In an exhilarating grand finale of the SmartIDEAthon 2022 Challenge — one of India’s biggest social innovation pitchfests — two young entrepreneurs-in-the-making, Animesh Kumar and Hrithik Jaiswal, bagged the winner’s title, a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and a fully sponsored trip to Boston. Presenting to an eminent jury of industry and academic experts in Visakhapatnam, students of Netaji Subhash University of Technology from Bihar’s Hajipur made a winning pitch for their startup Feetwings, which develops Internet of Things(IoT)-based solutions for early detection and monitoring of diabetes to prevent foot ulcers.
The grand-scale student pitching competition is organized by GITAM (Deemed to be) University’s Venture Development Centre (VDC) ) and Entrepreneurs Club (E-Club), Startup India (a flagship initiative of the Government of India), Invest India, Northeastern University Center for Emerging Markets (NUCEM), Boston and Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education (NUCEE), Boston.
It involved students pitching their ambitious social innovation ideas carrying potent answers to the most burning issues India faces under five tracks: Health Tech and Assistive Technology, Food and Agriculture, Clean/Green Technology, Waste Management and Water Management. The ideas were to be built on themes that help build sustainable and resilient communities through innovation. Notably, winners and runners-up in all categories are from the Health Tech and Assistive Technology track.
Shortlisted from over 1,200 pan-India entries, the finalists refined their pitches in a series of advanced bootcamps and personalized mentoring by internationally trained venture coaches. The finale took place in person at GITAM’s Visakhapatnam campus on August 11, 2022.
As runners-up, Karthickjothi M and Mothish M, students of Madras Christian College, Tambaram (Tamil Nadu) won Rs 1 lakh for Allytriz, which is working on Assistive Technology that helps differently-abled people with speech and hearing impairments break their communication and social barrier.
Under the Best Woman-led Entrepreneurship Idea, Amirthalakshmi K and Carolin Mary X from Tamil Nadu’s Saranathan College of Engineering bagged a Rs 50,000 cash prize for their venture, Thundra, which is working on providing a smart wheelchair to help people with mobility disabilities caused due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
For the Leben Johnson People’s Choice Award, Pravin Kumar and Nabeel of Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Tamil Nadu, made a winning pitch for their start-up Dextroware Devices’ affordable solution enabling hands-free control of smart devices for amputees, people with neurological disorders, and people with hand fractures. Students of IIT Guwahati, Kaviraj Prithvi and Arihant Singhi, won the Best Social Impact Business Idea for a portable and inexpensive braille printer that can print all kinds of braille content on a range of materials and paper sizes allowing maximum utility and engagement for the user. Each team won Rs 50,000 as cash prize.
With the prizes, grants and goodies totalling Rs 30 lakh, winners and first runners-up will be flown to Boston for an all-expenses-paid two-week stay hosted by Northeastern University. They will get to see and experience the vibrant Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem with trips to local incubators and accelerators and special mentoring by experts.
The jury for the finale was Professor Greg Collier, Director of International Programs, NUCEE, Professor Ravi Ramamurti, Director, NUCEM, Dr Surabhi Gupta, Manager, Startup India, Sreedevi Devireddy, Vice President, Startup Ecosystem, Xelpmoc Design and Tech Ltd and Malini Parmar, Co-Founder, StoneSoup.
The grand finale also saw renowned speakers, including Sadhguru, and Prashant Warier, Co-Founder & CEO, Qure.ai and Dr Jitendra Sharma, MD and CEO, Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone.
“India is poised to stand out as one of the skilled nations in coming years. India’s science and technology institutions have become fertile grounds for generating start-ups. GITAM University is planning to establish biotech innovation ecosystem, a ‘Bio-nest’ in campus to encourage enterprising ideas,” said Prof. Dayananda Siddavattam, Vice-Chancellor, GITAM (Deemed to be) University.
Sri Bharath, President, GITAM (Deemed to be) University, said, “SmartIDEAthon offered a platform for young minds to propose solutions around the themes advertised. Running your own business is not easy. Working for yourself without the safety net of being an employee can be a lonely, frustrating and challenging experience. By understanding the challenges, you might face and how to deal with them, you’ll be much better prepared for potential problems and give your business the best chance of success. At the same time, running a business in an ethical manner from the top down establishes stronger bonds between individuals on the management team.”
The event’s convenor was Mahesh Varier, Deputy Director – VDC, GITAM. It had 250 volunteers on-ground to make the event a success.