With its vast talent pool, diverse market, and growing investment landscape, start-ups have played a pivotal role in propelling India's growth trajectory
India has witnessed a remarkable transformation on the innovation front in recent times, which can largely be attributed to the growing start-up ecosystem. From groundbreaking advancements in technology to reimagined business models, start-ups are the driving force that is catapulting India onto the global stage of innovation.
India's start-up-led innovation narrative is one of adaptability, resilience, and audacious ambition. It compelled traditional industries to rethink their approaches, catalysing a new era of collaboration and coexistence between old and new.
The trajectory of innovation holds importance as technological shifts are not impartial, thus carrying notable implications for social, economic, and environmental development.
Promoting an open national innovation system (ONIS) in developing nations proves advantageous for the global exchange of knowledge and technology, fostering growth in productivity. This underscores the approach of embracing an ONIS to enhance capabilities within developing countries.
Back in 2008, India stood as one of the world's most unbanked nations. Fast-forward just over a decade, and the transformation is remarkable. With the payments layer on the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) the UPI, India achieved an impressive 80% bank account penetration among adults.
To put this into perspective, had India solely relied on traditional growth avenues, it could have taken a staggering 47 years to achieve the same level of progress. Start-ups like Credochain and PhiCommerce have built a plethora of products and services around this stack, expanding to new customer segments, new usage scenarios, and new ways to enable an inclusive financial environment.
Flyk, a fintech, is making inclusive lending possible. This start-up provides credit services to India's low- and moderate-income (LMI) segment. It works to overcome the limitations of traditional lending models, giving marginalised individuals access to credit, the ability to meet their financial needs, and potentially help them establish a credit history over time.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development prioritises universal health coverage (UHC) for all, highlighting the importance of accessible health services without financial burden. Achieving this inclusively requires addressing the unmet need for assistive products, which is crucial for meeting Sustainable Development Goals, UHC, and upholding the rights of persons with disabilities.
One such solution is TurnPlus by True Assistive Technology. This was designed to be a plug-and-play, well-engineered product to enable easy entry and exit into a vehicle for an individual with limited and partial mobility. It is especially useful for wheelchair transfers and the elderly who can navigate the transition with minimum effort.
The influence of start-ups extends beyond specific sectors to spark broader societal shifts. In agriculture, a sector deeply intertwined with India's identity, start-up-led innovation has been particularly transformative.
Bastar se Bazaar Tak, a start-up hailing from Chhattisgarh, offers employment avenues to rural tribal forest-residing farmers. The venture focuses on curbing post-harvest wastage, enhancing the value of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) through processing, and effectively marketing the resulting goods. This initiative seeks to provide urban consumers with untainted, top-notch forest products while ensuring fair compensation for the forest-dwelling communities.
Some ventures also look at utilising waste and preventing it from going into landfills and oceans. EcoKaari, headquartered in Pune, specialises in transforming waste materials into innovative products, such as bags crafted from Lay's chips packets. This social enterprise is driven by dual objectives: environmental conservation through plastic waste upcycling and creating livelihood opportunities, particularly for marginalised women and youth.
Start-ups are also innovating in far corners of the country. Originating in Hubli,
This utilises upcycled carbon, presenting a unique solution for combating air pollution on a large scale.
Some founders are reconnecting with their roots, returning to India to solve pressing problems that need attention. Baeru, founded by Divya Hedge, a Google alumna and Northwestern University graduate, engages with India's coastal communities in climate action by addressing ocean plastic pollution. The project focuses on recovering ocean plastics, establishing a circular economy, and empowering coastal women with dignified livelihood opportunities.
Innovation on a national scale relies on a combination of factors. Foremost is the innovator’s agency—the willingness to take risks and mobilise resources to traverse the entrepreneurial journey.
How can enabling ecosystems create an environment that reduces the risk of mortality and accelerates the learning paths of the innovator? How can incubation ecosystems spotlight problem sets, bring together complementary capabilities, enable venture progress, and strengthen founder mindsets?
- Shloka Sachdev, AVP and Head of Marketing and Partnerships at NSRCEL IIM Bangalore, along with Anand Sri Ganesh, COO of NSRCEL IIM Bangalore