Innovating for social good: 10 startups that made 2020 better

In 2020, these social startups channelled their learnings and expertise towards leaving an impact on society, as well as the environment.
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Over the last few years, many businesses directed their innovations towards society and the environment, leveraging technology and the entrepreneurial mindset to do good.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic also presented a huge opportunity for social entrepreneurship.

SocialStory identified some of these startups helping the underserved, such as farmer communities, to improve their livelihoods, especially in this trying year.

On one hand, we saw bankers-turned-farmers who resorted to traditional farming and are producing high-quality organic products via their startup ‘Two Brothers Organic Farm’. We also came across Distinct Horizon’s Vriddhi, which is providing a unique technology to limit the use of fertilisers yet increase productivity.

Similarly, Subjee Coolers is improving farmer profits by a great margin with their unique cooling technology.

Highlighting some of these unique innovations, SocialStory presents the top social startups of 2020.

Two Brothers Organic Farm

Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange

Two Brothers Organic Farm (TBOF) was founded by brothers Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange. Both, previously bankers, quit their jobs to start their own farm in their hometown in Bhodani village near Pune.

Soon, they learnt that productivity of farms had fallen drastically. While organic farming was practised in some remote pockets across the country, it was not done in an economically viable manner.

So, they decided to go back to traditional fertilisers and trained 9,000 farmers to do the same on their farms.

ProBano

Aditya Bose. Founder, ProBano

For students with underprivileged backgrounds, and for those who are the first in their families to be educated, access to counseling to decide their career paths is limited.

To fill this gap and to help millions of children across India who lack such resources, Aditya Bose started ProBano in 2017.

The Delhi-based organisation is providing feasible counseling, and has reached out to 12,000 students from 142 institutes across 11 states to date.

Distinct Horizon’s Vriddhi

DH Vriddhi in the making

In the field of agriculture, low crop production is mainly caused by the excess use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which also leads to a decline in quality. Constant innovations and newer technologies are needed to address the issue of a decrease in quality and quantity of production. 

One such innovation launched by Distinct Horizon, a Delhi-based agritech startup, seeks to address food production while protecting the ever-degrading environment.

Founded by Ayush Nigam and Santosh Kumar, Distinct Horizon has patented DH Vriddhi, a tool that helps farmers place fertilisers deep into the soil, using the Urea Deep Placement (UDP) technique, thereby reducing the use of fertilisers by 30-40 percent, increasing crop productivity.

Rural Invest

Financial illiteracy, lack of employment opportunities, and inaccessibility to basic facilities like education and healthcare, have crippled lives in the countryside. A report by the National Statistical Office (NSO) reveals an increase in rural poverty by around four percent between 2011-12 and 2017-18. 

Delhi-based startup Rural Invest is attempting to tackle this urban-rural divide and financial deprivation through a robust digital wealth management solution.

Founded by Naman Tekriwal, Raghav Sharma, Satyam Mehta, and Madhav Sharma in April 2020, the startup has developed a mobile application specifically for people residing in rural areas to invest in mutual funds through systematic investment plans (SIPs).

RuKart Technologies’ Subjee Cooler

Subjee Cooler

The farming community was one of the worst hit during the lockdown, with issues like severe disruptions in the supply chain of farm produce, and closing down of the local mandis, markets, and transport facilities.

At a time like this, Thane-based RuKart Technologies came up with a solution to help farmers keep their produce fresh for longer: ‘Subjee Cooler.’

The brainchild of three alumni of IIT Bombay — Gunvant Nehete, Sharayu Kulkarni, and Vikash Jha — the Subjee Cooler is an affordable, no-maintenance vegetable cooler, which provides a lifeline to marginal farmers by increasing their profits. With this, farmers can harvest their produce when they want to, and store it for a few days to get a better price.

Outhouse Jewellery

The trinity star pendant the purchse of which will be dedicated towards afforestation.

According to the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), textile manufacturing contributed to 20 percent of the total industrial water pollution across the world. Water was not the only resource that was hit hard.

Production of materials like polyester released a 706 billion kg of greenhouse gases in a span of one year alone. Jewellery making and mining, on the other hand, resulted in large areas of soil contamination. 

Noida-based Outhouse Jewellery is attempting to offset all this and go the sustainable way by recycling old metals, manufacturing products like vegan leather bags, and also collaborating with non-governmental organisations to preserve the environment.

Since its establishment in 2012 by sisters Kaabia and Sasha Grewal, the startup has gradually built and streamlined many eco-friendly initiatives

Villa Mart

Founded by Dr Ramesh Chandra Biswal and Gopal Krushna Pradhan in 2017, Villa Mart buys farmers’ produce at their doorstep for double the price. At present, it has a strong network of more than 50,000 people and 2,000 farmers across 40 villages.

According to the founder, middlemen fetch the farmers nearly 40-50 percent of the market price and take some extra vegetables free of cost. But with a direct link with Villa Mart, a farmer gets nearly 1.5 to two times of his previous income

Sys3E

The team of Sys3E.

The tight link between climate change and sustainable sources of energy has led to the adoption of renewable sources of energy like biomass, wind, and solar. In the last few years, India has been meeting its demand for electricity by showing a deep commitment to harnessing the power of the sun. 

Pune-based startup Sys3E is in pursuit of accelerating this. Founded by Shilowbhadra Banerjee, Sudhir Muthyala, Rajarshi Banerjee, and Sahil Kala in 2016, the startup’s primary product SunCaptor comprises a mounting system that includes a controller and tracker that can optimise generation of solar energy

Math Love

Shalini Ilanahai (left) and Alamelu Kathiresan (right), Co-founders, Math Love.

One of the main reasons behind the whole ‘fear of mathematics’ is the lack of conceptual understanding of the subject, as well as the absence of constructive tutelage. Alamelu Kathiresan (28) and Shalini Ilanahai (31) decided to bridge this gap through their venture Math Love. 

Founded in 2017, the Chennai-based startup focuses on providing schools with innovative curriculums inclusive of props, games, and learning material to promote holistic numerical learning.

The duo trains teachers to resort to experiential techniques of pedagogy and also promote a better learning environment for students to gain a grasp on mathematical concepts. 

Berry Clean

Abhishek Taneja (left) after a seminar on sustainability and waste management at Shoolini University.

The pandemic resulted in high demand for cleansing products, which are usually overloaded with harmful chemical. As a result, there is a grave need to replace them with ecologically responsible and sustainable ones that are good for you, your home, the society, and Earth. 

Realising this, husband-wife duo Shruti and Abhishek Taneja, along with Gaurav Mahendru, started Berry Clean. The platform offers a range of natural cleaning products, which claim to be beneficial for health, society, and the Earth.

Inspired by nature, the startup was launched to promote a sustainable lifestyle, which is in harmony with nature. It strives to empower farmers, self-help groups, and micro-enterprises by offering sustainable packaging, shipping, and creating zero-waste and natural organic products.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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