Ten women entrepreneurs have been selected as the first cohort entering the POWERED Accelerator program — a first-of-its-kind accelerator focusing on women-led businesses in the energy value chain, in an effort to address twin Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Gender Equality (SDG 5) and Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7). The innovators will receive financial and business support to develop their businesses and deliver solutions in access to energy across India.
The objective of the POWERED Accelerator is to support female-led ventures by helping them expand their innovative and consumer-responsive products and services; the ultimate goal being to empower women-owned and -managed businesses in the energy space. The accelerator is focused on core themes of access to energy, sustainable mobility, waste to value, energy efficiency, and smart energy solutions.
In April, DFID India, Shell Foundation (the independent global charity), Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; and Zone Startups India launched the POWERED Accelerator in Mumbai; since then, it has expanded to six cities across India.
“At the time of launching the POWERED Accelerator, we were not sure of the number of women-led startups in the extended energy sector. After six roadshows, and close to two months of extensive campaigning, we ended up getting more than 130 high-quality applications,” said Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director of Zone Startups India. “Selecting only 10 from a shortlist of 30 businesses was a tough task. We see the entire application pool as a part of a larger funnel of startups that presents us with an opportunity to build other interventions in this ecosystem. We have some great partners onboard, and we look forward to making the first cohort a grand success.”
The startups were evaluated based on the applicant’s background, innovativeness, scale of impact, problem solution fit, clarity of thought, and program fit. The ten entrepreneurs selected for the first cohort will receive support for one year to scale their business including a six-week residential mentoring program and access to an equity-free seed fund of $10,000 each.
“We know that given the right opportunities, women can play a critical role across the energy value chain. As energy enterprises scale up in India, they provide rural and low-income women with new opportunities to generate income and achieve greater economic empowerment,” said Gavin McGillivray, Head of DFID India<. “Through the POWERED program we will work towards strengthening the ecosystem for more women-owned and managed businesses across the energy value chain. We are confident that these 10 women entrepreneurs will enable greater inclusion and sustainability towards a more energy secure and equitable future for all.”
The cohort comprises startups in areas ranging from access to energy, water conservation, application of energy in agriculture, easy finance, last-mile distribution, waste to fuel and more. As part of the broader aim of the program, the accelerator will also organize ecosystem development activities, grand challenges, a one-week residential boot camp, and an incubator for women in energy.
“We believe these inspiring women have the potential to deliver long-term energy and mobility solutions that address market gaps and break down some of the barriers that are preventing low-income consumers from accessing these critical services,” said Shell Foundation director Sam Parker. “The Accelerator program is one element of the POWERED initiative, which will deliver 5,000 jobs and support more than 100 women-owned micro-enterprises in rural and urban India.”
The POWERED Accelerator’s first cohort
- Simmi Sareen, Loans4SME — a financial services veteran with more than 19 years of experience in credit and lending, Simmi is head of the Mumbai-based startup Loans4SME — an alternative lending platform that connects businesses with debt providers that aims to help small businesses navigate the complexities of the lending market, all the while enabling lenders to invest in the right company. The next step is to create products and structures that expand supply of capital for renewable energy beyond the currently existing lenders.
- Srujana Raghupatruni, Cellerite Systems — a postgraduate in Power Systems from IIT Delhi with 7 years’ experience in teaching Electrical Engineering to graduates and undergraduates, Srujana is founder and CTO of Hyderabad-based startup Cellerite Systems, which is developing an electric vehicle charger that focuses on increasing the travel range of these vehicles by reducing charging times.
- Puspalata Pani, M/S Kumudini Enterprise — with a Master’s Degree in Social Work and Rural Management with 19 years’ experience in youth leadership development, Puspalata is co-founder of Odisha-based M/S Kumudini Enterprise, an organization — completely run by women — that aims to provide energy services and devices in rural communities, with a special focus on Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Kumudini also promotes training and capacity building of these rural communities, with an emphasis on women.
- Mousumi Medhi, HoneyComb Inventions — Mousumi is CEO of this Mumbai-based startup aimed at enhancing the duration of power back-up supplies of healthcare facilities.
- Amishi Parasrampuria, Upcycler's Lab — Amishi is founder of this Mumbai-based startup, which makes sustainability-based learning tools for children 5 and up. They aim to create awareness and educate children on the need for sustainability in accordance with SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.
- Kavita Aggarwal, BluPrints — Kavita is founder and CEO of Delhi-NCR-based BluPrints, an R&D-driven, embedded systems technology company specializing in Retail-Tech and Fin-Tech Devices, one of its focuses being a system designed for electricity billing.
- Ruchi Jain, Taru Naturals — in addition to being founder and CEO of Mumbai-based Taru Naturals, a network that connects farmer communities with clean technology and renewable energy, Ruchi has worked with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, European Academies Sciences Council and as a Campaigner with 350.org and Indian Youth Climate Network. Taru Naturals mobilizes farmer communities to adopt sustainable methods of agriculture such as solar power pumps, solar dryers, etc.
- Manvi Dhawan, Agnij-Adjustable Thermoelectric Power Generator — Manvi is CEO and CFO of this Mumbai-based startup, which is developing a product called Agnij — a thermo-electric belt that can be placed around any heated vessel or chullahs to use waste heat.
- Neha Upadhyaya, Guna — an organic macrobiotic coach based in New Delhi, Neha is the founder of Guna, which trains rural women farmers in Ladakh and Sikkim to develop eco model villages through a focus on organic farming and the use of solar energy in post-harvest management by the use of solar dryers, solar pumps, etc.
- Nidhi Pant, S4S Technologies — a co-founder of this Mumbai-based startup, which manufactures solar dehydrators used by farmers for food preservation, Nidhi heads its marketing and sales. S4S also links farmers to markets to sell these dehydrated food products.
Zone Startups India is accepting applications for its next cohort on the POWERED Accelerator website.