WGF’s Livelihood & Sustainability Council’s (LSC) mission is to enhance rural economy through co-creating and advancing rural enterprises, using technology innovations and scientific processes, sharing best practices and developing techniques to foster trade and employment for rural populations.

Improving the Lives in Rural India by Technology-enabled Solutions

‘Accelerating Rural Innovation & Social Enterprise in India’project

Accelerating Rural Innovation & Social Enterprise in India’ project

Problem Description & Solution Approach:

While nearly 60% of India’s population is rural, incubation of new innovative enterprises have been largely confined to major metro cities in India. This risks wasting massive talent and their innovation potential to take India forward. Further, not having local social enterprise incubation structures, accelerates already worsening migration from villages to large cities. ARISE (Accelerating Rural Innovation & Social Enterprise in India) project, a partnership of SVERI Group, Sobus Insight Forum, and WHEELS Global Foundation is addressing this challenge with a structured incubator program with two main objectives:

  • Identify and Nurture Passionate, Capable Rural Entrepreneurs
  • Enable an Ecosystem for Sustainable, Scalable, Social Enterprises

Following are key sectors that are relevant to rural innovation and incubation and thus focus of ARISE:

  1. Health & Wellbeing
  2. Financial Access & Services
  3. Renewable & Clean Energy
  4. Culture, Arts & Tourism
  5. Sustained Food & Agriculture
  6. Quality Education & Skill Development
  7. Housing Infrastructure & Transport
  8. Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH)

ARISE structure takes a comprehensive approach by providing all key assistance to the innovators:

  1. Seed funding
  2. Inexpensive workplace
  3. Shared operational costs
  4. Networking
  5. Finance / accounting services
  6. Marketing expertise
  7. Intellectual property management
  8. Technical assistance
  9. Mentoring
  10. Access to angel investors & VCs

Traction & Impact

With the charter creation and application for funding submission to ACIC (Atal Community Innovation Center) in late 2020, and then subsequent MOU between Sobus & SVERI in Jan 2021, ARISE project has picked further momentum in 2021 leveraging existing best-practices (e.g., study tour to Hubli based Deshpande Foundation’s incubation CoE which has agreed to act as peer mentor) and support from WGF’s India-based leadership for number of sessions (e.g., Design Thinking workshops) for registered participants. ARISE has already built a strong ecosystem of partnerships with more than 15 local enterprises, innovation centers, and synergistic foundations. Some of the key metrics from 2021 efforts:

  • 800+ participants engaged in different sessions
  • 38+ mentors participating
  • 550 faculty members (from partner SVERI engineering college) involved
  • 16 national startups engaged to potentially replicate in surrounding Pandharpur region
  • 53 Women Entrepreneurs engaged

One of the biggest proof-point came in terms of ACIC award of Rs 2.5 Crore (in matching grants) for the program. ARISE program was among a handful of programs selected out of nearly 400 applications nationwide. ACIC award, along with partner contributions, creates total capacity of Rs 5.7 crores.

Scaling Opportunity

ARISE project is meant to create a blueprint for replication and scaling all over the rural India – building rural incubation & innovation centers around engineering institutions that then draws academic talent and resources (faculty, labs, R&D structures) along with startup ecosystem & resources.

WGF leaders providing oversight:

Digvijay Choudhary - President, (Wheels Global Foundation India)

Call to Action

ARISE project is an excellent opportunity for alumni community to engage with highly motivated and talented youth from rural India who can now have an equal opportunity to translate their potential into exciting new self-sustainable enterprises that not only contribute to India’s GDP, but also solves hard local challenges in basic things such as health, water, education, energy and livelihoods. Alumni can participate in so many ways – mentoring, co-creation, complementary ideas and technologies, enabling pathways to customers & markets, help with supply-chain, and financial resources of course. We invite all alumni to help take ARISE model to hundreds of other centers all over India.

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