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Tvaran: Scaling Innovations for Impact With Cisco and Villgro

By Rohini Kamath

Tvaran: Scaling Innovations for Impact With Cisco and Villgro

By Rohini Kamath

Published 05-15-23

Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.

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The Transformational Tech series highlights Cisco’s grant recipients that use technology to help transform the lives of individuals and communities.

Cisco’s purpose is to Power an Inclusive Future for All. One way we fulfill our purpose is through collaborations with organizations that have aligning values. Similarly, with the mission to create impactful, innovative, and successful social enterprises, Villgro® has helped build and accelerate startups in India for over 20 years. And when Cisco and Villgro partnered to organize Tvaran, we leaned into both our missions.

Cisco and Villgro selected seven winning startups to explore and accelerate over the coming months through Project Tvaran. An India-based startup accelerator program in its first year, Tvaran means “acceleration” in Hindi. Each winning startup is focused on a facet of climate resilience and is founded and run by women entrepreneurs. Meet our first-ever winners of Tvaran:

GreenGrahi Solutions, co-founder Shivali Sugand

Growing up witnessing Delhi’s giant landfills, Shivali Sugand was always keen on changing the paradigm of waste management. In 2021, her purpose found a way, through her startup GreenGrahi Solutions, where she addresses India’s three pressing problems: waste management, food insecurity and climate change.

According to World Resources Institute, “the world throws out a billion tons of food each year, while one in nine people remain malnourished.” Most of this waste ends up in landfills where it has adverse economic, environmental, and social repercussions on the local population and on the natural ecosystem.

As a circular economy company, GreenGrahi Solutions upcycles food waste into high-quality ingredients for animal and plant nutrition using an insect bio-conversion process. They take food waste from bulk waste generators; let insects use it in climate-controlled chambers powered by a network of sensors and an algorithm, and convert the results into high-quality insect protein, fat, and fertilizer.

“We truly believe that insects and our technology can act as a catalyst to fix the broken food system and empower our farmers,” Shivali said. “And can drastically reduce the greenhouse gasses from the current unsustainable waste management and resource-intensive agricultural practices.”

Bharat Krushi Seva, co-founder Sharayu Lande

In 2021, 42% of the population in India lived in poverty. And in a overpopulated country with an unknown number of farmers, many do not have access to a quality value chain—like technology, personal advisors, and technical support.

Bharat Krushi Seva (BKS) uses remote sensing technology to drive digital and climate-smart agriculture, to help farmers make more informed decisions and focus on precision farming. This gathered information is critical for farmers who are looking to mitigate the impact of climate change while maintaining sustainable and profitable agricultural practices.

“By having this information in advance,” Sharayu explained, “farmers can make better decisions about resource allocation and optimize their production processes.”

BKS’ technology provides crop-specific, personalized support, equipping farmers with customized, actionable advice based on farming practices and local conditions. This helps them to improve their crop yield, reduce input costs, manage risks, and make better decisions. This tech-based service provides sustainable and climate-smart farming practices, promoting a healthier environment.

Green Delight Innovations Private Limited, founder Niveda Ravi

India faces major social and environmental challenges with plastic waste disposal. Per ResearchGate, in 2010, only 12% of women in India used sanitary pads. By 2016, that number had increased to 57%. Every year the number of feminine hygiene products users grows. This inspired Niveda Ravi to develop a process that benefits both women and the environment.

Niveda founded Green Delight Innovations to solve two significant challenges that stem from plastic waste disposal:

  1. Plastic – Nearly 113,000 tons of hygiene products are disposed of annually in India. And often, these products are burnt for disposal, which may release harmful gases and toxins into the atmosphere.
  2. Chemicals – Almost 70% of reproductive diseases in India are reportedly caused by poor sanitary pad hygiene.

Niveda noted that while the “leaves of the Kenaf plant are edible, the stem goes to waste.” This inspired her to create a processing technology that can extract fibers from the common plant, using no chemicals or plastics, making it suitable for use in feminine hygiene products. Green Delight Innovations is the first startup in the world to make Bliss hygiene pads from Kenaf, and India’s First to offer United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)-approved and biobased-certified feminine hygiene products. Additionally, Green Delight operates with the aim to offer gender equality with more direct jobs to women and people who are transgender, and economic growth for women and men in local areas.

Niveda revealed, “Women switching to this technology will experience good health and wellbeing. Women will have better hygiene and sanitation practices. [And this product may offer a] reduction in pollution.”

