Dr Shivdasini S Amin

Dr Shivdasini S Amin, Associate Professor, Mahindra University

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Startups And The Green Agenda

Startups are innovation-driven companies built on transformational ideas and are therefore disruptive, and create new markets, products, or services

India has over 65,861 startups, showing a sharp rising curve over the last few years. Till 2016-17, we had only 726 startups. The pandemic established India as a creator economy due to the huge start-up activity and we now have 100 unicorns with a total valuation of $332.7 billion. That makes us a nation with the third-highest number of startups valued at a billion dollars or more, behind only the US and China. As many as 41 unicorns emerged in 2021 exceeding the total count till 2020. As climate concerns rise, startups are also rising to the challenge to intensify business activity to lighten the carbon impact on the planet. Many Indian green startups are providing unique solutions to tackle climate change. India got its first electric vehicles start-up to achieve unicorn status with Ola Electric in 2019.

Startups are innovation-driven companies built on transformational ideas and are therefore disruptive, and create new markets, products, or services. Not that there is a dearth of innovation in blue-chip companies, but bigger companies are driven more towards chasing business results and therefore, many times, stick to their original models, driving growth by selling the same idea.

Climate change and energy shortage are the two main crises faced by the world today. India is estimated to have suffered an average annual loss of about 87 billion dollars from extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods, and droughts, a report by The State of the Climate in Asia 2020, by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) mentions. As per the latest study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s body on climate change, to keep global heating below the danger mark of 1.5°C above 1850 levels, fresh global emissions have to start declining by 2025, nearly halved in 2030 and get close to zero by 2050.

We need to drive huge leaps in innovation to respond to climate change. This is a fight that has to be taken up by the government, India Inc, academics, and scientists who will create the awareness, by new ESG inclined investors who encourage disruptive business ideas, and at the micro-level by communities and societies. According to a Gartner global report, by 2025, around 50% of companies will have ESG among the top five business priority areas.

Just like the Covid fight, which saw the birth of many new startups in a short time, that helped in contact tracing, PPE kits, remote security, and surveillance, monitoring containment zones, and myriad such activities that ensured work continuity, with climate change too, the response needs to be as heady and serious.

Many start-ups are designing low-power software, next-generation batteries, carbon capture solutions, or even nuclear technologies. Investors who can spot the right talent or disruptive ideas that create green solutions for societies will be making winning choices.

India has set lofty cleantech objectives with the support of many government programs aimed at achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2070. The government launched the Startups India initiative in January 2016. The Digital India AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge is aimed at improving the Indian app ecosystem. Waste-to-energy projects, production of compressed biogas from agriculture or municipal waste, and schemes for producing green hydrogen are growing areas of interest, given the government's push to clean up fast.

India’s climate-tech startups attracted $1.8B over 284 equity transactions between 2016 and 2021, as per a report by India Impact Investor Council (IIC). Electric vehicles, clean logistics, and sustainable mobility gained the most investment, attracting $1.1 bn, says the report.

Founded in 2017, Kanpur-based Phool provides solutions to the flower waste generated in the temples by making charcoal-free incense, wellness products, and biodegradable packaging materials. Delhi-based Takachar has developed a machine that converts agricultural waste biomass into marketable products. Similarly, Yulu provides single-seater electric two-wheelers for travel within Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi. The agenda is simple …be the changemaker. As startups demonstrate new ideas and zeal towards green solutions this youngest and fastest-growing segment of India Inc, will play a pivotal role in leading the nation towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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