Swachhata Startup Challenge: startups could win Rs 25L grant from MoHUA-AFD, a chance to win follow-on investment up to Rs 50L from Villgro and up to 100,000 USD worth AWS credit

Swachhata Startup Challenge osffers Rs 25L grant from MoHUA-AFD, follow-on investment up to Rs 50L from Villgro and AWS credits to selected startups
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Overflowing waste bins, recklessly littered streets, large landfills often burning mountains of plastic aren’t uncommon sights in India. In fact, in 2019, Delhi’s Ghazipur had earned the tag of the tallest waste mountain in the country with mounds as high as 65 metres, just eight shorter than the Qutub Minar. Established in 1984, Ghazipur landfill had reached capacity in 2002, but the city’s waste continued to be dumped there even after that. The result was that the 70-acre landfill held more than 14 million tonnes of legacy waste.

The magnitude of India’s waste management crisis

India is estimated to generate 65 million tonnes of waste annually, of which 62 million tonnes are Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) that includes organic waste, recyclables like paper, plastic, wood, glass, etc. Of this, about 75-80 percent of the municipal waste gets collected and out of which only 22-28 percent gets processed and treated. By 2025, the MSW generated is projected to increase to 436 million tonnes. India's plastic waste generation more than doubled between 2015-2020 with an average annual increase of 21.8 percent.

If you are a start-up, an early-stage organisation or working in collaboration to solve problems in the waste sector, apply now for the Swachhata Startup Challenge. The application closes on March 31. Know more here.

What adds to India’s woes in addition to the huge volumes of waste that is generated is the lack of infrastructure and support systems for solid waste management. The COVID-19 pandemic has further added to the country’s waste management woes. As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India produced 47,200 tonnes of COVID-19-related biomedical waste between August 2020 and June 2021; these included PPE kits, face masks, gloves, needles, and other medical waste items. This is over and above the average 600 tonnes/day of biomedical waste that was produced in pre-COVID times. The CounterMEASURE project – an initiative by UNEP – found out that face masks were the most common biomedical waste littered along the Ganges rivers in 2021.

Swachhata Startup Challenge

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and points towards India’s shortcomings with respect to the waste management infrastructure. Designing and implementing an integrated mechanism of solid waste management involving the government, technology, and informal workers like the waste pickers is critical to address the country’s waste management challenge.

An initiative like the Swachhata Startup Challenge plays a critical role in aiding India’s waste management efforts through ecosystem collaboration.

Launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in collaboration with AFD (Agence Française de Développement), the Swachhata Startup Challenge seeks to nurture innovations to address challenges in India’s waste sector. The Challenge will support 10 startups working at the nexus of technology and social innovation to solve India’s waste management challenges by improving the efficiency of waste management, increasing social impact, improving transparency of the waste value chain, and reducing the use of single-use plastic. Given the strong connection to technology and social innovation, Villgro as the implementation partner and AWS as the technology partner are supporting the initiative.

Solutions in four key waste management areas

1.Social Inclusion

This includes aspects such as designing low-cost efficient mechanical solutions for cleaning septic tanks and sewer lines, efficient operation and maintenance of community and public toilets in a hygienic and sustainable manner, social innovations for improved waste collection and management in low-income settlements, and taking plastic waste management from informal to formal economy.

2. Zero Dump

Innovative solutions for tracking segregated door to door collection of solid waste, processing and recycling of all segregated fractions of solid waste, low-cost portable solution for remediation of legacy dumpsites, among others.

3. Plastic Waste

This involves solutions aimed at processing and recycling of plastic waste, minimising degradation of plastic during recycling, plastic waste management in eco-sensitive regions,

innovative methods for collection of multi-layered plastic and its disposal, disposal of plastic from legacy dumpsites, alternatives of single-use plastic, to name a few. A key focus area will also be solutions that can raise awareness and promote behavior change around plastic segregation and recycling practices.

4. Transparency

Tech innovations for real-time monitoring of operations in waste management infrastructure, tracking the flow of goods from manufacturer to the end of their life cycle or disposal, calculating the environmental, social and economic price of goods, especially plastics, are a key focus here.

Opportunity for startups

The 10 final selected startups will receive a financial award of Rs 25 lakh from MoHUA-AFD and one year of personalized professional support. Startups stand a chance to receive follow-on investment up to INR 50,00,000 from Villgro. Each winner will also receive up to 100,000 USD worth AWS credits and technology support for conducting pilots.

The challenge is open to startups and early stage organisations registered in India and Indo-French joint venture startups with digital technology and social impact at the heart of the solution. The startups need to have in place a legal structure and an autonomous economic model with a Minimum Viable Product ready stage and onwards.

The applications for the Swachhata Startup Challenge will be evaluated based on aspects such as uniqueness and potential of the tech solution to address challenges of the waste sector, robustness of the operational and commercial model, potential for replicability or scalability, a diverse team with complementary expertise, among others.

“There is immense potential for social impact in the waste management and sanitation sector in India, however, there are evident gaps in terms of financial support and personalized professional mentorship arising as roadblocks. The Swachhata Startup Challenge aims to bridge these gaps by supporting 10 startups in the waste management ecosystem creating innovative solutions, further facilitating their growth and impact.”
Mohammad Azhar, Lead - Government & Public Sector Initiatives, Villgro

The pre-selection round will commence from April 1 to April 30, 2022, in which 30 candidates will be selected after a thorough screening process. The selection phase will span between May 1 and 30, 2022, in which shortlisted participants will need to submit an application form, followed by a virtual pitch event which will then be succeeded by the selection of the final 10 startups.

Apply for the Swachhata Startup Challenge now. The deadline for submission is March 31, 2022.


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