KNP Arises – Green Energy Solutions, co-founder Kirtti Vaishnav

Frying cooking oil increases the Total Polar Compounds (TPC) value of an oil. And if the oil is reused, consuming it can cause severe health problems, like “non-communicable diseases, heart ailments, and organ damage.” Cooking oils with a TPC value higher than 25% should not be consumed and should be immediately discarded, according to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). But in India, 60% of used cooking oil can reenter the food chain due to lack of awareness and an unstable food safety infrastructure.

Kirtti Viashnav co-founded KNP Arises to collect used cooking oil and convert it into fuel.

Through KNP’s mobile application, anyone who wants to discard used cooking oil can submit a request. The KNP team then coordinates to collect the oil and transfer it to the KNP warehouse. On collection, the vendor gets paid to dispose of their oil, along with a compliance certificate and “green” certificate showing their contribution towards the environment. KNP provides 100% oil traceability through notifications in the mobile application.

“Our work will secure millions of people’s health. By providing a strong infrastructure, we can safely guard bodies of water,” Kirtti disclosed. “And using this fuel will ensure our environment is cleaner and greener.”

Swachha Eco Solutions Pvt Ltd, co-founder Victoria D’Souza

As an environmental activist and social entrepreneur, Victoria D’Souza understood that while plastic is an alternative to metal, there is no alternative to plastic.

The use of packaged products has increased exponentially—especially single-use, multi-layered plastic (MLP), like the plastic wrapping around food or shampoo. Long-time exposure to the chemicals within this multi-layered plastic may produce leachate, resulting in water and soil pollution. Currently, India’s Plastic Waste Management (PWM) process for MLP is to recycle about 60% and dump the rest in a landfill.

Victoria explained, “We take a look at a variety of ways a collaborative, collective approach helps in creating a clean, green, and sustainable environment.”

Through Swachha Eco Solutions, this MLP can be collected, shredded, and mixed with hot bitumen which is sometimes referred to as asphalt or tar. The formulated plastic waste mixture is added to course aggregate, resulting in a mix that can be used for road construction and repair. Swachha Eco Solutions aims to reduce emissions and lifecycle carbon intensity from dumped single-use plastics.

Mowo Fleet, founder Jai Bharathi

Every city across the world is driving toward the electric vehicle revolution. Many women in India, especially from lower socioeconomic groups, are unaware of this transportation transformation. Jai Bharathi felt it important to include women in sustainable mobility-related livelihoods, so she founded Mowo Fleet.

Through Mowo Fleet, Jai redefined urban mobility by bringing women into the driver’s seat—specifically on electric two- and three-wheelers. Mowo Fleet uses technology to optimize and schedule commutes and delivery services to enable women to consider driving for their career and maximize their earning potential.

And while many women are already willing to drive for their livelihood, it can be a challenge for these women to earn maximum revenue for the hours they spend away from home. Through Mowo Fleet’s technology, empty rides are mitigated, providing many women with equal footing.

“Being a part of the Villgro-Cisco Tvaran program, we have the opportunity to be mentored as we are at the initial phase of building technology, which will be a game changer in enabling many women to join the sustainable mobility workforce,” Jai disclosed.

Farmers for Forests (ClimateSense Pvt Ltd), founder Krutika Ravishankar

“One of the primary reasons why ecosystems like forests, marshes, grasslands, mangroves, peats and bogs are being destroyed at an alarming rate,” disclosed Krutika Ravishankar, “is because the services they provide—like carbon sequestration, soil regeneration, fresh water, and pollination—are not being correctly priced by global economic systems.” For example, according to data from the IPBES, insects pollinate 75% of crops globally, a service priced at $577 billion.

Thriving ecosystems are key to climate resilience. Krutika co-founded Farmers for Forests to focus on restoring and protecting India’s biodiverse forests, in close collaboration with agrarian and Indigenous communities.

“Farmers for Forests compensates farmers and communities for the protection and restoration of biodiverse forest cover,” Krutika explained.

Through the use of drones, satellite data, and modified open-source AI algorithms, Farmers for Forests can count trees, identify species, and track forest cover to capture tree health and risk potential for forest fires. This data is used holistically to understand forest health and quantify sequestered carbon and biodiversity levels of the forests and agroforestry plantations—helping to more accurately price services provided by these ecosystems.

So far, Farmers for Forests manages more than 2,940 acres of vulnerable forests each year, has planted 600 acres of new forests and agroforestry plantations, and has generated over 17,000 days of rural employment.

Congratulations to these seven outstanding Tvaran startup winners. We look forward to seeing how these women entrepreneurs will impact and innovate the future of climate resilience around the world. To learn more about Villgro’s and Cisco’s efforts to help entrepreneurs in India accelerate climate resilience, please visit our Project Tvaran webpage.

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