These stars of the social sector will shine bright at TechSparks 2018

Shruti Kedia
26th Sep 2018
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Keen to contribute to societal change, these social entrepreneurs have created an impact and led to disruption in the healthcare, agriculture, education, and other sectors. 

L-R: Rajshri Deshpande, Sridhar Venkat, and Shaheen Mistri.

Problems lead to conversations, but most often don’t end in solutions. But change is afoot in India’s development sector, be it access to education, or innovations in healthcare, sanitation, technology, and agriculture.

Over the past few decades, India has witnessed a disruption with individuals stepping forward to work in the social sector, through organisations, for-profit social enterprises, and NGOs. In fact, the 2016 Best Countries to be a Social Entrepreneur report by Thomas Reuters Foundation ranked India ahead of China, Australia and just behind Germany, in the 14th position, stating that,

“In Bangalore, the move from tech to social businesses in on the rise, the market is ripe and innovation is booming.”

At this year's TechSparks, we are celebrating these social entrepreneurs, their zest to contribute to social change, and more importantly, create impact on ground.

With the ‘Social Impact’ track we aim to hear first-hand from the movers and shakers of the social sector about what it takes to work from the grassroots.

The journey of Teach For India’s Founder Shaheen Mistri journey shows that making education accessible to all is possible. After serving over 1.7 billion mid-day meals across 14,000 government schools in India, Akshaya Patra is an example of creating change through a private-public partnership. Startups like SatSure and CropIn Technology have made technological innovations accessible to farmers in rural India, helping the agrarian community gain access to IoT, and satellite imaging to mitigate weather uncertainties while boosting their yield.

Here are few of the speakers who’ll inspire us with their work – and words – at TechSparks 2018.

Rajshri Deshpande

Rajshri Despande, recently seen in Manto and Netflix series Sacred Games, runs her own NGO, Nabhangan, and has helped farmers tap rain water harvesting to avoid water scarcity.

In 2015, she adopted a drought-prone village in Maharashtra called Pandhri Pimpalgaon and single-handedly executed a rainwater harvesting project. Following its success, she continued her efforts in the village to build toilets, conduct health camps and promote community motivation. In 2018, she created Nabhangan Foundation to broaden her efforts at sustainable village development. Nabhangan Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO working in the fields of all-round rural development and community building to empower villages to self-reliance.

For the past three years, she is also a core member of Citizens For Tomorrow, actress Juhi Chawla’s NGO that works against plastic pollution.

Shaheen Mistri

Shaheen Mistri is CEO of Teach For India (TFI). In 2008, Shaheen founded Teach For India with a vision of providing excellent education to all children by building a pipeline of leaders committed to ending educational inequity in India. To address this challenge, the non-profit organisation runs a highly selective two-year Fellowship programme that provides an opportunity for India’s brightest minds to serve as full-time teachers to children from low-income communities in some of the nation’s most under-resourced schools. Today, TFI directly impacts approximately 38,000 children across seven regions in India.

Shridhar Venkat

Shridhar Venkat is the CEO of world's largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme, the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Initiated in 2001, Akshaya Patra was one of the first non-profits to enter the Indian government’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme programme as an implementing public-private partner. Akshaya Patra’s philosophy works on two levels – at one level, it helps reduce the stress on a poor household’s income by assuring an unlimited, nutritious meal every day; at the second level, it encourages children to continue their education as the meal is provided in the school. The organisation is today spread across 13,839 schools, operating across 12 states in India, feeding over 1,675,008 children every day.

Anuja Master Bose

Anuja is the Philanthropy Strategy Advisor for Villgro, India’s oldest and foremost social enterprise incubator. Established in 2001, Villgro incubates early-stage, innovative, for-profit social enterprises in education, health, agriculture, and energy sectors, which have an impact on the lives of the poor. Apart from India, Villgro supports social enterprises in Kenya, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Srikant Pati

Srikant Pati is the Head of Digital Strategy at CropIn Technology, an agritech startup that leverages the power of the technology, mobile and big data sectors to improve crop traceability and sustainability. Founded by Krishna Kumar in 2010, CropIn, uses a suite of software and mobile apps powered by GIS and data science to deliver a range of services to not only farmers, but also other entities in the business of agriculture. CropIn has built mobile applications that feed real-time data and advice on practices related to particular crops. CropIn claims to have digitised 2.1 million acres of land across India, and has a presence in 12 countries with a customer base of 120 clients, including McCain, OCA, and BigBasket.

Prateep Basu

SatSure has created a 15-year database of satellite images, taken at eight-day frequency, weather data, and commodity price data over entire India since the year 2001.

Prateep Basu is the co-founder of Satsure, a data analytics company that integrates satellite, weather, and IoT analytics with the agriculture sector. Founded in 2015, the organisation uses its proprietary machine learning and parallel computing techniques to resolve complex relationships between parameters governing crop growth and soil health, and get insights into the crop phenology. The startup is presently working with the Andhra Pradesh government.

Dr Gopi Nalliyan

Dr Gopi and Dr Hema founded the Little Moppet Heart Foundation to cater to the needs of those little patients whose parents can’t afford medical treatment.

Dr Gopi Nalliyan, a paediatric heart surgeon, and his wife, Dr Hemapriya Natesan, set up the Little Moppet Heart Foundation with an aim to provide financial and medical support to every child who suffers from congenital heart disease (CHD). Founded in 2016, the organisation hosts health camps across Tamil Nadu to screen children and identify patients with CHD. The organisation provides free treatment, and the couple also conducts counselling sessions for families – educating parents about post-surgery care and precautions in order to improve their overall quality of life.

The Little Moppet Heart Foundation has screened over 5,000 students through the government school health screening system.

Ritu Verma

Ritu Verma is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Ankur Capital, a social venture fund that invests in startup businesses (one to three years of on-ground operations) that impact low-income communities in India. The organisation believes that great entrepreneurs coupled with the essential business building blocks lead to great companies. The team brings years of operational experience to support entrepreneurs along with an extensive network of leading professionals across India to the table.


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