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Sudha Murty: Infosys Foundation committed to funding game-changers in social sector

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on February 26, 2019 Published on February 26, 2019

Sudha Murthy, chairperson, Infosys Foundation. File Photo   -  The Hindu

Aarohan social innovation awards presented

Even as innovators come up with new ideas that can solve India’s social problems, funding remains a hurdle.

For Sudha Murty, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, the last 12 months have been a journey and a reaffirmation of her belief that innovation need not be associated with sophisticated labs. “Innovation can come from an ordinary person with an empathetic mind and we have seen this across the country,” she told BusinessLine.

CSR funding

Indian software services majors, particularly Infosys, are among the early corporates that took to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) even before the government mandated large private and public sector firms to spend at least 2 per cent of their net profits on special development projects. The mandatory funding is applicable to corporates with a turnover of ₹1,000 crore or those reporting a profit of over ₹5 crore a year.

The government is hoping that with the help of corporates, many of the problems from healthcare to destitute care can be addressed in a meaningful manner. Infosys Foundation, as usual, has decided to rise to the occasion and identified six social sector areas, which it believes require immediate attention.

The Foundation has announced the winners of its Aarohan social innovation awards. From biodegradable sanitary pads to a low-cost prosthetic arm, a total of 12 awards were presented. The winners were given cash prizes of ₹5 to 30 lakh.

“India is a diverse country and many areas need fixing. Our effort is to identify some of the areas where the problems can be solved at scale,” said Murty. However, while the ideas pour in, funding them is still a problem area.

“These ideas require institutional support and they are doable,” Murty said.

As the foundation announced the innovation contest, it received 906 applications. Out of this, 30 were shortlisted and 12 were chosen finally. Some of the winners will get help in the form of an eight-week mentorship programme at IIT-Hyderabad to incubate and scale their ideas. The cost will be jointly borne by IIT-Hyderabad and Infosys Foundation.

Arvind Gupta, a toy inventor and science expert who was in the jury, said that having social innovators is not enough and there is a need to recognise and give them financial support.

Winning innovations

Entrepreneurs behind biodegradable sanitary napkins, a school bag that can double up as a writing desk, water-disinfecting handpumps, low-cost myo-electric prosthetic arm, an affordable Braille printer were among the winners this year.

Murty believes that the millennial Indian entrepreneurs are idealistic. “Some that I have come across had job offers from the US but preferred to work in India,” she said.

 

Published on February 26, 2019
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