Prosus’ social impact initiative to back 3 Indian innovative tech startups
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Prosus Social Impact Challenge of Accessibility (SICA) will award three technology ventures as India’s ‘most innovative startups’ for developing assistive technologies for differently-abled persons, the company said on Thursday. 

The three startups identified by Prosus are – Bengaluru-based Trestle Labs, which ranked first; SignAble Communication (ranked second), also based in Bengaluru; and Mumbai-based Lifespark Technologies which ranked third, the consumer internet group and global technology investment firm said in a statement. 

Prosus SICA will award the three ventures a sum of Rs 25 lakh, Rs 18 lakh and Rs 12 lakh, respectively. 

The grants are intended to help them scale and expand their businesses, so more persons with disabilities can benefit and lead independent, empowered lives, it further said.

The three startups will be inducted into the Prosus SICA mentorship programme, along with the third and fourth ranked start-ups New Delhi-based TinkerTech Laboratories, which provides hearing impairment solutions, and Gurugram-based Visioapps Technology, which provides visual impairment solutions.

The mentorship programme will give each company access to a global network of strategic advisors from Prosus, technical advisors from WHO, sector experts from Social Alpha, and knowledge and partnerships specialists from Invest India. Eligible start-ups may also get follow-on funding and an opportunity to incubate with Social Alpha, the Announced on a day before the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as observed on 3 December, the three startups were chosen out of 170 applications, and represent diverse themes supporting visual speech and language disabilities and neurodegenerative disease, the statement said.

SICA is an initiative by Prosus Ventures in partnership with government-backed Invest India – a non-profit venture under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry; Social Alpha - a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform for science and technology start-ups; and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Prosus is the international digital assets arm of South African conglomerate Naspers.

Trestle Labs has developed a solution--Kibo--that translates and digitises printed, audio, handwritten and digital content in 60 global languages, including 12 Indian languages. The Kibo app is being used by over 40,000 persons in 15 countries, including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, SignAble Communication addresses speech and language disability through a video remote interpretation solution that provides live interpretation in Indian Sign Language via a mobile app. The solution provides live human interpreters-on-demand for anyone, anytime, anywhere, affordably, and at the touch of a button, the statement says. 

Lifespark Technologies, which stood third, is a healthcare technology company building a platform for continuous, optimal therapy in chronic neurodegenerative disorders starting with Parkinson's disease, which Prosus SICA said is the fastest-growing neurological disease. Their product comprises a wearable device and a linked digital platform. The device provides sensory cue-based therapy to improve gait, reduce falls and improve quality of life, while the app provides data to physicians and therapists as well as emergency alerts to caregivers.

“The quality of applicants this year was exceptional and is a testament to the promising AT ecosystem emerging in India,” said Sehraj Singh, Managing Director, Prosus Ventures India. 

“The role of startups in developing assistive technologies for persons with disabilities will ensure a truly digital and inclusive India. We are delighted that the challenge showcases ‘Made in India’ innovations to solve global problems,” said Deepak Bagla, Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, Invest India.

Prosus SICA, launched in 2020, has committed $250,000 (around Rs 1.65 crore) over three years for identifying and awarding most innovative Indian tech startups working on assistive technology solutions.

With more than 70 million Indians estimated to live with some form of disability, the societal impact of improving lives and empowering people by supporting the development of India’s assistive technology ecosystem can be immense, Prosus SICA said.  

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