Prosus launches social impact programme to fund startups offering assistive technologies

Prosus launches social impact programme to fund startups offering assistive technologies
Photo Credit: VCCircle
27 Aug, 2020

Prosus, the international internet assets division of Naspers, has launched a social impact challenge in India to offer an annual grant to startups that provide assistive technologies.

As part of the Prosus Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (Prosus SICA), the Dutch company said it has committed Rs 1.6 crore to fund startups over three years. Each year, it will award grants to three startups, a statement said.

Startups that are less than ten years old, and are recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) can participate in the programme, the statement said. Additionally, their products should be in the final stages of launch or should have completed user validation, it said. 

The programme will accept applications till October 12. The submissions will undergo screening by a jury, evaluation by sector experts and end-user interviews, followed by demonstration of the use case.

“The winning products will be socially impactful, technologically innovative, sustainable, scalable and capable of introducing positive change in the lives of persons with disabilities,” the statement said.

Winning startups will receive the financial grant, be inducted into the Prosus SICA mentorship programme, and have access to technical support, mentorship and business advice, it said. 

“We would like to help the startups succeed. The programme will also bring together two key government campaigns -- Digital India and Accessible India,” Aileen O’Toole, chief people officer at Prosus, said.

The programme was conceptualised in partnership with Invest India, the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of the country, and Social Alpha, the entrepreneurship initiative of Tata Trusts.

Eligible startups will also receive an opportunity to incubate with Social Alpha, the statement said.

“We need to encourage commercial investment in innovations that can cater to persons with disabilities. We started working in this space in 2018 and have supported over 15 startups validating their product-market fit, helping with clinical trials, and bridging the gaps that exist in the distribution and service channels,” Manoj Kumar, chairman and founder of Social Alpha, said.

Prosus is a Euronext-listed entity that holds South African conglomerate Naspers’ international internet assets.  In April, the company committed Rs 100 crore to Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund to help India fight the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Prosus has so far invested over $5 billion in Indian technology businesses including classifieds, payments and fintech, ecommerce, education, food delivery and logistics. It has picked up stakes in food delivery platform Swiggy, edtech firm Byju’s, logistics platform ElasticRun, social commerce platform Meesho and fintech company PayU.