Author – Dhruv Srivastava
Investing in a new idea as startup always seems as risky as it seems promising. Entrepreneurs are often confused as to whether they should implement their new idea or not, a rather subconscious way of paying respect to all the possible future risks. Fortunately leading educational institutions regularly hold business plan contests and startup idea competitions where fresh ideas can be presented and their viability can be verified.
One such event is the ‘Conquest’ organized by students of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences (BITS) Pilani. Since it is hosted by a premier educational institution like BITS Pilani, Conquest is considered to be one of the biggest idea contests in Asia. The event offers an ideal initiating point for start-ups to present their ideas in order to attract venture capitalists, connect with angel investors and interact with mentors. At this international start-up conclave, participating entrepreneurs can make new contacts for future business and find co-founders as well.
Participants begin by submitting a summary of their ideas, and from these applications, the selection committee jury picks the top 100 candidates to be presented to the judges panel. The judges then shortlist 30 candidates with potential, who are offered the next stage of preparing full-scale business plans over a three-week period. After the full-scale presentation of ideas, 5 teams are selected by judges, on the basis of the feasibility of their business plans and these finalists receive mentoring from expert consultants. During the finals, the winner is selected on the basis of another 20 minute demonstration, who wins a cash prize of INR300,000. The winner’s selection criteria have been evolving ever since the inception the event in 2004.
Startups attract increased attention when they come up with some green innovations that have an edge over their rivals. We have featured a few winners and finalists who presented eco-friendly solutions as their innovation in the Conquest competition at BITS Pilani:
Swagene, the winner of the Conquest 2015 contest, aims at evolving the pharma industry by developing personalized medicine on the basis of analyzing the genes of an individual. Swa-gene (Swa for self in Sanskrit), is innovating the latest molecular diagnostics to help doctors and patients in various specialties. The team is led by Sooraj Ratnakumar, who completed his PhD from Cambridge and Vani KM, an MBBS DGO from Manipal. They have a laboratory in Chennai that analyses a person’s genetic constitution and advises medication accordingly. They then give information about the right drug, the dose, at the right time, based on the genetic structure of each individual.
They help diagnose, monitor and try to cure serious conditions like cancer, infertility, and also deal in skilled cardiology, neurology and vascular medicine. Their gene-based analysis provides detailed information about the disease or condition, so that it can be cured from the root, by making medicines accordingly. Patients can order online tests, and estimate the costs as well. Such personalized medicine tends to reduce the amount of hazardous medical waste generated every year when people discard expired or irrelevant medicine. The innovative idea of Swagene can reduce medical waste, giving it an advantage over our day to day consumption of pharmaceutical drugs.
Longman Suntech Energy
Longman Suntech Energy is renewable energy startup that was the finalist at the Conquest 2015 contest. Based on the innovative business idea of solar lease, the company sells green power from onsite rooftop solar power plants funded by third party investors at tariffs lower than the power grid. It is founded by four alumni of BITS, Pilani who stumbled upon this idea when one of them was working for a solar firm in the UK.
Despite being a one-year old startup, Longman Suntech has already implemented two large solar power projects in India. One is a state-of-the-art 50 kWp rooftop solar power plant at HIMT College Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu. The second solar power plant at Velammal Medical Village, Madurai, Tamil Nadu is currently India’s largest rooftop solar power plant in an healthcare facility with 500 kWp capacity.
m.Paani is a human friendly start-up that was a runner-up at the Conquest-2012. It is a social enterprise that aims to use mobile technology as a solution to provide key services like water, food, shelter, education to the underprivileged. Based in Mumbai, m.Paani focuses on mass-market consumers and is a loyalty & data company. Customers can create an account on the m.Paani mobile app or the website and can order their daily requirements.
The company picks up the stocks from local stores and shops, helping both retailers and consumers. This reduces the cost, time and pollution caused by people taking a vehicle to go to the store and buy stuff and come back. They help small stores in increasing their business, and also fulfill the daily supply demands of the customers. They have a mobile-based coalition loyalty program that allows members to save money as they receive gifts and talktime for buying from local stores. Akanksha Hazari as the founder came up with this innovative idea.
And now with the exciting news about this year’s finalists being announced in Conquest at BITS, Pilani, we expect some other new and inspirational and perhaps eco-friendly, start-up ideas to emerge in Conquest 2016.