History is replete with narratives of human resilience through ingenuity often also termed as innovation. Innovation combined with entrepreneurship has played a critical role from the industrial revolution to the present digital revolution in wresting control in favour of progress and human agency.
India has leapfrogged legacy systems to innovate on the shoulders of millions of smartphones and access to internet. There was a unique convergence of digital infrastructures such as India Stack, policy initiatives and cutting-edge entrepreneurship that led to frequent and profound disruption in sectors such as financial services and e-commerce over the last decade. This has deepened credit, increased inclusion, and provided access to goods and services to millions of people.
Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the status quo globally especially in services that depend on state-citizen interaction. Courts, governments, municipalities are all wanting to digitise at an unparalleled pace and in need of new technological solutions that make presence-less authentication, interaction and transaction seamless in the wake of COVID-19.
In India, there is now a perfect storm developing in the form of new digital infrastructure (e.g. RERA stack), open digital ecosystems and urgency to digitize to bring this confluence of innovation and entrepreneurship in fields such as civic engagement, property rights and access to justice. We have simply decided to call them – CivicTech, PropTech and LegalTech.
However, as nascent sectors, these are yet to receive broad-based market support. For example, in civic tech, much of the funding that the 400-odd civic-tech startups in India have received is philanthropic in nature. For the sector to become self-sustaining, venture investors will need to believe that the startups have scalable and sustainable business models.
Towards this goal, we are partnering with CIIE.CO to create a platform that will redefine how innovation and entrepreneurship have been approached in these sectors. This platform called Citizen Innovation Lab (CIL) will-
- Research and document problems in these sectors through discovery and sprints for entrepreneurs and students from 10 different Indian cities
- Broad base the audience bringing different stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, government, municipalities, lawyers, academics, philanthropists on a single platform
- Encourage solutions and prototype them
- Make all the research, sprints, and potential solutions and ideas “open” for the community at large to engage and learn
CIIE.CO has a rich history of mentoring over 10,000+ entrepreneurs, accelerating 1,000+ start-ups and funding 160+ companies over the last 20 years. The Citizen Innovation Lab aims at building entrepreneurship ecosystems in the areas of CivicTech, PropTech, LegalTech through interventions on three fronts:
- Competencies: Strengthening skills and capabilities of various stakeholders in the ecosystem i.e. city clusters, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, mentors and potential investors.
- Collaboration: Building an ecosystem and collective action by facilitating interdisciplinary thinking within academia and creating opportunities for collaboration between stakeholders. Bringing in practitioners to share their sector and industry knowledge through workshops.
- Capital: Evangelizing and providing builder capital and attracting more and different forms of funding and capital providers.
We invested because we hope to catalyze new ideas, nurture existing solutions and provide a lighthouse for all entrepreneurs in these sectors to lean in and create pathbreaking future enterprises.