December 07, 2019: Villgro, India’s oldest and foremost social enterprise incubator, successfully wrapped up its Unconvention 2019 conference on 7th December 2019. As always, the event was a high-decibel confluence of leading social entrepreneurs, CSR professionals, investors, policymakers, and academia. Aimed at understanding the crucial nature of constant innovation to power the next phase of social entrepreneurship, Uncovention’s 10th edition was indubitably a resounding success.
Day 1 of Unconvention started with a power-packed mentor meet – a workshop with former, current and potential Villgro mentor who discussed the importance and challenges of mentorship, specifically in the social sector. This was followed by several round-table discussions around the conference theme – Innovation for All: Amplifying impact potential for philanthropic capital. These discussions were aimed at donors looking at diversifying their impact portfolio.
The opening address, describing the prolific 20-year journey of Villgro, was then presented by R. Ramaraj (Senior Advisor, Elevar Equity & Board Member, Villgro); NK Chaudhary (Chairman & Managing Director, Jaipur Rugs), then hosted a fireside chat covering the importance of low cost innovation to create large-scale impact. This was followed by a discussion on making innovations accessible to next billion, comprising Sharad Sharma of iSPIRT, Bindu Ananth of Dvara Trust, and others, moderated by PR Ganapathy (Regional Director India, Stanford Seed).
The event then gave way to the most sought-after part of Unconvention. The winners of iPitch, Villgro’s investment discovery platform were announced. This year, backed by donors like Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF), and iPitch investment partners like Menterra, Upaya Social Ventures, Beyond Capital Fund, the total investments worth 4 crore were offered to early-stage start-ups such as Kritsnam Technologies, Oscillo Machines, Lal10, Flexmotiv and more.
Arunabha Ghosh (CEO, Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW)) & Paul Basil (CEO, Villgro) then launched the multi-million dollar ‘Powering Livelihoods’ initiative by Villgro & CEEW. The next set of sessions included the much needed masterclass on “Data Protection Law” by Unconvention’s Legal Compliance Partner GameChanger Law Advisors. Shobini Mukerji (Executive Director, J-PAL), Shama Karkal (CEO, Swasti Health Catalyst), and Aparajita Agrawal (Former Co-founder & Director, Sankalp Forum) covered diverse topics. These included access to capital for social sector start-ups, creating awareness and market access, and innovative financing models. The day wrapped up with a networking session dubbed as ‘Investor Speed Dating’ which entailed one-on-one conversations with industry-leading investors.
Day 2 of Unconvention commenced with a closed door session with select medtech entrepreneurs and Dr. Devi Shetty (Chairman and Founder, Narayana Health), followed by his keynote address. He highlighted the key learnings from his 20-year journey with Narayana Health. He was introduced by Dr. Paul Salins (Managing Director and VP, Narayana Health and Mazumdar Shah Cancer Centre). This was followed by another round of investor speed dating and a masterclass on Being Compliance Ready by Unconvention’s Financial Compliance Partner SpiceRoute Business. The day was dedicated to sector-specific sessions, focusing primarily on Education, Energy, Agriculture and Health.
Commenting on the state of renewable energy in India, Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW, said, India alone has more than $50bn worth market for clean energy solutions for rural livelihoods. Powering Livelihoods, a joint initiative between CEEW and Villgro, aims to trigger the transformation of India’s rural economy by scaling up the deployment of clean energy-powered livelihood solutions. By marrying CEEW’s deep expertise in evidence generation and sectoral engagement with Villgro’s years of experience in growing businesses, the initiative provides significant capital, capacity building, and ecosystem support to enterprises to scale up these solutions.
Furthermore, there was an enlightening session on Energy and Cleantech addressed by some of the eminent personalities in the industry such as Tanya Kothari of Shell Foundation, Svati Bhogle of Sustaintech India Pvt Ltd. and Col. Manish Ahuja of PREFPL. The topics that were discussed in the session included leveraging energy innovations as a growth catalyst for India’s micro enterprises, entrepreneurship in times of climate change and future of clean mobility.
The discussion around the education & employability sector focused on Leveraging the gig economy for impact and Collaborating for tech for good. The speakers included Avishek Gupta of Caspain, Aparna Dua of Asha Impact, Rahil Rangwala of MSDF, Kevin D’souza of WhatsApp and Nataraj S. Kuntagod, Accenture, among many others.
For the health sector, the chosen topics of discussion were Ayushman Bharat and Digital Health and procurement policies that can revolutionize the sector. The speakers included Varun Jhaveri of Ayushman Bharat, Kiran Anandampillai, National Health Authority, Garima Sahai, Medtronic Labs, among many others.
Dr. Devi Shetty, Chairman and Founder, Narayana Health, advised the medtech entrepreneurs to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hospital with clinicians. It is said often but still not enough – you need to immerse yourself into the clinical workflow.
Shaping the future of water footprint in agriculture and innovations in agri-supply chains to solve for agricultural losses were the topics covered in the discussion pertaining to the agriculture domain. The speakers included Reshma Anand Shivakumar of ITC, Rasika of Soulfull, Anil Kumar of Samunnati Finance, Hemendra Mathur of Bharat Innovation Fund, among 20+ others.
As the event comes to its culmination, Paul Basil, Founder and CEO, Villgro, said, “Having successfully wrapped up the 10th edition of Unconvention, we cannot help but reflect upon this gratifying journey. We have come a long way and have empowered innumerable early-stage start-ups with seed funding and best-in-class mentoring, strategy-creating, GTM support, follow-on fundraising support. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has joined us on this journey and all those who are present here today. Thank you for your unwavering support that has allowed us to catalyse multiple generations of social entrepreneurs and create an ecosystem of unbridled growth for all aspiring entrepreneurs. Together, we have – and will continue to – change the world!”