Prosus confirms jury for India social impact challenge, announces WHO support for Prosus SICA

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Prosus, the global consumer internet group of Naspers, recently announced the expert jury to adjudicate the inaugural Prosus Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (Prosus SICA), and that the World Health Organization (WHO) has come on board to support the initiative alongside existing partners Invest India, Startup India, and Social Alpha.

Over 20 million people in India live with disabilities, and globally more than 1 billion people need one or more assistive products. Launched in August 2020, Prosus SICA is a social impact programme to identify and support the most promising Indian startups advancing assistive technology for persons with disabilities. Prosus has committed Rs 16,500,000 over three years to this initiative, which received over 200 applications from startups across India.

Shortlisted startups are being evaluated by a jury comprising venture capitalists and startup founders, technical experts and clinicians, disability NGOs and policy experts, all of whom are well placed to work together to find the most promising startups in assistive technology.

The composition of the Prosus SICA jury is as follows:

  1. Arman Ali, Disability rights activist and Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People
  2. Dr Patanjali Nayar, Regional Adviser for Disability, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, WHO
  3. Dr K. G. Satheesh, Director, Center for Assistive Technology and Innovation, National Institute of Speech and Hearing
  4. Dr Meenu Bhambhani, VP and Head of Corporate Citizenship, Inclusion and Diversity, State Street
  5. Dr Soikat Ghosh, Assistant Director, Mobility India
  6. Dr Pooja Mukul, Director, Jaipur Foot Rehabilitation Center
  7. Dr. Senthil Kumar, Chief Innovation Officer, Association for Persons with Disability
  8. Dr. Akila Surendran, Senior Engineer (Assistive Technology), National Institute of Speech and Hearing
  9. Dr. Vinitha George, Head of Department, Audio and Speech Language Pathology, National Institute of Speech and Hearing
  10. Mr. George Sebastian, Head of eiLabs, EnAble India
  11. Dr. Sam Taraporevala, Director, Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged
  12. Ms. Neha Trivedi, Project Consultant, Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged
  13. Dr. M.V. Ashok, Head, Centre for Advanced Research and Excellence in Autism and Development Disorders, St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru
  14. Mr. Vidit Aatrey, Founder and CEO, Meesho
  15. Mr. Raghu Gullapali, Executive Director, Global Operations, Innovation & Partnership, LV Prasad Eye Institute
  16. Prof (Dr) PVM Rao, Head, Department of Design, IIT Delhi
  17. Dr Suresh Nair, CTO, Foundation for Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship & Co-founder, Design Alpha
  18. Mr. Dipesh Sutariya, Co-founder and CEO, EnAble India

Shortlisted contestants will be whittled down to eleven finalists, who will be invited to present to an expert panel, after which the top three startups will be unveiled on December 2, ahead of International Day of People with Disabilities on December 3. The top startup will receive Rs 2,500,000, and the first and second runners-up will receive Rs 1,800,000 and Rs 1,200,000 respectively.

All three startups will also be inducted into a new Prosus SICA mentorship programme, which will see them receive business advice from Prosus, technical advisory and support from WHO, and an opportunity to incubate with Social Alpha, an organisation focused on strengthening impact innovation and entrepreneurship across the country.

Chapal Khasnabis, Head, Access to Assistive Technology and Medical Devices Unit, WHO, Geneva said,“Collective action is required to address the needs and challenges faced in creating and providing assistive tech solutions. We are happy to support Prosus SICA to make this change and pave the way for the future.”
Sehraj Singh, Director, Public Policy and Corporate Affairs, Prosus, said, “The interest and ideas we’ve seen over past months confirm our belief in the pioneering thinking of Indian entrepreneurs in applying technology in a smart and scalable way to help persons with disabilities. We are grateful to have on board an impressive and diverse jury and delighted that WHO has agreed to collaborate with Prosus SICA and support the successful startups with technical advice along the way.”
Manoj Kumar, Chairman & Founder, Social Alpha, said, “We are delighted to see such a strong and diverse jury and we look forward to learning about and supporting the startups it selects. Social Alpha will work with SICA’s top startups as they look to grow their businesses and, in doing so, improving accessibility to assistive technology across India.”

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