National: The/Nudge Foundation, and Ashirvad Pipes, in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Govt. of India, announced a prize for startups and innovators working on solutions to provide clean drinking water to the underprivileged and rural households. The initiative aims to support solutions that address population-scale water challenges. With a total prize purse of ~ INR 2.5 Crores (INR 1.75 Crore grand prize for the winning solution and runner up + milestone grants for finalists), the programme will run for 18 months and will support entrepreneurs in developing, testing, and scaling solutions through a network of investors, mentors, technology and knowledge partners, and policy circle advisors.
The Challenge will give impetus to the government’s Jal Jeevan Mission which is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all households in rural India by 2024. The/Nudge Foundation and Ashirvad Pipes believe in the grassroots innovation capabilities and entrepreneurial mindset of Indians. The Prize, therefore, is expected to not only supplement the Jal Jeevan Mission through out-of-the-box and scalable ideas but also drive a larger awareness of the issue.
The Prize seeks solutions pertaining to source water purification, smart distribution and storage provisions ensuring sustained clean drinking water availability and accessibility, and recycling solutions like water source recharge, desalination, wastewater treatment to increase the availability of drinking water in regions with water scarcity.
Participants of the Prize will be supported by an eminent circle of advisers, partners and experts such as Prof Asit K Biswas (Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Glasgow), Vedika Bhandarkar (COO, Water.org), VK Madhavan (CEO, WaterAid India) and Yugal Kishore Joshi (Director, Jal Jeevan Mission). Investor partners include social impact venture funders such as Social Alpha, Bharat Innovation Fund, Aavishkaar, Caspian, Lightrock and Upaya Social Ventures. Knowledge Partners include OECD Mission Action Lab, IHE Delft, WaterAid, Water.org and India Water Portal amongst others. The incubator and accelerator partners include Imagine H2O Asia, Indus Water Institute, Pilani Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Society and Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre, IIT Kanpur.
Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, whose office co-facilitated the Prize said, “The Government of India believes that multi-stakeholder partnerships are key to bringing about transformative changes to address issues of national priorities. Through the The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge, we are witnessing the collaborative and catalytic role government, academia, industry and innovators can play in finding scalable solutions for water security, along with ensuring sustained drinking water availability, reducing barriers to access (social and geographic), and devising recycling solutions, thereby improving health and hygiene in communities.”
The evaluation criteria for the solutions include scalability with sustainable unit economics of the business model, a significant increase in access to clean drinking water and social and environmental impact.
Deepak Mehrotra, Managing Director, Ashirvad Pipes “Access to clean drinking water should be treated as a fundamental right. Improved access to clean drinking water can be empowering with many positive spin-offs such as improved quality of life, reduced health risks and increased income among those communities which currently lack easy access to it. While the government is making an honest effort to solve the issue, a country as large and complex as India needs all stakeholders to come together to address it. I also believe in the average Indian’s resilience and capability to solve problems. We are second to none at grassroots and frugal innovation. Water management is in the DNA of Ashirvad and we are happy to partner in this initiative.”
Alongside the Jal Jeevan Mission, The/Nudge Prize provides an opportunity to provide access to clean drinking water across 19 crore households in India.
Commenting on this announcement, Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, said, “Water is a key driver of public health and livelihoods. Access to clean water has a direct impact on the health, economic and social welfare of our country. The/Nudge aims to draw talent, capital and public attention to underserved issues like Water Sustainability. We are excited to partner with Ashirvad in designing a programme to attract social entrepreneurs, who can spark bold innovations that address this urgent need. We’re aiming to scale disruptive solutions that work towards the goal of clean water for all.”
Water security is one of India’s biggest challenges – the country ranks second from the bottom in terms of water quality globally. 160 million Indians lack access to clean drinking water and 70% of the nation’s water supply is contaminated as per NITI Aayog. When Jal Jeevan Mission was started in 2019, just 3.29 crore out of 19 crore households had access to tap water. There is an urgent need for smart water management through innovation, large-scale behavioural change, and pivotal shifts in policy.
Entry to the The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge in Partnership with the Office of the PSA Government of India, is now open. To apply, please visit hyperlink