Innovative solutions take center stage as start-ups from diverse sectors lead the way

Making a remarkable contribution to India's start-up ecosystem, the 5th Edition of the Youth Co:Lab National Innovation Dialogue India has seen 12 start-ups from nine states emerge as victorious. The winners, operating in diverse sectors such as agriculture, ed-tech, women’s livelihood, circular economy, and biodiversity, were announced on June 27, 2023.

Youth Co:Lab, a joint initiative by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation, was launched in India in 2019 in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog. The initiative aims to empower and invest in youth across the Asia-Pacific region, accelerating the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The Youth Co:Lab National Innovation Dialogue 2022 witnessed tremendous success, as 12 exceptional start-ups from 9 different Indian states emerged as winners. This highly anticipated event garnered an extraordinary response, attracting a staggering 378 applications from all 28 states across India. The level of enthusiasm and participation demonstrated the immense interest and potential within the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country.

Among the numerous applicants, the 12 winning start-ups have been selected to receive valuable seed funding, which can amount to a significant sum of up to $5,000. This financial support will prove instrumental in enabling these innovative ventures to scale up their operations and bring their groundbreaking ideas to fruition. By providing access to funding, Youth Co:Lab empowers these young entrepreneurs to overcome initial financial barriers and propel their innovative solutions forward.

The winning start-ups hail from a diverse range of Indian states, representing the entrepreneurial talent dispersed throughout the country. This geographic diversity showcases the inclusive nature of Youth Co:Lab's initiatives and their commitment to fostering entrepreneurship on a nationwide scale. By recognizing and supporting innovative ideas from various regions, the initiative promotes an inclusive and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that can generate transformative societal impact.

Mission Director AIM Chintan Vaishnav emphasized the role of social start-ups as catalysts for social change. He said, "They address pressing social and environmental challenges, stimulate economic growth, inspire other businesses, leverage technology, and promote collaboration."

Citi India CEO Ashu Khullar lauded the innovation and creativity displayed by the young entrepreneurs in addressing social challenges. Resident Representative UNDP India Shoko Noda highlighted India's unique opportunity to lead innovation and social entrepreneurship, given its young population.

The winners were felicitated by actor and UNDP Champion Sanjana Sanghi who underscored the power of youth to drive innovation and create meaningful change through social entrepreneurship.

The 2022-23 dialogue focused on six thematic areas, including Digital and Financial Literacy for Youth, Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Developing FinTech Solutions focused on Biodiversity Conservation, among others.

The winners include SaralX, an initiative enhancing access and opportunities for people with disabilities; Project Baala, focusing on menstrual hygiene for economically marginalized menstruators; and Gepo Aali, which aims to revive the lost indigenous crop variety of the region using ancestral farming practices.

Since its inception in 2017, Youth Co:Lab has made significant strides in supporting and empowering young social entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific region. This impactful initiative has extended its reach to a wide range of countries and territories, encompassing a total of 28 nations. The program's commitment to fostering social innovation and entrepreneurship has resulted in an impressive outreach, with over 240,000 participants benefiting from its various initiatives.

One of the key elements of its approach is the organization of national dialogues. These dialogues serve as platforms for young entrepreneurs to engage in meaningful discussions, exchange ideas, and gain insights from experienced professionals. By creating a space for dialogue, the initiative encourages collaboration and the sharing of knowledge among participants, enabling them to develop their entrepreneurial skills and expand their networks.