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Startup India and WhatsApp announce winners of the $250,000 Grant Challenge

The ‘Startup India – WhatsApp Grand Challenge’ was launched earlier this year to inspire entrepreneurs to develop solutions that have socio-economic impact on the Indian economy.

, ET Bureau|
Jun 18, 2019, 07.00 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: Invest India and WhatsApp on Tuesday awarded a total grant of $250,000 (Rs 35 lakh each) to five winners of the 'Startup India WhatsApp Grand Challenge.'

The ‘Startup India – WhatsApp Grand Challenge’ was launched earlier this year to inspire entrepreneurs to develop solutions that have socio-economic impact on the Indian economy. WhatsApp said the challenge received over 1700 entries from 25 states across the country. Around 70% of the applications received were startups that are in early traction (started less than 3 months back) and prototype/validation stage.

In a statement, WhatsApp said the entries were evaluated for their innovative thinking, scale of impact and the ability to solve real problems faced by Indians. A shortlist of 10 entries were then given a chance to pitch their ideas live to a mix of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs including Shailesh Lakhani (Sequoia Capital), Vani Kola (Kalaari Capital) Deep Kalra (MakeMyTrip), Harsha Kumar (Lightspeed Ventures), and Abhijit Bose (WhatsApp).

“The Indian startup ecosystem has undergone a dynamic transformation in the last few years, with the addition of many successful unicorns and high growth in venture funding, said Ramesh Abhishek, secretary DPIIT, Govt of India. We are constantly working to strengthen the ecosystem to support our startups by simplifying regulations, building infrastructure, and establishing meaningful partnerships. Congratulations to the winners of the Startup India WhatsApp Grand Challenge and good luck to them for driving the country’s economic growth.”

Abhijit Bose head of WhatsApp India said India has proven to propel highly innovative ideas that are making significant impact to society and the economy. "We at WhatsApp are proud to have a role in helping the next generation of innovators use technology to help improve lives in India and around the world. Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to seeing their ideas come to life.”

The five winners of the challenge include MedCords, which is using technology to bring dependable and affordable access to quality healthcare to rural and semi-urban India, Melzo, an affordable virtual reality content platform, enabling masses to consume content easily on low-end devices, Javis, a WhatsApp-based conversational AI platform that connects the right people with the right information to get business done quickly, Gramophone, an agri-tech platform providing agronomic intelligence to farmers, and MinionLabs, which helps businesses reduce electricity costs, leveraging a machine learning approach.

In October 2018, Invest India and WhatsApp had announced their partnership which they said was aimed at giving an impetus to the Indian entrepreneurial community. WhatsApp said through the partnership, they have trained 15,000 aspiring entrepreneurs (under the Startup India Yatra programme) from tier 2 and 3 cities, spread across 10 States and 80 districts.

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