The idea-turned mission, iPitch by Villgro, helped over 53 start-ups with a funding of around Rs. 17 crore

New Delhi: Social enterprise incubator, Villgro  is transforming the journeys of start-ups in India through their annual deal discovery platform — iPitch. With an aim to help start-ups from  an early stage, Villgro launched iPitch that brings together innovative social-impact entrepreneurs to pitch their business models to investors. Hosted in partnership with Artha Impact, the iPitch 2021 Coalition comprises of Blue Ashva Capital, Shell Foundation, Upaya Social Ventures, Lavni Ventures,  Beyond Capital Fund,  3i Partners, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter , Caspian Debt, and CVRCE Technology Incubator Foundation(CVRCETIF). Switzerland-based Artha Impact and Villgro too will be scouting for their next investments through this pipeline. Villgro, along with the coalition partners will be organizing AMA sessions for giving social entrepreneurs valuable insights into their investment thesis .

Founded in 2001 by Paul Basil — Villgro aims to create social impact — serving the under-served communities by supporting innovative start-ups. Since its inception, Villgro has supported 323 social enterprises —  raising over INR 4,388 million in investments, creating 4922 jobs and impacting over 20 million lives.  

The start-up discovery platform iPitch was conceptualised to create a level-playing field for under-represented social-impact start-ups in 2017. Since then, the idea-turned mission has helped over 53 start-ups and deployed around Rs. 17 crore in funding. Over the years, iPitch has been redesigned and reinvented to integrate diversity and inclusivity, adapting to the constantly evolving startup ecosystem, furthermore, reaching and benefiting a wider audience.

Dr. Binita Tunga, Co-Founder & CTO, Ameliorate Biotech, a iPitch 2019 Winner, feels grateful to have Villgro as one of their investors and considers Villgro’s partnership with Artha Impact as a great advantage for the participants of iPitch 2021 – its ongoing edition. While sharing her journey on iPitch 2019 edition, Dr. Tunga says, “Winning an amount of ₹ 65,00,000 at such a prestigious platform gives a relentless affirmation to your idea and your purpose. iPitch helped us streamline other business domains like marketing and finance and helped us stay focused. Ameliorate, now invests in R&D and builds affordable kits for rural people.”

She further adds, “After the demise of my eleven-years old niece due to undetected malaria despite all available resources got us thinking about the unfortunate people who can’t afford basic facilities and are losing their loved ones. Thus, with our combined experience in medicine and pharmaceuticals Dr. Rashbehari Tunga and I, established Ameliorate Biotech in 2015 where we work towards the development of novel platform technology to manufacture and market early-stage rapid diagnostic kits with high quality yet affordable biosimilars.”

Sharing about their journey after winning iPitch 2020, Archana Stalin, Co-Founder & Growth Champion, myHarvest Farms, says,  “In the last 6 months, we have moved to a larger warehouse, added 500 new families and started collecting more farmer-specified data. Winning iPitch sure is a life changing moment.” Archana, after quitting her daily nine-to-five job began her journey of creating self-sustainable villages by planting trees and restoring water bodies. However, she soon realised that working in agriculture would be a more wholesome contribution and thus emerged myHarvest Farms!

“Lot of our learnings began during iPitch 2020 and continues but now, with Rs. 30,00,000 investment under our belt – post winning iPitch. Often impact start-ups are not taken seriously. People assume we’re not willing to grow as a profit-generating organization. Any serious entrepreneur who would like to scale their impact and structure their organization should apply for iPitch. While getting the prize is a bonus, the larger goal is to find a team of people who trust your idea and are willing to mentor you to help realise your vision,” adds Archana.

Addressing the challenging issues of climate change, a iPitch2020 winner, Sandith Thandasherry – CEO, Navalt, aims to build energy-efficient solutions and reduce pollutant emissions for the marine and offshore industry. After establishing themselves with innovations like India’s first water taxi and India’s first solar ferry, Navalt aims to make things easier for the fishing community with a solar fishing boat. There are over 2.5 lakh small fishing boats and about 1.13 tonnes of CO2 are released per tonne of live weight of marine fish netted. Moreover, residues from the motors cause water pollution. This created a dire need to generate capital which Navalt won at a whopping US$1,85,000. “While Shell Foundation has given us the confidence to think beyond conventional projects and solutions, iPitch has provided an opportunity to meet experts in the industry for guidance and support in building the enterprise. Winning iPitch has given us the fuel to develop the best solution for the fishermen of our country,” shares Sandith.

Wishing luck to this year’s participants, he further adds, “A social enterprise’s biggest challenge is finding an impact investor who recognises them and is willing to provide patient capital. iPitch provides such a platform for entrepreneurs, and Villgro is doing a great job at it. With a larger coalition and 5X the pot size, many more entrepreneurs will get a chance to realise their dreams.”

Rohan Singh, Founder, Ziptrax, a serial entrepreneur and a iPitch 2020 winner, who has  worked in the Energy Sector previously, exclaims, “We noticed there is a gap between the Lead-acid and Lithium-Ion (New) battery packs for e-rickshaws, both, in performance & economically. Our aim at Ziptrax is to plug this gap with smart and affordable second-life batteries, which can be of both types, swappable or non-swappable.”

“Winning an amount of ₹ 25,00,000 at iPitch 2020 helped us to get back on the track post-pandemic by launching a pilot to deploy our products in the market and setting up the Battery R&D center. There is always a huge opportunity attached with iPitch for entrepreneurs. Any entrepreneur working towards impact in their sector should apply to iPitch, the incubation, investment,  Villgro’s network  and mentoring  on business strategy is an undeniable package.” adds Rohan.

This year, iPitch 2021 is seeking a wider range of enterprises, ranging from prototype to revenue-generating stage enterprises — creating innovative and scalable solutions in Agri-business, Climate Action, Healthcare, Shelter-tech, Education, Livelihoods & Skill Development, Financial Inclusion among other sectors. Social entrepreneurs will have access to funding encompassing – grant, equity and debts with ticket sizes ranging from USD 25,000 to USD 1 million.

Call for Applications: 1st August till 31st August 2021

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