Spotlight: How The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge is tackling clean drinking water challenges head-on
A disastrous water crisis has been creeping up on India for several years. Water tables have declined rapidly in some parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.
The summer months were when water was scarce in India. But now, drinking water is considered gold since water scarcity is at an all-time high. Less than 50 percent of the population in India had access to clean drinking water in 2021.
A thirst crisis looms large. And there is an urgent need for smart water management through innovation and pivotal shifts in policy.
Challenging this complex issue is The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge
Launched in February 2022 in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the aim is to support solutions that address population-scale water challenges. The journey to solve this issue of water is supported and funded by Ashirvad Pipes (Aliaxis India). The challenge provides support for startups and innovators working on solutions to provide clean drinking water to underprivileged and rural households.
With a total prize of Rs 2.5 crore (INR 1.75 crore grand prize for the winning solution and runner-up + milestone grants for finalists), the program runs for 18 months and supports entrepreneurs in developing, testing, and scaling solutions through a network of investors, mentors, technology and knowledge partners, and policy circle advisors.
“We believe in the grassroots innovation capabilities and entrepreneurial mindset of Indians. The prize is expected to not only supplement the Jal Jeevan Mission through out-of-the-box and scalable ideas but also drive a larger awareness of the issue,” shares Kanishka Chatterjee, Director, The/Nudge Prize.
Lack of access to clean usable water gives rise to a whole gamut of problems including scarcity of drinking water, lack of proper sanitation, and compromised hygiene. A study by Lancet has stated that more than 500,000 deaths per annum in India are caused by water pollution.
India is faced with a problem at population scale and solutions need to be impactful at that scale. To solve critical water access issues for 100 million citizens of the third largest economy in the world, it is vital for solutions to be sustainable and scalable.
“Access to clean drinking water is fundamental to achieving a better quality of life for all Indians. Solving for this and enabling all households to have clean drinking water is a pressing need. It is a need that must be addressed through collaboration and innovation. All stakeholders must come together and work to solve this challenge. Water management is an issue we are deeply passionate about at Ashirvad and we are looking forward to supporting the growth of the contestants in the Ashirvad Water Challenge,” shares Deepak Mehrotra, Managing Director, Ashirvad Pipes.
Evaluating organisations and their impact
The/Nudge Prize has five clear categories of contestants, explains Kanishka. Some of them are deeply embedded in community mobilisation through traditional interventions, while some are enabling deep tech interventions to impact source sustainability.
“At this stage of the competition we are very excited by interventions that are trying to radically improve source sustainability through atmospheric water generation or through science-backed interventions in groundwater recharge & wastewater management; equally excited by analytics and IoT startups trying to fill in the data gaps and intelligence augmentation for water utilities. We are eager to see our ecosystem enablers bringing these water technologies and interventions to the first mile — working with the community to enable systemic changes in the value chain,” he adds.
What do the AWC semi-finalists gain?
- Access to an eminent circle of advisers, partners, investors and experts
- Stage and maturity of solution, appropriate support to contestants
- Knowledge sessions with leading water experts
- Technology development support and access to pilot locations
- Interfacing with the civic society and government organizations immersed in water management projects
Finalists will receive hands-on mentoring, funding and go-to-market support from different ecosystem partners. Five finalists will receive milestone grants of Rs 15 lakh each. The winner and runner-up will receive grants of Rs 1 crore and Rs 75 lakh respectively.
To arrive at the five finalists, The/Nudge Prize team is onboarding an independent water expert assessor, who’ll execute comprehensive field-based evaluations for each of the selected solutions and their on-ground impact. These scores will be combined with evaluations from an expert panel to decide which of the organizations have shown the most intent and impact across the last 6 months of this challenge.
Apart from this, there will be numerous opportunities for all the high-potential finalists. They stand to receive further funding from a pool of investors like Social Alpha, Aavishkaar, Bharat Innovation Fund, and Lightrock. Finalists are exposed to opportunities to be mentored and incubated and also be a part of Imagine H2O Asia Accelerator, along with other accelerators and incubators like BITS Pilani PIEDS, Indus Water Institute and SIIC.
Enabling solutions for a socio-economic problem
The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge is disruptive due to its process of exploring solutions for a problem while fostering collaboration amongst participating organisations. By offering a platform for contestants to come together to form a perspective on critical issues like water scarcity, the challenge is ensuring that solutions and people innovating in this space have eyes on the ecosystem and the capital to realize their visions.
For organisations to grow and really have an impact, collaboration is key. This is because water scarcity as an issue is deeply rooted and requires interventions from all angles. Safe, affordable, reliable drinking water is central to public health, strong communities, and economic development. No one player will be able to sustainably solve this issue. The very scale of the problem can be tackled only when players from different sectors come together to create an impact.
The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge is enabling all the semi-finalists of the AWC to grow exponentially.