Meet the entrepreneurs whose innovative ideas are shaping the future of retail

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Over 100 key global and local enterprises, entrepreneurs, and academics, among others, delivered valuable insights into the future of retail, while also showcasing new innovations and ideas shaping the retail landscape at the two-day premier edition of Converge conference by Walmart Global Tech India.

The India Innovators Showcase – a specially-curated collection of inspirational talks, featuring stories of India's leading retail innovators and changemakers – turned the spotlight on six entrepreneurs whose path-breaking concepts are moving the innovation needle with a lens on inclusive progress. Here are the highlights from the showcase.

Building an open protocol for the digital marketplace

Beckn for digital commerce is what HTTP is for the World Wide Web and SMTP is for emails. It is a common method that allows basic interoperability of commerce interactions on a digital medium. Plainly speaking and at the risk of oversimplification, the Beckn protocol allows a computer to “understand and speak'' commerce like ‘select an item from menu’, ‘place an order’ with another computer anywhere on the internet by exchanging open, standardised, machine-readable information.

“Open innovation can supercharge the retail sector and unleash a cambrian explosion of innovation,” said Sujith Nair, Co-founder and CEO, Beckn Foundation.

Beckn specifically caters to location-aware local commerce businesses that are small and severally available within a region like a city. Examples of such business include mobility, final mile delivery, restaurants, hotels and healthcare. Beckn by design however could cater to potentially any commercial or non-commercial interactions in a gig economy.

Personal finance app for women

As India's first app-based platform that powers financial independence for women, Basis turns latent users outside of India's formal financial system into active, informed consumers. Its community-driven product leads with financial education, and offers curated advisory tools and recommendations for financial products and services tailored for urban Indian women.

“By creating a women-only community, we provide a safe and candid space for women to discuss all aspects of our lives that impact our financial independence. Conversations cover relationships, careers, and starting and running businesses, as well as picking the right investments and insurance plans,” said Hena Mehta, Co-founder and CEO, Basis.

The community is the first step towards getting women to get comfortable talking about money. The next logical step is to help them make informed decisions, explains the founder. “Women’s lives and careers are vastly different from those of men. That’s why they need to manage money differently. But, it is difficult to find resources that can guide them by taking into consideration women’s realities and goals,” she added.

Easy and effective waste management

Cities in India (and the world) are exploding, and so is the waste they create. An Indian family of four, in fact, produces an average of 2.2 kg of waste each day. Only 60 percent of that waste is organic material (kitchen and garden waste), which can easily be composted into nutrient-rich manure at home.

Poonam Bir Kasturi, Founder, Daily Dump has made home composting a habit for thousands of people across the globe with Daily Dump, India's first home composter for urban spaces, which she designed back in 2006, before Swacchh Bharat became a popular phrase.

Daily Dump’s products and services, designed and built in-house, offer pioneering solutions for decentralised waste management in homes, communities, offices and public spaces. Its range of composters, segregation products, books, services, and awareness material enable change in people's behaviour and mindset to help conserve the environment.

Its signature terracotta ‘kambha’ has become a much-loved symbol of pride in customers' homes. Aaga, the community composter, is India's first hot pile compost that does not use electricity, and is designed to be easily managed and maintained by urban apartment communities for decentralised community composting.

“Our home composting solutions have saved over 50 tonnes of organic waste daily through 75,441 happy families, and added 45,000 kgs of compost to the soil.” said Poonam.

Making e-biking affordable

Ahmedabad-based e-mobility startup LightSpeed Mobility Pvt Ltd builds e-bikes that can at once be pedalled or battery-powered.

Their e-bikes are the ideal lifestyle statement for fitness enthusiasts and those looking for alternative personal mobility devices. You can warm your way up to your destination with a resistance setting and cool down while coming back assisted by the battery.

LightSpeed aims to design the best electric vehicles for urban Indian sensibilities in the pursuit of sustainability. The uniqueness of LightSpeed e-bikes, according to founder Rahil Rupawala, lies in the pedal boost system, portable e-battery and noiseless motor work. “LightSpeed e-bikes are currently available in two variants—the LightSpeed GLYD and the LightSpeed DRYFT. With its three-level pedal booster, GLYD can cater to the people in urban areas, giving them the required support in all types of traffic conditions. DRYFT—The Adventure Companion is for the adventurous, and comes with a five-pedal boost and front shock absorbers. Both have a range of 50 km and a top speed of 25kmph,” said Rahil.

Safer alternative to sanitary napkins

Saathi is a purpose-driven manufacturing company that makes eco-friendly hygiene products that are good for the body, environment, and community.

“Banana fibre uses six times less water per ton produced than cotton, and 10 times less fertilisers. Most importantly, since bananas are an existing food crop, no extra land is being taken up by the production of this fibre. There are already 9 million hectares dedicated to banana farming worldwide. By trailblazing the use of banana fibre as a consumer product raw material, Saathi hopes to champion its expanded use,” said Tarun Bothra, Co-founder, Saathi.

Saathi’s lead product pads are biodegradable and compostable, using plant-based materials for the leak-proof outer layers of the napkin. Many consumers have issues with irritation or rashes from the plastics or chemicals in standard pads. The average conventional sanitary pad contains 3.4g of plastic. This means that over her lifetime, the average woman will generate 60kg of plastic from sanitary pads alone. In 2016, there were 150,000 tons of sanitary pad waste in India. When disposed of, Saathi pads degrade within six months - 1200 times faster than plastic pads. Since Saathi pads don’t contain chemicals, they provide a rash and irritation free experience.

Shaping the world of textiles

As one of the world’s leading home textile solution providers, Welspun is steered by a robust team of 20,000 people. Its strong presence in bed, bath and flooring in over 50 countries makes the branda top global retailer. The company is on track to meet the changing consumer preferences, driven by its differentiation strategy based on branding, innovation, sustainability, along with sustained focus on the domestic market.

“We weave comfort with art at our design studios in India, the US and the UK; backed by strong consumer research. Our industry-defining and multi-level traceability system known as Wel-trak enables consumers to trace back a finished product to its raw material source,” said Dipali Goenka, CEO and Joint MD, Welspun India Ltd.

“As a thought leader in home solutions, we have 30 patents in our portfolio, the highest in the industry. 42 percent of our sales come from innovative products. We have global collaborations on innovations with universities, technology partners and industry associations. Our patented hygrocotton technology provides great value to today's s consumers, Hygrocotton itself has achieved over $1 billion worth of business in the last 15 years, and is now an integral part of the home linen program of all major retailers,” she added.


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