not very much aware of the policies, be it international or domestic, although we have youths who are interested in politics. I have been working with all the national political parties but into the policy cell. I myself frame the parliamentary question and briefs but there exists an age gap as I cannot put in my opinion there. We need to be aware of the point of policy. We have zero representation of the youth in the United Nations and Parliament. In the United Nations, there is only one post for the youth that also a virtual presence, but I do not see any action taking place there. Same thing goes for Parliament and we need our weightage to be there.”

Ashraf’s idea of changing the world is based on the belief of youth participation, be it in international or domestic policies. “Global Youth has been very instrumental here as it is us who are dealing with the Ambassadors, Commissioners and the Embassy.” When asked about where he sees himself in the next 10-15 years, he commented, “I will be guiding others as I have been guided in the Global Youth”.

The third panellist for the session was Sehaj Malhotra, a second-year student of Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College for the University of Delhi. She truly believes in the power of young people who can cohesively shape a better world, with wide-ranging interests in human rights law, gender justice, sustainable development and social entrepreneurship, she strives to create an equal and inclusive space for all. When asked if there is an issue she sees around her that she’d like to fix and resolve, she said, “There are a lot of problems that persist and require addressing timely, but one specific thing which I have noticed during the pandemic is the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on work culture on the Indian youth.”

She went on to explain the solution to the mentioned problem: “I feel there is a partnership and cooperation that is required, be a partnership with government, be it a public-private partnership which is required to invest and to encourage aspects like youth entrepreneurship and India as a country requires more skilling when it comes to youth, the right kind of skills, the right kind of training, which integrates us properly into the job market.”

The fourth panellist was Kavya Uniyal, an undergraduate student at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, majoring in History and Political Science. Hailing from Uttrakhand, she is an advocate of the rights of the LGBTQ Community. Talking about joining the Global youth and her experience so far with the organisation, she said: “It was in the pandemic that I decided to channelise my energy in the right direction and do something productive. I got to know about Global Youth from a few friends of mine and decided to join. I was recruited in the International Legal Council and I currently serve as the events head at the organisation.”

On the challenges and issues that prevail in the country, Kavya said, “I have always been a firm believer that human beings are an heir to the legacy of dignity and self-worth and there can’t be any compromise when it comes to human dignity. However, there are people coming from certain section especially the LGTBQ community who have been denied the same.”

Quoting Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, she said, “Right to life and liberty is not created by the Constitution rather it is recognised by the Constitution and hence is an inalienable natural right.” She further brought into light the recent judgement by the Delhi High Court wherein the honourable court ruled that same sex marriages can’t happen between heterosexual people.

“The LGBTQ community and the members have been fighting over this legislation as the Centre has made its stance very clear and has vehemently opposed the idea, stating that marriage is a union between a biological male and biological female. I think the decision is problematic because we are implying that heterosexual people who have difficulty in conceiving a child will be denied the right to marry whoever they want to. I think it’s high time that we should let people be.”

The fifth panellist was Nandiinii Singh, an undergraduate student studying political science at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She serves as the chairperson of the India-UK Youth Forum, Global Youth. She has been keenly observing the education sector and the impact of the relevant policies, particularly in navigating the gap between Indian education and employment. She started by sharing her journey with Global Youth and said. “It began in 2019 in my first year of college.”

When asked about a problem that is close to her heart and that she hoped to fix, she responded, “Something that I have been studying, researching and closely following especially during the pandemic is the disconnect that I have sensed between the education and the employment sectors, there is a definite mismatch between what the formal education system is equipping with and the needs of employability and the focus.”

“In the next five to 10 years I definitely see myself dedicatedly working towards the cause I just highlighted, and that I think would be in the public service field,” she added.

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A BIG THUMBS-UP TO PM MODI’S SOFT POWER DIPLOMACY

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the economic crisis, amid a raging pandemic, has bolstered India’s image as a promising economic power, a worthy alternative to China and an attractive destination for foreign investment.

Vishwas Pathak

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Covid-19 has brought inexplicable changes on every possible front across the globe. This pandemic brought everything to a standstill, but now establishment in every corner of the world are in pursuit of a successful revival, with the only desire of getting back on its feet. 

