Bangalore-based firm aces Tata Social Enterprise Challenge

The second edition of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, a joint initiative by the Tata group and Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata (IIM-C) to find India’s most promising social enterprises, saw a Bangalore-based start-up make it to the top.

While city-based MicroX Labs, an inspiring medical diagnostics firm, emerged the winner, Pollinate Energy, a sustainable energy solutions firm which has done extensive work in the city, made it to the Top 20 of the challenge.

Social entrepreneurs identified through the challenge are offered mentorship support from India’s most renowned social entrepreneurs, the Tata group’s mentoring partners and the IIM-C faculty. They are also awarded cash grants and have an opportunity to get funded by India’s biggest social venture funds and get incubated at IIM-C’s Incubation Centre.

The winner of the challenge, MicroX Labs, has developed a technology to count the blood cells based on upcoming technology of Lab on Chip and MEMS (Micro electro mechanical systems) which miniaturises the instrument with all the reagents pre-loaded in the cartridge, providing ease of use, portability and low cost, making it useful for rural healthcare.

V. Kumaran, Department of Chemical Engineering, IISc., is the technical adviser to MicroX Labs. During the initial period, the team members did an exhaustive study for building the device.

“We didn’t want to dive right into building the device. A proper ground survey was conducted to assess the market after which we approached IISc. for support. We want to provide low-cost portable instruments as our focus will be on rural areas, tier-I and tier-II cities,” said Prakhar Jain, co-founder of MicroX Labs.

He added that being from a family of doctors, he has seen and experienced the advantage one would have from having medical diagnosis at one’s doorstep.

Energy needs

Pollinate Energy, a social business based in Australia and India, was set up in November 2012. Its aim was to eradicate energy poverty in the urban areas by providing low-cost solar lighting solutions to the urban poor. It has provided 3,750 lighting systems to the urban poor across Bangalore.

“Plenty of initiatives are there for electrification of rural areas. Many of the urban poor also live without electricity. Our aim is not just to provide energy to the poor but to provide clean energy. We want to cover the entire city of Bangalore and expand to Chennai and Hyderabad,” said Dilip Kumar Pattubala, the representative of Pollinate Energy at Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2013-14.