25 Start-Ups Compete for INR 1.75 Crore Grant To Provide Potable Water Solutions In India

Twenty-five water-tech start-ups are engaged in finding unique solutions to solve water crisis in the country
25 Start-Ups Compete for INR 1.75 Crore Grant To Provide Potable Water Solutions In India

According to the World Bank, India has 18 per cent of the world’s population, but only 4 per cent of its water resources which makes it among the most water-stressed in the world.

NITI Aayog in a 2018 report titled “Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)” had revealed that nearly 600 million people were facing high to extreme water stress and about 200,000 people were dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water. In a country going through an extreme water crisis, it's imperative to look for solutions. 

In February 2022, Ashirvad Pipes and The/Nudge Institute came together to start working in this direction. 

Disruptive innovations 

The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) and Ashirvad Pipes in partnership with the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India launched Ashirvad Water Challenge. The challenge encouraged water-tech start-ups to come up with disruptive innovations in solving India’s water security crisis. The winner will be given INR 1.75 crore whereas five finalists will be given milestone grants. 

   The 25 water-tech innovators have adopted diverse approaches to address water sustainability. While four work in the areas of water leakage and distribution, five look at wastewater treatment, nine in water purification, three in atmospheric generation of water and four work towards enabling water ecosystems. Many of the semi-finalists use deep tech interventions such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Some are considering efficient ways for rainwater harvesting, watershed management, or membrane filtration for purification. For instance Smartterra uses its AI-powered analytics platform to create a digital model of water networks and customers along with focusing on reducing water losses; on the other hand Saambhav Trust, a non-profit organization, actively works in water-management, reviving water systems, by community-led participation and involving multiple stakeholders across sectors to adapt to ecological processes of change by looking at community needs; Ossus Biorenewables work in the area of production of biohydrogen and has proposed to design a prototype hybrid bio-electrochemical process to desalinate seawater and reduce the salt content by 90-95 per cent ,along with degrading waste to produce hydrogen.

All the proposed solutions exhibit a promise to be cost-effective and can be scaled equitably. Interestingly, six of the 25 shortlisted organizations are founded by women. 

  Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, says, “It is very encouraging to see that these 25 semi-finalists have innovated and developed potentially scalable solutions that address the most pressing water issues in the country. We are also proud of the fact that women lead several of these startups, working at the cusp of technology and social transformation. We firmly believe that these entrepreneurs will go a long way in solving complex issues within the water ecosystem, and will play a massive role in enhancing the quality of life of people, thereby realizing our dream of a poverty-free India in our lifetime.”

   Rigorous selection

The selection was spread across three stages. In the first stage, the solutions proposed by the applicants were assessed for their relevance towards clean water enablement. In the second stage, applicants’ depth and team credentials; research and proof of concept in their proposed solution and innovation; operations and maintenance requirements; adaptability of the solution; and scalability (market, tech enablement, pricing/revenue models, and sustainability) were assessed. In the third stage, 35 startups were tested for their scalability, proof of concept, and demographic focus and reach. It led the panel to reach its 25 semi-finalists. The selection panel included 11 members from Indus Water, IH2O Asia, Arghyam, IHE Delft, Aavishkaar, and Social Alpha.

Deepak Mehrotra, Managing Director, Ashirvad Pipes, added, “The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge aims to nurture technology-based innovations that improve water cycle management. Through this challenge, the focus is to support solutions that improve water quality, enable efficient water harvesting, storage, drainage and reuse, and incentivize behavioral change towards water conservation and waste avoidance. We congratulate the 25 startups for being chosen as the semifinalists and wish them the very best as they begin the user-testing phase.”

  In the coming six months, each semi-finalist will pilot its project and begin user-testing or expand their solution presence across various locations, to understand scalability potential and impact.

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