In this process, mere choice and need are not enough to get what is desired. With the changes in the global scenario, the priorities of all the countries have changed too, along with the dynamics of their investments. However, at a time when even developed countries are struggling to get back on their feet in terms of their economy, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is continuing to witness an optimistic upwards trend in the calculations of economic progress.

Despite reservations about economic revival, the people of this nation had collectively and completely supported the lockdown. In the initial phase of the lockdown, they were on the same page as the government, which prioritized the health of the citizens over the economy.

What then came as a relief to citizens and industrialists were the packages announced by the Prime Minister under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. These developments helped create a positive perception about the government which in a way managed to do well both on the economic as well as the health fronts.

While the initiatives of the government were appreciated domestically, they were also closely observed internationally. The manner in which India handled the Covid situation, at the same time initiating policies for economic revival, has been perceived as a successful model of governance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is being appreciated across the globe. This has helped India enhance its reputation for goodwill at the international level.

Ever since Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister, he has been keenly focusing on projecting internal strengths, such as positive economic growth, a robust domestic demand, a young workforce, economic and social reforms and, most importantly, a stable and dynamic government, to attract foreign investments. If the overview of this positive approach of global investors towards India is to be analysed, a consistent 7%-plus economic growth along with the needed improvisations of the nation’s macro fundamentals has made India a preferred choice for FDI. Besides, the ambitious economic reforms brought in by the Modi government have ensured that foreign investors view India as a destination for long term investment.

With changes in the global trend of investments due to Covid-19, India verily enjoys a brighter spot vis-à-vis China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected an impressive 12.5% growth rate for India in 2021, which is stronger than that of China. This also makes India the only major economy to have a positive double digit growth rate last year during the pandemic. Similarly, Moodys, World Bank and the Reserve Bank of India have also revised their estimates and projected impressive growth.

At a stage where the pandemic is yet to be defeated and cases are accelerating around the world, India stands tall amongst 16 global economies in comparison. India, with a multitude of opportunities and potential, has over the last few years developed tremendous goodwill among the global economic powers as well as with neighbouring countries. In comparison, with its aggressive and dominating policies, China is gradually losing the influence it had in the recent past. Simultaneously, an international union of inclusive economies is forming, which will lead inevitably to further isolation of China.

The Quad, a four-nation alliance of India, Australia, the US and Japan, that was established in 2007, has maintained a low profile for a very long time. However, the exhibition of increasing bonhomie among the four nations has most certainly irked Beijing and challenged its ambitions. This Quad’s advocacy of “free and fair” Indo-Pacific trade is nothing but a clear signal cautioning China. In the world of free trade, assertion and dominance like China’s is most uncalled for. However, the protagonists can only be those whose foundations happen to be inclusive like, in this case, India.

At a time when global growth is expected to moderate to 3.3% over the medium term, India’s growth projection is an assurance to its people and industrial sector that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of achieving a $5 trillion economy is going to be a reality soon. While this looks ambitious, Narendra Modi has proved that with proper planning and execution, nothing is unachievable. And the IMF’s projection of economic growth echoes the same possibility.

With India’s image of inclusivity along with a well thought out plan and encouraging ease of doing business, the Modi government has ensured that we will soon be one of the most powerful economies in the world. We have now successfully painted an image of ourselves as a peace-loving business-friendly country with a plethora of opportunities, essentially owing to our exponential market potential along with a young workforce. Our relaxations in FDI along with our evolving technological and innovation capabilities only compliment our welcoming and accepting nature.

The pandemic has created an anti-China sentiment across the globe. There was a time when China’s foothold in the manufacturing sector in India appeared undisputed. However, the change in this is now evident with India emerging as a better alternative, by choice and not compulsion. Many conglomerates, particularly from China, have moved their manufacturing operations from China to India in the recent past. 

This has been possible precisely because the nation, under the efficiency and wisdom of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, believes in democratic leadership and not dictatorship in terms of economic operations. Propelled by the economic reforms in 1991, the Modi government has only strengthened its roots through various financial, socio-economic and agricultural reforms.

India as a country has never believed in the policy of expansionism like China. Instead we have always believed in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies are a reflection of the same. 

On the basis of such strong indicators of a robust economy and its colossal opportunities, the world has verily given a big thumbs-up for Modi’s soft power diplomacy.

