ACT For Environment welcomes Grassroots Energy to its portfolio

In the vast and dynamic landscape of India’s energy sector, currently responsible for 73% of total GHG emissions, the urgency for sustainable solutions is stark. As the nation strides towards renewable energy, adopting innovative technologies that can aid India’s net zero goals is paramount.

Founded in 2016, GRE is pioneering a novel bi-phasic fermentation process, using proprietary microbial cultures and a patented reactor design, that converts organic waste / biomass into Green Hydrogen. Unlike traditional methods, this solution requires no sterilisation, leaves zero residues, and is a scalable, modular and decentralised system. The process is 50% more energy-efficient and uses 30x less water than conventional water-electrolysis methods and is effectively carbon-negative by allowing for the sequestering of carbon with microalgae cultures. This technological prowess has positioned GRE as a front runner in the field, recognized by the Government of the UK for its energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

GRE’s innovative process also produces high-quality organic fertilisers, contributing to a circular economy. With ongoing projects and a strong pipeline, including collaborations with industry giants like Tata Power and ITC, GRE is set to accelerate adoption for bio-based solutions in the Green Hydrogen industry in India. The company targets mini grids and industries transitioning from conventional fuels to cleaner alternatives, aiming to capture a significant market share by 2030.

With substantial funding received and a strong pipeline for further investments, GRE is well-positioned for growth. Their business model, focusing on bio-methane, organic fertilisers, Green Hydrogen and carbon credits, ensures diverse revenue streams and sustainability. The team, led by experienced founders and a robust group of engineers and scientists, is committed to scaling operations and driving the adoption of Green Hydrogen.

ACT For Environment’s grant support will help accelerate the commercialization of GRE’s Green Hydrogen operations – aiming to scale production, validate the technology at scale, reduce costs, and ensure industry readiness. We are excited to support Grassroots Energy in producing cheaper and energy efficient green hydrogen with their technological solution that leverages biomass to unlock alternative pathways for clean energy adoption in the country!

ACT welcomes Karya to the collective with our first Education x Women grant

As per the UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, 15% of India’s population, i.e ~200 million people, live in poverty. This is, by far, the largest number of underprivileged people in any country. However, with the massive growth of AI across businesses, there is a huge demand for data to train AI/ML models for which tech companies spend billions of dollars each year. Karya is leveraging the opportunity that this need for regionalised data presents, by providing simplified data work to rural Indians through its microtasking platform – the Karya App. Their solution essentially democratises digital data work that has the potential to generate up to $1500 in supplementary incomes for data collectors from underserved communities within a year and accelerate their social mobility.

We’re excited to support Karya on their vision to bring 100M individuals out of poverty by building ethical ways of data collection that fairly compensates its workers, primarily from rural India. The Karya app is an innovative platform that assigns individuals simplified AI/ML data training microtasks and helps them generate income through Karya Earn. Additionally, they provide upskilling opportunities via Karya Learn and career guidance through Karya Grow. Since its inception in 2021 at Microsoft Research, Karya has impacted over 32,000 individuals (60% of whom are women), across 25+ states/UTs, who have received wages totaling INR 4.5 crore for completion of 35M+ digital tasks.

While offering its workers as much as 20 times the prevailing minimum wage in the country, Karya ensures production of better quality Indian-language data that tech companies can use for their AI/ML data work.

To further augment supplementary incomes, Karya is gearing towards generating higher demand for its data work. Through its focus on an ‘earn then learn model’, Karya is supporting its workers to generate enough supplementary income to be able to focus on upskilling and career counselling. Given Karya’s strong focus on enabling career opportunities and learning avenues, ACT is proud to support Karya through an Education X Women grant to:
Focus on building a sales team for higher demand generation among international and national tech-focused organisations
Publish insights on the impact of upskilling and well-being for workers earning supplementary income, with an emphasis on gender-specific nuances
We’re thrilled to be part of Karya’s journey in revolutionising the landscape of tech-driven livelihood opportunities for rural communities.

Bridging the healthcare divide: How technology is bringing a ray of hope in rural India

In the most remote areas of rural India, affordable and accessible healthcare continues to be a challenge for underserved populations even today. With proper hospitals often located several kilometres away, the significance of timely diagnosis cannot be overstated. This critical aspect came sharply into focus through the stories that recently emerged from MAHAN Trust – an NGO serving tribal communities in the Melghat region of Maharashtra and catering to their healthcare needs.

When 27-year old Geeta* from Dharni village found herself battling tuberculosis for a third time, her very life hung in the balance. She had discontinued her TB treatment twice before, as travelling to the nearest hospital for regular check-ups would have meant forgoing daily wages. Due to this, Geeta was already vulnerable to a multidrug-resistant form tuberculosis (MDR-TB) when the disease struck again. This time, it spread to the rest of her body, led to multiple organ failure and she eventually slipped into a coma.

