[Startup Bharat] With these startups, the innovation sun shines on Odisha too
Odisha, known for its many temples and beautiful beaches, is now also earning a name for something else: its startups.
With initiatives like 'Make in Odisha', the Odisha government is keen to put the State on the fast track to development and become a hotbed for innovation.
The government recently had also launched a progressive aerospace and defence manufacturing policy to capitalise on the advantages of Odisha’s existing ecosystem and to attract investments in this sector.
And there’s a lot more that the State is doing to up its development game. The Skilled in Odisha mission, for instance, was launched for skill development in the State and to attract investors. The government has also built an 18-storeyed World Skill Centre in Bhubaneswar, which will be managed by Odisha Skill Development Authority, with technical support from ITEES, Singapore.
With these policies, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wants his State to be among the top-three startup hubs in India by 2020.
And helping the State along on its mission to become a sought-after startup hub is the crop of startups driving innovation from Odisha for the country, and beyond.
YourStory picks some of the startups from Odisha that are putting the State on the entrepreneurial map.
Taking the art from the State to a global platform, Rakesh Parida founded Thoomri, a global online marketplace for Indian handlooms and handicrafts. Started in June 2015 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Thoomri connects artisans directly with customers. In doing so, it eliminates the middlemen and any hidden costs.
Here, the artisans are not hoodwinked; they can see the prices at which their products are being sold, and the process is very transparent.
It has so far on-boarded 2,000 artisans from across Odisha covering different verticals like stone craft, handloom fabrics, silver filigree work, palm-leaf paintings, pattachitra, fern-craft, and dokra, among others.
In the first month of its operations, Thoomri sold merchandise worth Rs 16,000. Today, it clocks around Rs 7 lakh a month in revenue.
Initially bootstrapped, Thoomri has now raised about Rs 20 lakh in funding from a clutch of investors, including social enterprise incubator Villgro, KIIT TBI (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology- Technology Business Incubator), DFID UK (Department for International Development), TDB (Technology Development Board) of the Government of India.
Swargadwara.com, founded by Plaban Mohapatra in December 2016, is an integrated single-point platform delivering ‘funeral care’ services at the doorstep of grieving families.
Bhubaneswar-based Swargadwara offers pre-funeral, funeral, and post-funeral services to its clients.
The startup has three types of cremation kits - for widows, married women, and men. From matchbox, gangajal, and ghee, to coins, earthen lamps, and betel nut, the cremation kit contains 35 items.
It also offers round-the-clock services. Clients can get in touch with the platform through its website, Facebook page, or simply by calling the helpline number.
Swargadwara.com collects requirements, provides the estimate, and dispatches the services needed. Depending on the type and span of service, the startup collects payments in tranches. Apart from Hindus, Swargadwara also caters to the Christian and Sikh community.
Its cremation day service charge ranges between Rs 2,500 and Rs 7,000, and the post-cremation service charges vary between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh. The company has served 785 customers so far.
Plaban has invested Rs 15 lakh into the business and has received a grant of Rs 7.5 lakh from the Startup Odisha initiative. He says they also have received a commitment of Rs 30 lakh from an angel investor.
With the Rs 11 lakh that he got from his provident fund in January 2017, Bhubaneswar-based Nihar Ranjan launched FlashDeal to bridge the gap between online users and offline businesses. The app aggregates offline deals and sends them to online users based on location and interests.
The services offered range from groceries and spas to food delivery and fine dining reservations, and even cab rentals. Altogether, FlashDeal has tied up with 173 retailers, and is targeting 357 by March 2018. It gets a 14 percent commission from retailers for monthly sales, and also have an annual subscription fee of Rs 500 for retailers. Nihar found his co-founders Zahid Akhtar and Malaya Bastia through social media.
FlashDeal’s team of 18 includes two marketing teams - one B2B that visits retailers, and another B2C that takes care of local level low-cost advertisement. The company has gained market and customer data from in-house market research.
Founded by Sourab and Priyanka Agarwal, Vedi Herbals offers products defined by nature and manufactured with technology, at an affordable price. Its products are claimed to be based on the principles of Ayurveda and manufactured using finest ingredients sourced from across rural India.
Vedi Herbals is a subsidiary and a marketing arm of Hempcann Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Hempcann’s main focus is to promote Cannabis plant for various uses.
It offers authentic Ayurvedic formulations, herbal health supplements, and bodycare products. All its products are claimed to be 100 percent vegetarian, cruelty-free, natural, free from artificial fragrance, and harmful chemicals.
This bootstrapped startup was founded in 2017 and is based in Bhubaneswar. Its products are made to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), ISO, HALAL, and USDA Organic standards.
The lack of a formative education in Binayak Acharya’s hometown Cuttack made him start ThinkZone in 2015. It is a startup providing low-cost education to underprivileged children in low-income communities.
The startup uses a ‘school-in-a-box’ model that contains a set of age- and study-level-appropriate, curriculum-based items that help engage students in the classroom. These include maps, charts, and activity blocks for students, and a tablet that is pre-loaded with guided lesson plans and day-wise material for teachers.
ThinkZone uses ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ (TaRL) - a pedagogical approach that involves evaluating children using a simple assessment tool and grouping them according to their learning level rather than age or grade.
In 2018, the company raised $105,000 from BPCL (Ankur Startup Scheme), UnLtd India, D-Prize (US Distribution Inc), INVENT (Department of Science and Technology – Government of India, DFID, UK, and Villgro) and Startup Odisha (Department of MSME, Government of Odisha).
It also raised a Pre-Series A round of $104,000 from impact investor Gray Matters Capital's edLABS initiative.