By 2020, the number of internet users in India will increase two-fold to reach 730 million, according to a NASSCOM report. The increased digital access for a greater section of the population will translate into unprecedented opportunities and benefits for this till now underserved section of India. The Code for the Next Billion programme, a joint initiative by Facebook and NASSCOM 10,000 Startups, was launched in 2015 to empower social impact startups working to create digital innovations for the upliftment of society. These startups are not just catering to digital natives, but are working to transform the lives of new to the internet and bottom of the pyramid users.
As part of the programme, startups are given access to top-notch business and technology mentors; an opportunity to be a part of Facebook's global startup programme FbStart; a chance to be part of NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Virtual/Warehouse Program; and access to top social impact investors in India
After the success of the first edition of Code for the Next Billion, the second edition of the programme was launched in October 2017, and saw over 250 applications. Following a rigorous screening and selection process, 10 startups made the final cut.
Serving the bottom of the pyramid
The finalists included Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions Private Limited, a social enterprise working to make welfare schemes more accessible to citizens; Eye-D, an app for the visually impaired that helps users be aware of their location, visit places of interest, and ‘read’ printed text; Bodhi Health Education, a startup that helps healthcare and dental care organisations hire the right candidates; TheTeacherApp, a not-for-profit venture that aims to plug holes in the training infrastructure for educators in the country; Jiovio Healthcare Pte, which provides personalised and predictive maternal care using AI, IoT and wearable technology; KrishiHub, which improves famers’ lives by providing them with a platform that enables them to sell directly to businesses; PublicVibe, a news aggregation platform in English and Indian languages; Right2Vote Infotech Pvt Limited, a voting platform for multiple institutions; ChainFrame, which focuses on using blockchain to create radically transparent systems for large scale public use by state and national governments; and Helper4U Services LLP, which aims to do away with middlemen in the hiring of unskilled or semi-skilled helpers.
These startups were put through a six-month immersive programme supported by funding partners Unitus Seed Fund, Ankur Capital and Indian Angel Network, outreach partner Invest India, incubation partner Social Alpha and design mentorship partner Design4India. The startups were also given the opportunity to participate in a Masterclass and investor connect session at the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Warehouse in Bengaluru on August 18.
Gearing to scale up
The first session of the day was an intensive workshop with Prasanna Krishnamoorthy, Founder, Upekkha, an accelerator that helps B2B SaaS founders. The session was a deep dive into how startups should decide whether they should bootstrap or raise funds; finding the right investor; identifying what VCs are looking for in social ventures; how social ventures are evaluated; understanding the right time to raise funds, and how much to raise.
He said, “A lot of early-stage startups need to figure out what to raise money for and what to spend money on. They are not always sure about what equity funding should be raised for. Today’s session was about helping them understand how expert entrepreneurs think about raising money, spending money and what they use as equity for the process. Hopefully, today the startups learnt how to talk to investors and evaluate whether it's the right time for them to raise money.”
Following the Masterclass, the startups participated in an investment speed dating session where they were given one-on-one time with investors, to present their ideas and seek feedback and advice. The investors who participated in the session were Sukriti Saroj of Lead Angels; Mayuresh Satapathy and Prashant Pansare from Eagle 10 Ventures; Dhruv Parikh, Portfolio & Innovation at Social Alpha (Tata Trusts) | IIT Bombay; and Brent Zettel of Unitus Ventures.
The startups were unequivocal in their opinion that being a part of the Facebook and NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Code for the Next Billion programme had given them new perspectives and opportunities to grow their business. They said that the mentoring sessions were helping paint a clearer picture of how to start a business, where and when to start up and which avenues they could tap. “These sessions have helped us focus and scale. The best part is that we have the chance to meet all the investors under one roof,” said Madhura Karnik, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Communications at Haqdarshak.
Vinod Karate, CEO and Founder of TheTeacherApp said, “The association with NASSCOM 10,000 Startups is a great opportunity to test ourselves. It has validated what we are doing and connected us to interesting people.”
Gaurav Mittal, Founder Eye-D, echoed the above sentiments, “The association with NASSCOM 10,000 Startups has been excellent. I have attended so many of the sessions and even had my teammates attend some of them. We have learned how to leverage our existing ecosystem and even how we can sustain without any money,”
The investors at the session were also optimistic about the startups and their potential. “The session has been very interesting. It's exciting that people are working to resolve farming issues, provide access to hyper local news, etc., and I think I think the chosen startups have been excellent,” said Prashant Pansare, Co-founder, Eagle 10 Ventures.
“The startups here are gaining good traction and some of them have already raised funding. Some of them are non-profit organisations solving real problems like healthcare and education. So we are expecting that these companies might get funded by institutional partners,” said Sukriti Saroj, Regional Head - South India at Lead Angels.
The Facebook and NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Code for the Next Billion programme has been an ideal springboard for these 10 startups, who are looking to change the digital scape of the country by creating access for those who need it the most.