Addressing Urban Development Challenges in India and Globally

by in News

With International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day just a month away, guest blogger Alveena Bakhshi shares several start ups being led by women entrepreneurs that are addressing urban development challenges in India and beyond.

Guest Blogger – Alveena Bakhshi

Institutions like Columbia University have been directing significant impact investments towards India through carefully crafted programs. The Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant and the Business School Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator with the Unreasonable Institute, in the last 3-4 years, have created a pipeline of social start-ups that address India’s unique urban development challenges. “As an advisor and mentor at both these programs I am continually discovering what students are ideating.”

  • With maternal and infant mortality rates are 2-4 times higher in India than in other developing countries and 75% of women are malnourished, PaisaBack (now e-She) helps break this status quo. Women earn digital points for seeking preventative care such as immunizations and anemia screening for themselves and their children and can exchange these points at participating retailers for mobile talk time and other products and services.
  • One person dies every four minutes on India’s roads. HelmetSmart came up with just the solution to help save lives. Their solution is a device that attaches to motorcycle helmets and tracks helmet-wearing and riding behavior, a mobile app where riders upload their data, and an online analytics dashboard where companies access individuals’ riding and helmet-wearing activity and can incentivize prudent riding such as through adjusting insurance premiums or offering corporate benefits for those who ride safely.
  • With over 200 million acutely malnourished people and $7 billion worth of food is wasted annually, ShaadiKarma is a web, SMS and voice based low-cost system to create and connect a network of food donors, transporters and receivers, and empowers wedding couples, caterers, event organizers and transporters to become agents of change in their communities.
  • The solutions don’t end here. Yojana Wiki was conceptualized to be the most comprehensive repository of actionable information on government welfare programs in India. The founders aim to connect users to the right programs, helping them sift through the process of getting the benefit and act as an advocacy portal when it comes to expenditures and audits of welfare programs in the country.
  • eSwach is a data collection and analytics tool that will aid recycling companies, NGOs and the Government in Urban India, in strengthening the waste management channels and provide avenues for empowering semi-formal waste operatives.

Dean Merit E. Janow of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs says “SIPA’s graduate students are coming up with social and commercial enterprises to engage critical needs in the world today – often using technology and data in new ways and with significant impact. In India, for example, our projects have addressed areas such as public health, transportation, the food supply, and access to government information.  These grants are a valuable way for our students to hone their entrepreneurial skills while addressing critical policy challenges in the world.”

About Alveena

Alveena is a graduate of SIPA, Class of 2003, with a career in finance and technology. She also mentors at 9 Mile Labs and is passionate about child’s rights. She recently published ‘Shot to Make Look Good‘, a poetical homage to Child Soldiers for Child Soldiers International.