The author is Media Head, BJP Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal.

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WHEN BUDDING STARTUPS SHARE INNOVATIVE IDEAS WITH PANELLISTS

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In an invigorating session with NewsX, Supreme Incubator, a startup venture platform founded by Disha Singla and Tanvi Singla, presented a panel discussion, ‘Demo Day by Supreme Incubator’, wherein five budding startup companies presented their ideas and vision in the presence of an exemplary panel which consisted of business and entrepreneurial stalwarts who were also esteemed investors.

Supreme Incubator aims toward helping early age startups, especially those who are beyond the metropolitan areas and helping them build strong foundations from a very early stage and accelerate their growth. They hand-picked startups from a variety of companies across the country through a six-month-long program and provided them with a structural support system involving dedicated mental support, opportunities, and infrastructure. Supreme Incubator has been serving solutions for the young startups, creating a startup ecosystem, and helping them adapt to this new normal.

A demo day is an event that culminates this cohort program where companies, which are successfully graduated, can come to this platform to pitch to this panel of investors, who are successful entrepreneurs and capital venturists in their own right, to showcase their business idea and what does their product or company represents.

The panel constituted of some of the industry leaders who have actively contributed to the startup ecosystem and helped it to be stronger than ever. The panellists included Ashwin Srivastava, an IIT Bombay Alumni, Global Investor, VC/PE FIRM Founder, Government Advisor; Ashish Taneja, Partner at growX Ventures; Sandro Stephen, Regional Head, North India Operations, and Indian Angel Network; and Kshitij Shah, Principal, 3one4 Capital. Disha and Tanvi were also present while their finalised startup teams gave presentations to potential investors.

On an introductory note, Tanvi talked about Supreme Incubator and shared her experience of working with these young startups and how incredibly talented are the teams of different startups. The five startups pitched to the investors, followed by a Q&A session from the panellists and NewsX viewers.

The startups were: 

Startup 1: Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies – Abhinesh Srivastava, CEO

Startup 2: TalkEng – Er. Subhra Deb, Founder & CEO, Sowarjit Baidy, Co-Founder & CEO, Sushmita Bhowmik, Co-Founder & CPRO, Subhendu Datta, Co-Founder & COO, and Shantanu Modak, Co-Founder & CMO

Startup 3: SoDo – Gaurav Sood, Founder & CEO

Startup 4: Edgenus – Jalaj Garg, Founder & CEO, and Priyansh Mahajan, Co-Founder & COO

Startup 5: Hyoristic Innovations- Hari Shankar Lal, Founder & CEO

Abhinesh made the first pitch whose startup- Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies aims toward enabling access to space resources. Talking about the idea, he underlined that their goal is to develop cutting-edge robots for lunar and deep space missions which would further enable access to space resources that will have a life-changing impact on humanity. In the presentation, Abhinesh briefly described the roadmap of the company, the opportunities that await us in space technology, and the future goals of the company. “With 2.5 crore capital, we will be able to get the product ready by the end of next year,” he said.

The second startup to make their pitch was TalkEng, which is an ed-tech startup, aiming to revolutionise the process of learning any language, especially English. The team cited some relevant data that is obstructing young people to take up jobs, particularly in the corporate sector. They talked about their innovative idea of following a scientific approach to pave the way for English learners, citing the three crucial elements which are required to learn and achieve fluency in any language, that is Listen-Observe-Speak.

The third startup that gave the presentation was SoDo, founded by Gaurav, which is an on-demand B2B and B2C Hyperlocal platform with an intent to provide on-demand assured services for IT firms and businesses. Talking about the idea behind his company, he said, “Our company will help the clients in order creation wherein we will provide them freelancers, IT firms, and find out the best service to take depending upon their requirements to get their work done smoothly.” Gaurav underlined the post-funding predictions were stated to be at about 60 lakh wherein the major chunk would go in marketing.

The fourth presentation was given by Edgenus, founded by Jalaj, which is a one-stop destination to help you take a step ahead in your artistic passion. He asserted three major problems which might stop someone to discover and pursue arts—lack of learning opportunities, community exposure, and structured guidance in the artistic arena. The company aims to address such concerns through methods that include self-assessment, goal realisation to domain understanding, skill-building by providing the users with relevant informative content, and networking opportunities with the artists across the country.

