The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on businesses across the country, but especially women-owned startups have suffered, with close to 20% of them nearly wiped out, according to WE HUB. To help women-led startups to sustain and to tackle issues they might face, Hyderabad-based WE HUB, being an exclusive incubator for women entrepreneurs, stepped in. It has been guiding the startups incubated with them and kicked off 12 new virtual programs to support them during the crisis.
WE HUB further said that it assisted the startups during the second wave of the pandemic by giving them access to markets, providing finance and information relevant to their business development.
Here’s a look at three innovative women-led tech startups incubated at WE HUB:
Sortizy is a technology-enabled digital platform (a website and an app) that brings together everything needed to run your kitchen at home. There are recipes, content from food bloggers, contacts of home cooks, and even access to groceries, which you can order online via the app, among other things, all at a single place. “We are India’s first food-centric platform connecting all the disjointed aspects of the home kitchen from deciding what to eat, sorting the grocery and cooking and eating delicious dishes. We want to completely digitise home kitchens using technology and offer convenience,” says Surbhi Guha, Founder of Hyderabad-based Sortizy.
"We started the initial phase of the business model back in May 2020. The pandemic had just begun and the entire ‘new normal’ came with its own challenges and advantages. We realised that the backbone of our daily meals, home kitchens, seem to have become dysfunctional and a pain for a lot of us to manage, especially the younger generations. To address this gap, Sortizy was created,” she adds.
“We are creating an ecosystem where we are not only adding value for the consumers but creating a platform for the FMCG brands to make users aware how their products can be used through various guided recipes. We are also creating a dedicated food-centric space for the food blogger community to share their quality content,” Surbhi says.
Sortizy’s target audience consists primarily of urban millennials and Gen Z (aged between 22-40 years). The company says that the consumers get the convenience of managing their kitchen and efficiency in their grocery shopping experience. And businesses like FMCG brands get a direct-to-customer channel for increasing awareness about their brands and utilisation of their products, while grocery delivery companies will get a high volume channel for orders. Sortizy is able to earn revenue through sales commission, cook service charges, and subscription charges.
Surbhi says being associated with WE HUB has given them access to mentors, business networking opportunities and community to build an ecosystem. “Aha media in association with WE HUB has provided us with a revolving fund.”
Over Rs 20 lakh has gone into the business–apart from bootstrapping and getting support from our families, we have received a grant from the Ministry of Electronics & IT facilitated by IIT Hyderabad, adds Surbhi. After finishing closed beta testing in early 2021, Sortizy launched its Android application in May 2021 and has garnered ~20K users so far. “The response from our users has been amazing and very encouraging. We have a big community of food bloggers, and home cooks working with us. We are also working with a few FMCG brands to create value for them,” Surbhi says.
While the news industry has an enormous number of publishers from Tier 2, 3 & 4 cities who have authentic content, only publishers in Tier 1 cities have a good online presence with high traffic. This realisation started Soniya Kundnani and Darshan Shah’s journey towards bridging the gap in the News Industry, and this is why the website, NewsReach was formed in August 2018.
NewsReach is building a local news ecosystem 2.0 by empowering offline local news publishers/reporters to go online. NewsReach, not only digitises the local news publishers but also monetises their content in two ways: Through advertisements and through news marketplace (buying/selling/licensing of news content).
“We digitise the news publications and provide them with maximum RoI (Return on Investment) on their content not only through advertisements but also through news marketplace. The platform enables numerous journalists to quote fair prices for their story with due recognition and helps media organisations to have a consolidated platform to view and license the news stories,” says Soniya, Co-Founder of Ahmedabad-based NewsReach.
“Majority (~90%) of local news publications in India are still offline and there is a need to have an integrated and systematic approach, where digitisation takes place first. In India, only premier news agencies sell or license their content and it is so expensive that only premium publishers can afford it,” says Soniya.
“We want to democratise the space of buying/selling/licensing like a data-driven e-commerce platform of news,” she adds.
WE Hub has helped the website grow by connecting the founders with mentors and advising on how to fundraise. “They helped us in making the right connections with industry experts to grow our business. We have been fortunate enough to be provided with a lot of guidance on fundraising and have been connected with a few VCs (venture capitalists) and angel investors who invested in us,” says Soniya.
The founders have contributed over Rs 25 lakh in the business and raised over $300K recently from JITO Angel Network, ShuruUp ventures, Faad Network and marquee angel investors in India and the US. NewsReach says it has over 700 paying customers and is recording over 25 million monthly page views. “We are on a talent acquisition spree and want to strengthen our tech stack. We are looking at scaling our revenues through expansion into multiple states,” adds Soniya.
Innogle was Incorporated on April 1, 2019. It was started to make fishing more efficient and to track and find fishermen who go missing during storms, etc. “One of our network administrators from the fishing community had lost his family, friends and was directly impacted by the tsunami. During a festival get-together, he explained his real story of losing his whole family. It was from there that an idea sparked, to provide a solution to save the fisherman's life with technology,” says Shobana Uthayashankar, founder of Innogle.
It basically consists of a display device that can be fixed onto the fisherman’s boat. “Our patented solution named ‘Kadalcompass’ is a display device that has 26 unique features in a multilingual, user-friendly Interface integrated with IoUT (Internet of Underwater Things). The AI-based device can be fixed to each fisherman’s vessel to have real-time potential fishing zones on the go,” says Shobana.
The device guides fishermen to catch the right fish without damaging the fishing ecosystem. The system is also integrated with Life Safety technology which identifies the missing fishermen within minutes and alerts the nearest boat to track and trace. This device can also perform sensitive granular carpet data mining of the ocean bed, which is useful for mineral mining, weather prediction, especially for ocean researchers and universities.
“Innogle came up with 26 unique features after four years of research. We found a large social and economic space for our products and a solution which is not only useful in India but globally,” Shobana adds.
Some of the issues which Innogle is trying to solve include eliminating by-catch (endangered species getting caught in the net), reducing environmental damage, avoiding risk of arrest due to accidental ingress into foreign territory, and security threats.
Shobana says though the startup is based in Chennai, they found great support from WE HUB and the team. “They helped us solve complex problems by connecting us with the right mentors and also effectively analysed gaps to scale up the business.”
An amount of Rs 3.5 crore has been bootstrapped for research and development. “We have successfully installed 31 devices in boats in India and the UK. We are about to install 1000 ‘Kadalcompass’ devices connected with 5G in the coastal areas, and are in the process of deploying the devices globally in countries like Australia, Canada, UK, UAE, Sri Lanka,” says Shobana.