Starting Up with Shradha Sharma: How these entrepreneurs are solving grassroots problems for India
The second episode of ‘Starting Up with Shradha Sharma’ had Dr Vibha Tripathi, Founder of Boon; Ria Rustagi, Co-Founder and CEO of Pankh Technologies; Roli Gupta, Founder of babblebots.ai; and Vamsi Udayagiri, Founder and CEO of Hesa, sharing their journey.
Saturday April 22, 2023,
5 min Read
YourStory recently started Starting Up with Shradha Sharma—a live show on LinkedIn—hosted by Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory. The show provides a first-of-its-kind opportunity for early- and mid-stage startups to showcase their products and ideas without the luxury of a retake or a chance to tweak their pitch.
In this weekly show, Shradha talks to founders of four to five early- and mid-stage startups. Last week’s episode had Dr Vibha Tripathi, Founder of Boon; Ria Rustagi, Co-Founder and CEO of Pankh Technologies; Roli Gupta, Founder of babblebots.ai; and Vamsi Udayagiri, Founder and CEO of Hesa, sharing their journey.
Let us see how these startups are solving grassroots problems for the country.
Watertech startup Boon
Founded by Dr Vibha Tripathi and Advait Kumar in 2011, Boon (formerly known as) is enabling access to clean water to people across the socioeconomic spectrum.
The Gurugram-based startup offers drinking water solutions to communities, rural areas, hospitality players, corporate firms, and others. Its deployments include India’s largest direct solar-powered water purification system in Faridpur (Haryana) and AI-enabled dedicated glass water bottling facilities for premium water for luxury hotels such as JW Marriott. Boon has also deployed its products across railway stations, airport lounges, hospitals, and multinational companies.
Boon’s in-house research team has developed and patented the IoT platform Clairvoyant. Clairvoyant, Boon says, is an advanced and dedicated platform for online streaming data on the quality of drinking water. The startup says it has enabled several eminent hotel chains and offices to do away with plastic bottles from their premises through its innovative technology.
During the interaction with Shradha, Dr Vibha said the startup is planning to expand outside India this year.
The watertech startup raised a pre-Series A round of $1.6 million in 2021 from Rajasthan Asset Management Company through RVCF III, India Growth Fund, and a group of investors.
Hesa, a platform for rural commerce
With an aim to create an Amazon for rural India, Vamsi Udayagiri launchedin April 2020. Udayagiri describes Hesa as a “go-to” company for all rural commerce needs. It empowers farmers to buy and sell online through its agritech vertical and also enables financial services for rural consumers—from withdrawals and deposits to insurance cover and utility bill payments—through its fintech vertical.
The app is integrated with multiple APIs and works like an integrated agri buy-and-sell marketplace, an e-commerce marketplace, and a financial services marketplace.
The startup has built a superapp with all the facilities for the rural consumer, who is assisted by a village level entrepreneur/influencer called the ‘Hesaathi’. The influencer primarily uses the app on behalf of the end consumer.
“Let’s say I’m an influencer in a village and I know 200 families, and I help them with whatever needs they have with the superapp,” explained Udayagiri, during the show.
Udayagiri said rural consumers can also use the app, but their adoption is less than 10%. However, he believes that, over the next five to six years, this will go up. End consumers will start using the app on their own and the role of the influencer will shift from demand aggregation to demand fulfillment, he said.
He also shared that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, around 600 influencers reverse migrated to the villages and they are still remaining there.
Currently, there are over 40,000 influencers in five states, with a reach across one lakh villages.
Hesa has raised $5 million so far, across pre-seed and seed rounds, and it is in talks to raise a Series A round.
Braintech and mental health firm Pankh Tech
After losing her younger sister to a rare brain infection, Ria Rastogi, along with her husband Bhavya Madan, built a braintech product ‘’, which brings the benefits of neurofeedback to the comfort of one’s home with the help of a wearable EEG headband and a mobile app.
Founded in 2019 and named after Ria’s sister, Pankh Technologies, which has developed Neuphony, focuses on braintech and mental health.
The startup claims to have built Asia Pacific’s ‘first smartwatch for the brain’ in the form of a wearable headband. It monitors your stress, focus and attention, resilience, memory, and mood levels and then recommends solutions based on your data points—meditation, music, breathing techniques, etc.
The Neuphony headband is available on ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and its own website. It is priced at Rs 49, 000.
Pankh Technologies has also launched brain gyms across India in partnership with wellness and performance centres. At the brain gyms, psychotherapists and meditation professionals use the Neuphony device to provide neurofeedback-based brain assessment, training, and wellness programmes to end users.
The brain gyms are present in 15 cities.
Babblebots.ai, a talent acquisition platform
Founded in 2022 by Roli Gupta,is a recruitment and talent acquisition platform that uses voice technology, conversational intelligence, and proprietary AI algorithms to interview and assess candidates for both technical and non-technical roles—through ‘AI-Recruiters’. The platform is powered by neural network GPT-3 (the technology behind the ChatGPT chatbot) and speech AI.
Babblebots has 15 clients, including large enterprises, SMEs and startups across sectors.
AI-Recruiters is a fully conversational voice bot designed to have a near real-life conversation with job candidates, answer their questions, and assess them for communication and technical and analytical skills.
In February this year, the startup had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Rakesh Mathur (Gupshup, Junglee which was acquired by Amazon, Fizz Social App) and Rishi Deshpande (Chalo, acquired by Booking Group, and Whiterabbit.ai). Roli said it is about to raise Rs 10 crore and is in talks with quite a few venture capitalists.
Here's the link to register and share your story with Shradha Sharma - https://lnkd.in/gUtkeCWK
Edited by Swetha Kannan