HDFC Bank’s Parivartan SmartUp grants to help startups drive social change with innovation

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The COVID-19 pandemic might have dashed plans of businesses across the globe while hampering their growth prospects, but it turned out to be an opportunity to scale and innovate for the startup ecosystem. As the world stepped up adoption of digital solutions, Indian startups leveraged leading technologies to improve access to services and drive last-mile impact.

Be it ensuring seamless education with edtech solutions or helping the government fight the pandemic, startups' resilience and ability to fuel social change also helped them get support from leading investors and multiple stakeholders. According to YourStory, the Indian startup ecosystem raised around $23 billion between January and September this year, with more than 55 percent of the funding raised in Q3 2021 alone.

Keen on building and innovating for the new normal, the Indian startup ecosystem is focusing on supporting startups that are working on promising indigenous tech-based solutions.

To that end, HDFC Bank is back with the fifth edition of its Parivartan SmartUp grants that aim to help social startups and incubators drive change by innovating at scale. The annual programme awards are a part of the bank's 'Parivartan' drive, which is an umbrella initiative for its corporate social responsibility efforts. The bank is accepting applications for the programme and has allocated up to Rs 15 crore toward SmartUp grants.

HDFC bank intends to select 12-15 incubators and around 50 startups working in sectors like environmental conservation, healthcare and gender diversity. The deadline to submit applications is the third week of November 2021 and the winners will be declared in February 2022.

So far, HDFC Bank has disbursed over Rs 20 crore through 22 incubator partners to 90 startups cumulatively. These startups had been involved across segments like agribusiness, edtech, waste management, healthcare, and skill development.

For 2021, HDFC Bank is proposing two different approaches to disburse up to Rs 15 crore.

An initiative to solve problems across segments

As part of the first approach, only those incubators will be allowed to pitch that are eligible as per the guidelines of Schedule VII of The Companies Act, 2013 and The Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy ) Rules 2014. Their applications would then be processed on the basis of the CSR programme's requirements. As part of the process, the incubators would have to provide a list of their startups that align with the programme's focus areas.

Under the second approach, the SmartUp grants would process applications from only those startups that meet the eligibility requirements as envisaged under Schedule VII of The Companies Act, 2013 and The Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules 2014. The startups should be working towards innovation, development or improvement of products or processes or services, or if it is a scalable business model with a high potential of employment generation or wealth creation can apply.

“SmartUp grants are meant to support and nurture social entrepreneurs,” said Ashima Bhat, Group Head-CSR, Business Finance and Infrastructure, HDFC Bank. “India needs innovative businesses to address the needs of the society. We strive to discover and nurture both startups and incubators working in three focus areas: environment and conservation of the natural world; health and improving healthcare​; and gender diversity to improve gender equality​. This is aligned with some of the larger strategic goals of our Parivartan programme,” she added.

A step to empower social entrepreneurs and help them drive change

“Startups are reimagining and reshaping the world we live in. At HDFC Bank, we are committed to developing, strengthening and collaborating with the startup community and ecosystem in India,” said Smita Bhagat, Country Head, Government & Institutional Business, E-Commerce & Startups, HDFC Bank. “By inviting incubators to pitch this year, we are expanding and deepening our reach across the country. We are confident this approach will enhance funding opportunities for more startups and social entrepreneurs,” she added.

The shortlisted incubators and startups will be announced by November-end and would be invited to pitch to the screening panel, which would comprise the top management of HDFC Bank. Due diligence for shortlisted entities will start from December and the winners will be announced in February 2022.

SmartUp Grants are part of a larger effort by HDFC Bank to create an ecosystem to nurture the spirit of innovation and enterprise in the startup ecosystem. It is an extension of HDFC Bank's SmartUp Solution through which the bank offers tailor-made banking and advisory solutions to entrepreneurs.

The bank now has dedicated SmartUp zones in over 67 branches in 30 cities across India, including tier 2 and 3 cities that are emerging as startup hubs.

More details about the application process can be found here:


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