5 startups get Rs 35 lakh each in WhatsApp India contest

IANS-

Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Invest India on Tuesday picked 5 Indian startups who would receive nearly Rs 35 lakh ($50,000) each to further develop country-first products to solve real-life problems being faced by millions in the country.

The start-ups are: digital healthcare platform MedCords; virtual reality content platform Melzo; WhatsApp-based conversational AI platform Javis; agri-tech platform Gramophone; and MinionLabs that provides real-time device level electricity consumption insights to businesses.

“With more and more India-centric startups coming to the fore, we are looking forward to act more than just financing them. We would do partnership with them to bring right services to right people,” Abhijit Bose, Head of WhatsApp India, told IANS.

“The first wave of technology largely brought concepts from other countries to India which were then localized according to the needs. We are now looking into innovative idea which are India-first, solving unique problems being faced by the country,” he added.

Invest India is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India and acts as the first point of reference for investors in the country.

From over 1,700 entries from 25 states, 10 were shortlisted who presented the pitch to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs including Shailesh Lakhani from Sequoia Capital, Vani Kola from Kalaari Capital, Deep Kalra from MakeMyTrip, Harsha Kumar from Lightspeed Ventures and Bose from WhatsApp.

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

“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, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

“We are constantly working to strengthen the ecosystem to support our startups by simplifying regulations, building infrastructure and establishing meaningful partnerships,” he added.

In October 2018, Invest India and WhatsApp announced their partnership to give an impetus to the Indian entrepreneurial community. They have trained 15,000 aspiring entrepreneurs from Tier 2 and 3 cities.

A flagship initiative of the government, the Startup India program has over 19,000 startups registered with it, spread across 513 districts.

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