Where there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity. And India undoubtedly has a surplus of both. Here we look at a few startups that are tackling issues – some big, some small, some offbeat – with a mix of technology and lateral thinking.
Doctor's an app away
Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO, Lybrate, believes "doctors’ inaccessibility" is a core problem with healthcare in India. His startup hopes to make doctors accessible via an app that currently connects over 100,000 doctors and health experts with millions of patients across India — Arora calls it the world's largest online Out Patient Department (OPD). "The Lybrate platform multiplies doctors’ presence, breaks geographical barriers, allows healthcare experts to see more patients, thereby increasing the reach and access of doctors to end users," he says.
Education on demand
Prakash Rengarajan, Co-Founder and CEO of HelloClass, observes that when a country has close to 300 million students and a shortfall of over two million K-12 teachers, the educational outcome is bound to be "appalling". His startup hopes to "democratise access" to quality education, which was earlier available only at high-end schools or to children living in specific neighbourhoods. "Now, anyone with a smartphone can access a high-quality teacher either face to face or online. We aim to bridge student learning outcomes by personalising the tutoring experience for each student," says Rengarajan.
Social impact through data
Outline India hopes to solve the "first mile problem" in the development sector by collecting authentic, high quality data that can be used by thinks tanks, donor agencies, universities or governments. The research startup focuses on health, education, water and sanitation, while also generating employment by hiring locals for data collection and surveys — in four years, it claims to have worked in over 1,400 villages across 21 states, creating more than 5,000 man days of work for individuals with little or no college education. "Outline India was set up to take on the challenges and hardships of ground level work in India. The intrinsic motivation of serving ones’ community, village, or area goes a long way in research," says its founder, Prerna Mukharya.
Road to efficiency
Rajesh Yabaji, Founder, BlackBuck, notes the freight industry in India is estimated at $100 billion and contributes to 6 per cent of the GDP. "However, the commerce of this industry is unorganised, fragmented and conducted offline. BlackBuck has re-created it with technology at its core, making logistics simple and effective," he says, adding his startup has impacted over thousands of truckers across more than 300 cities in India. His goal is to bring the trucking industry under one online umbrella, and ensure fleet owners achieve zero idling time while users get efficient delivery with control over the process. Yabaji believes there is a huge opportunity here — apparently, an Indian truck travels an average of only 200-250 km per day, compared to the global average of 400-500 km daily.
Democratising surplus stock
The textile and apparel sector is the second largest employment provider in the country, employing nearly 51 million people directly and 68 million people indirectly. But it also produces $11 billion worth of surplus stock every year. "The products, however, are not available in a democratic fashion. We aim to solve this by offering more choices and better prices and enabling purchase through our mobile app and website," says Sanjiv Khandelwal, Founder, XSTOK. He claims his B2B platform currently hosts 12,000 registered buyers and 750 mills, and has conducted over 700 auctions and transactions.
Roughing it out
Beyond the touristy places, lies a magnificent and 'raw' India yearning to be discovered. Adventure gear company, Wildcraft, wants you to "come alive" and wander down these roads less travelled. ''Earlier, the biggest challenge was that outdoor gear — which is an integral part for people to step out — was exceptionally expensive and not easily available in India," says Gaurav Dublish, Co-Founder, Wildcraft. By offering "globally benchmarked products at extremely sharp prices" to middle and upper middle classes, Dublish believes his startup has directly and indirectly impacted young Indian masses and opened avenues for them to explore the beauty of Indian outdoors. “Today, India is in the resurgent mode, economically and socially. Wildcraft represents the potential of its youth," he adds.
Say cheese with Healthy 32
Indian masses apparently have "very low awareness" of oral hygiene and the importance of maintaining a ‘Healthy 32’. Mydentist wants to fix this with India's largest dental clinic chain that primarily targets SEC B segments. It currently has 111 clinics spread across seven cities, and interacts with 30,000-40,000 patients a month. Check-ups are free and patients can choose where to get the treatment done. "At Mydentist, we believe that oral care is the gateway to a healthy individual. By making quality dental services more approachable and affordable, we believe we are slowly changing habits and moving people towards preventive dental care," says Vikram Vora, CEO, Mydentist.
Bike wash goes green
Look at pictures of crowded Indian streets — especially from smaller cities — and you will see them bustling with motorcycles. Three IIT-IIM graduates and self-confessed passionate bikers have teamed up to "systematically target" the problems within the motorcycle care sector. "The most obvious being rampant wastage of water and environmental impact of draining harmful wash chemicals," says Niraj Taksande, Co-Founder, Express Bike Works (EBW). Their innovative 2-minute washing machine for bikes is made in India and Taksande claims it has saved more than 12 million litres of water so far. The machines can also be remotely monitored. "We have established ourselves as a noble solution for motorcycle OEM service centres, end consumers and our environment," he adds.
Dhobi ghaat comes home
Where would urban India be without the dhobi — India's quintessential washerman — banishing grime and stains en masse? Nishant Tripathi, Founder & CEO of Dhobilite, which claims to be India's first app-based, on-demand cleaning service provider, insists the demographics of urban India has changed drastically, and most homes now comprise of working couples with hectic work schedules. However tedious, doing laundry is a "necessity of life" and he estimates by the end of 2020, more than three million Indian households would be requiring laundry services on a weekly or even daily basis. His solution is the modern version of a dhobi who collects clothes from "your home, condo, apartment, office, your boat", gets them washed at a local laundry service, and drops them off, presumably sparkly clean.