Geeta hasn’t been the only one in such a predicament. With 70% of the region’s mortality rate attributed to treatable infections such as TB, Melghat has long been deprived of high-quality diagnostic facilities that accurately detect infections and enable PHC doctors to effectively prescribe timely treatment. Caregivers bear the responsibility of submitting test samples to the nearest pathology lab in Amravati – a journey that takes 4-5 hours – and the subsequent waiting period to secure reports frequently results in delayed or, tragically, no treatment at all, eventually leading to the loss of lives in critical cases.

Recognising this as a significant challenge, the MAHAN Trust team collaborated with Medprime Technologies in early 2023 through the ACT Implementers Network, which aims to bring private innovations to public healthcare. Medprime’s digital microscopy solution allows pathologists to remotely analyse test reports for patients living in low-resourced areas, eliminating the hassle of transporting or storing the sample slides. Soon, the MAHAN Trust team began using the telepathology devices at the local PHC’s to begin addressing the issue.

It was this advanced diagnostic capability that helped the doctors diagnose and treat Geeta’s condition without the need for her to travel to a hospital, which has ensured the woman’s survival against all odds.

In another instance, Nandini* found herself in MAHAN Trust’s ICU in a coma due to cerebral malaria. Medprime’s solution facilitated a conclusive and accurate diagnosis that helped doctors prescribe the correct treatment. Despite facing their own economic challenges, the local community rallied together to support Nandini, showcasing the strength of solidarity in times of crisis. With their help and the support of donors, the medical team ensured she received treatment free of cost and came out of coma. Her remarkable recovery, just in time for Diwali, became a symbol of hope for the entire community.

These stories of success are just a few of the many that MAHAN Trust has brought to the fore – telepathology has enabled the team to detect multiple cases of malaria, tuberculosis, and even suspected leukaemia in the region in a timely fashion – thus saving lives while reducing the cost burden on the patients themselves. They underscore the transformative potential of technology and innovation and we’re proud to see the transformative impact it is slowly starting to create!

*Names changed to protect patient privacy

Seeds of Hope: Farmers For Forests transforming lives and livelihoods in rural Maharashtra

In the quiet village of Yermagad, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, a 73-year-old farmer named Najukrao Ranu Achala leads his life in a tiny hut on his 8-acre land with 7 goats, 11 cows, 38 hens, and 2 dogs. Finding solace in simplicity, he only owns a bicycle that helps him visit the nearest market to buy essential goods.

In 2023, Najukrao’s life took a transformative turn when Farmers For Forests, an organisation that partners with local communities to protect and increase India’s biodiverse forest cover, approached him. He expressed his interest in cultivating bamboo, mahua, toddy palm, and arjun trees on his land but also articulated the lack of financial resources as an obstacle. His wife had passed away and his children had relocated to a nearby town, which compounded the challenge as he had no motivation to single handedly take up farming again.

Recognizing the potential of Najukrao’s land as a significant source of environmental preservation, Farmers For Forests offered to incentivize him to plant trees, not only as a way to enable afforestation but also to aid his livelihood. This is the mechanism with which F4F operates – their innovative payment for ecosystem services (PES) model treats farmers as stewards of the environment and financially compensates them to provide ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, nurturing biodiversity habitat, afforestation etc.

The F4F team provided Najukrao with saplings, organic fertilisers, and crucial labour support to initiate the plantation and, over the next four years, he will receive regular cash transfers to take care of the saplings. As the fourth year approaches, Najukrao will not only generate revenue from selling agroforestry produce but will also help F4F tap into the carbon credit markets – turning his efforts towards environmental stewardship into a sustainable operating model for the organisation.

Najukrao is only one example of the systemic environmental impact that F4F is creating. India’s agrarian communities remain one of the most vulnerable parts of the population bearing the disproportionate impact of climate change, despite having almost zero contribution to greenhouse emissions. Many of them are abandoning agriculture for other livelihoods due to climate change induced uncertain rainfall, land degradation and crop losses. Under these circumstances, Farmers For Forests offer local rural communities opportunities to both mitigate and adapt to climate change while significantly aiding green livelihoods.

Najukrao’s collaboration with Farmers For Forests is in its first year. “For all of my daily needs, I rely on the land. With this cash transfer, I will take care of the saplings planted, but I will also replace my old and broken transistor radio to buy a new one. It’s my regular connection to hear what is happening in the world!”

WISER 2023 finds that startups can lead the way on accelerating women’s workforce participation in India

Startups in India have the potential to create 2 million new jobs for women by 2030, suggests the Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report ( WISER ), adding that the ecosystem is uniquely positioned to attract female talent. The report finds that women made up 35 percent of the startup workforce in 2022 (the corresponding figure for the corporate sector was 19 percent) and indicates that, with careful introspection within the startup community which enables timely and targeted action, that number can rise to 50 percent by 2030.

WISER shows that startups offer women a highly conducive growth environment, by way of faster career progression and higher autonomy, which enables female employees to meet their career goals at different stages. Women-led startups in particular are observed to perform even better on gender equality, with startups that have at least one female founder seen to have 2.5x women in senior roles as compared to male-founded startups.