The fifth and final startup that gave the presentation was Hyoristic Innovations. Introducing his idea to the panel, Hari stated that they aim to build high-tech solutions to mitigate space debris, making it safe for space explorations. He talked about the growing threat of space debris through his visual presentation and the current problems we are facing in that area. Hari said, “We plan to capture the eighth hidden device in the de-orbit using the ADR technique and intend to fill the gap in the debris through our services. Our service area includes ADR (Active Debris Removal) and mapping.”

On a concluding note, Disha talked about the plan ahead and stated that these startups have been an active part of the cohort. She added that the major focus would be to connect them with industry experts.

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ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION

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On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network. 

In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”

Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”

He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”

When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.” 

Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.

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MAHARASHTRA BACK TO SQUARE ONE WITH SECOND LOCKDOWN

The state government’s decision to impose another lockdown is not a wise one since the losses would outweigh the benefits. What the state needs to do instead is ramp up its health infrastructure and Covid-19 testing, while letting citizens lead normal lives.

Shweta Shalini

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a lockdown for 15 days, taking the state back to square one. The state administration seems to have accepted defeat in the fight against Covid-19 and chosen the method of inaction.

Throughout the pandemic, Maharashtra has been the worst performer consistently. Now, with a disproportionately high fatality rate, the statewide implementation of Section 144, which will paralyse daily life, is another setback for its citizens. For a state which boasts of many urbanized centres, it has failed miserably in curbing the surge in infections and put pressure on its healthcare system. 

With 60,212 fresh cases, the number of active cases in Maharashtra stands at 593,042. Disturbing reports have begun to emerge from various parts of the state, from hospitals looting patients to a lack of beds resulting in deaths. The unavailability of Remdesivir has led to hoarding. Inadequate oxygen supply has been a cause of concern. People running from pillar to post to secure hospital beds, medicines and ventilator facilities has turned it into a tragedy on a mass scale. How did Maharashtra end up in such a precarious position while Delhi is holding on despite facing a surge too?

Inadequate testing and contact tracing by the government of Maharashtra, combined with a lax attitude, have led to Covid cases shooting through the roof. The Covid positivity rate has reached the dangerous threshold of 29%. Out of the 2.20 lakh tests done, approximately 63,000 have turned out to be positive cases, which indicates an appalling state of affairs. Overall, there have been 34 lakh cases out of 2.20 crore tests.

The positivity statistics in Maharashtra are way ahead of the all-India average of 5%. Meanwhile, Delhi, despite a high density of population, has a positivity rate which is not over the national average. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at 2% and 1%, respectively. Even a relatively urbanised and large state like Tamil Nadu has held its own with an impressive 6%.

Given the high occurrence of the infection in Maharashtra, evident from such a high positivity rate, there is an urgent need to ramp up testing. The state cannot fight Covid unless the true extent of the spread is known. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his discussion with Chief Ministers has already sought increased testing along with widespread vaccination as a sustainable tool to fight the virus.

Maharashtra with its imposition of another lockdown is taking a step backwards. Last year’s experience has taught us that lockdowns are not a permanent or sustainable solution, but merely the postponing of the inevitable. The need of the hour for the state is to ramp up infrastructure and increasing testing, while letting normal life run as usual, until the positivity rates are in a comfortable position. This way the state may surely enter the list of badly hit Covid-infected states, but will succeed in saving lives by timely interventions.

The steep fall in the mortality rate in Maharashtra may either mean a sign of hope or be considered a result of undercounting due to a lack of reporting. Whatever the case, it is getting increasingly clearer that the economic costs of a lockdown far exceed the supposed benefits.

Unlike the previous year when the scientific community’s knowledge of the virus was limited, the world is better off today, especially with vaccines available in varying degrees of effectiveness. The original lockdown served its purpose of buying time and letting India manufacture a lot of medical items like PPE kits, which aided the fight initially and made the lockdown worthwhile. But now, we have reached a point where a lockdown will lead to diminishing returns in terms of the fight against Covid-19.

The author is a BJP spokesperson and former executive director of the Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation. The views expressed are personal.

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ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION

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On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network. 

In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”

Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”

He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”

When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.” 

Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.

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