On the eve of International Day of People with Disabilities on 3rd December, Prosus, the global consumer internet group of Naspers, is pleased to announce that Sohum Innovation Labs, NeoMotion Assistive Solutions, and Stamurai from Demosthenes Technologies, all early-stage Indian ventures developing technology to aid persons with disabilities, have been selected as the top three startups in the inaugural Prosus Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (Prosus SICA). Prosus SICA identifies and supports talented entrepreneurs who are developing and deploying assistive technology. Prosus has committed INR 16,500,000 over three years to the initiative.
Sohum Innovation Labs, founded by Nitin Sisodia and based in Bengaluru, was awarded first place for the ingenuity and impact shown by a highly accessible device that has been designed to detect hearing impairment amongst infants and small children. The Sohum device allows for a non-invasive procedure that captures a child’s response to sound stimulus in just 90 seconds. Sohum Innovation Labs embodies the theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD), which is that ‘Not all disabilities are visible.’ In second place is Chennai-based NeoMotion, which makes bespoke wheelchairs designed to ensure accurate posture, energy conservation, and compactness to enhance accessibility and mobility. Founded by Swostik Sourav Dash, NeoMotion wheelchairs have a motor-powered clip-on which converts into a safe, roadworthy vehicle, eliminating the need for the user to transfer into other vehicles. Third place has been awarded to Stamurai, a highly cost-effective and easily accessible mobile app that addresses speech and language disabilities. Stamurai, co-founded by Meet Singhal and located in New Delhi, automates speech therapy and serves as a personalized, digital coach to guide the user.
Sohum, NeoMotion, and Stamurai will receive grants of INR 2,500,000, INR 1,800,000, and INR 1,200,000, respectively.
In fourth and fifth place are Cogniable and Thinkerbell Labs. Cogniable, co-founded by Manu Kohli, is an autism management tool that has aids with early automated screening and remote guided treatment. Thinkerbell Labs, led by Sanskriti Dawle, was chosen for Annie, a Braille literacy device that helps the visually impaired learn to read, write, and type in Braille independently through interactive audio-guided content. Annie allows for easy monitoring and evaluation of student progress via analytics. It is interactive, gives instantaneous feedback, and continuously evaluates the user, making the learning experience engaging.
All five startups will be inducted into a new Prosus SICA mentorship program, which entitles them to business advice from Prosus, technical guidance, and support from World Health Organization (WHO), and an opportunity to incubate with Social Alpha, a group focused on strengthening impact innovation and entrepreneurship across India.
According to the World Report on Disability by WHO, 15 percent of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, live with disabilities. WHO, a technical partner to Prosus SICA, says that in many low-income and middle-income countries, only between 5 percent and 15 percent of those who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them.
The top startups were selected by a specialist and expert jury, which evaluated a range of attributes, such as the underlying issue being addressed by each startup, product scalability, market feasibility, clinical trials outcomes, and accessibility for the ultimate beneficiaries. 2020 was the first year of Prosus SICA. This initiative will take place over the next two years.