Prosus, a global consumer internet group of Naspers, announced a social impact challenge for start-ups working in assistive technology for persons with disabilities (PwD) on August 28. Participants in the Prosus Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (SICA) will compete for $250,000 in grants, divided over the three years of the challenge.
The program aims to accelerate assistive technologies to assist persons with disabilities have empowered lives. The challenge will identify the three most innovative and disruptive startups providing solutions for them.
“We believe Indian entrepreneurs are shaping an exciting future and building businesses that address unique societal needs. Prosus would like to support founders and innovators working on assistive technologies in India. In addition to financial grants, Prosus, along with our partners, will also provide technical support, mentorship, and business advice to the startups We would like to help these innovations graduate from a minimum viable product to a self-sustaining business,” said Ms Aileen O’Toole, Chief People Officer, Prosus and Naspers.
SICA will be an annual event and will run over the next three years. Over the course of the three years the programme will identify and award nine innovations.
“The excellence of Indian ingenuity has been at the forefront throughout the pandemic. The ability of our entrepreneurs to pivot and develop impactful frugal solutions is India’s strength. As we move towards an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, envisioned by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, it becomes imperative to ensure that India builds on these strengths and provides solutions for challenges being faced across the world. This challenge, aimed at developing assistive technologies for the specially abled will aid in achieving this vision,” said Mr. Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO, Invest India.
The challenge will be open to Indian startups that are less than ten years old and recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Prosus SICA has been conceptualised in partnership with Invest India- the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of India that will host the programme on the Startup India Hub, and Social Alpha, an initiative supported by Tata Trusts.
“There is a huge shortage of high quality and affordable assistive technology solutions in India that can empower persons with disabilities. We are very proud to partner with Startup India and Prosus and hope that this challenge will open up exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs,” said Mr. Manoj Kumar, CEO and Co-founder, Social Alpha.
The winning products would be socially impactful, technologically innovative, sustainable, scalable and capable of introducing positive change in the lives of persons with disabilities.. The product should be in its final stages of launch or have completed user validation. The submissions will undergo screening by an eminent jury, a thorough evaluation by sector experts, end-user interviews followed by demonstration of the use case.
Kavita Vij, Public Policy Programs India Lead, Prosus, said, “Presently, over two crore Indians live with some form of disability. This challenge will reward the best entrepreneurs who are innovating and disrupting technologies for PwDs. The programme will act as a melting pot for two key government campaigns, Digital India and Accessible India and will help recipients lead an independent, empowered and enriched life and ultimately be Atmanirbhar.”
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