The report notes that startups are currently faring better than traditional enterprises, with 32 percent women in managerial positions vis a vis 21 percent in corporates. This gap widens further at the CXO level where corporates have only 5 percent of women in leadership positions against 18 percent in startups. However, while the overall figures are promising, significant work lies ahead – 10 years into their careers, 8 out of 10 men in startups occupy Director-level positions or higher, compared to only 5 in 10 women.

It is poignant to note that contrary to popular perception, women’s motivations to join startups are no different from men, with both preferring accelerated learning & advancement, fast pace of work and innovation as key drivers.

Led by ACT For Women in collaboration with The Udaiti Foundation, the Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report (WISER) is India’s first and largest collaborative report on women in startups. With participation from 200+ startups, including the likes of Urban Company, Meesho and Zomato, the 2023 edition focuses on understanding the drivers for gender diversity across employment levels and spotlighting best practices that have helped improve women’s participation. The study, which had McKinsey & Company as the Knowledge Partner and LEAD at Krea University as the Research Partner, adopted a mixed methodology approach with participation from 111 founders, 117 CHROs, and almost 800 startup employees.

Read the full report here.

Neurosynaptic joins the ACT For Health portfolio

In the ever evolving quest to provide quality healthcare services to rural populations, the emergence of tele-medicine has ushered in a new era of healthcare delivery. With just an internet connection, individuals can now access doctors and receive consultations from the comfort of their homes. This technological leap has been a game-changer for remote and rural communities that have historically struggled to access medical professionals. eSanjeevani, a government-supported tele-medicine platform has become a household name post the pandemic, facilitating millions of consultations to date.

However, in its current form, tele-medicine comes with its own set of limitations. Often, it falls short as remote doctors lack real-time patient information such as vitals and test results. This information gap can result in significant challenges in follow-up care. Doctors often rely on auxiliary healthcare workers like ANMs/GNMs to gather basic diagnostic data. Even when these data are available, issues like manual errors and data sharing with remote doctors burden frontline health workers, thus limiting the current utility of such platforms. Furthermore, a staggering 70% of patients seeking care at primary health clinics require diagnostic tests for the doctors to make informed treatment decisions. However, even the most basic, high-quality diagnostic tests are not often readily available at many PHCs. Nearly one-third of these centres lack the diagnostic facilities altogether and among those who do, the availability of tests is often limited, and supply chain issues lead to frequent downtimes. As a result, patients are forced to turn to private labs, causing delays and higher out-of-pocket expenses.

To address these challenges and ensure access to quality healthcare services for rural populations while reducing manual errors and ensuring continuity of care, there is a pressing need to strengthen tele-medicine offerings at PHCs. This requires a system where digitization and data logging happen seamlessly, facilitating the flow of data between healthcare providers and users.

Neurosynaptic is a digital health technology company focused on improving primary care at the last mile through integrated primary care models. Founded by an alumnus of IISc and incubated at IIT Madras, their ReMeDi® kit offers comprehensive coverage of the diagnostic tests required at the primary care level, including Maternal & Child Health (MCH), Communicable Diseases (CDs), and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Additionally, their team brings decades of experience in tele-medicine and integrated diagnostics solutions.

Our grant aims to pilot the integration of the ReMeDi® diagnostics kit with the eSanjeevani platform across PHCs in 2 districts. Our hypothesis is that it will increase the utilisation of the eSanjeevani platform and enhance access to essential tests at the last mile care, thereby improving overall health outcomes. This collaboration will also enable them to understand the key strengths and pain points of the eSanjeevani workflow and get strong data evidence to enable their adoption at scale in HWCs across multiple states.

Dvara Health Finance joins the ACT For Health collective

Across urban and rural adult populations in India, there is a substantial prevalence of health concerns such as diabetes, prediabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. While a national program for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has been rolled out nationwide, it faces challenges stemming from inadequate funding and staffing. Despite the presence of 1.2 lakh Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) and 25,000 Primary Health Centers (PHCs) serving 72% of the rural population, a quarter of these facilities lack sufficient care providers, leaving space for informal providers to fill the gap. Additionally, a shortage of specialist doctors in around 85% of Community Health Centers (CHCs) exacerbates the situation. Furthermore, while approximately 70% of the population is covered by public or private health insurance, Out of Pocket Expenditure (OOPE) remains notably high at nearly 50%, driving an estimated 6 crore Indians into poverty annually.

To address these pressing challenges, a multi-pronged approach is required, blending innovation in both healthcare and financial products. A key strategy involves leveraging CHWs empowered by a protocolized tech platform, thus enabling scalability and effectiveness. The transition from Fee-for-Service to Fee-for-Value models serves to place user needs at the forefront, emphasising preventive care. To that end, ACT For Health has welcomed Dvara Health Finance to its portfolio, with the shared objective of addressing critical gaps within the primary care continuum. The grant seeks to transition from the prevailing fee-for-service model to a more effective fee-for-value model, facilitated by the utilisation of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and technology at scale.

ACT and Dvara’s NEEM program presents a distinctive combination of health and finance offerings to tackle the above-mentioned issues. The success of initial pilots in Maharashtra, spanning over 6 months and covering 1,000+ families, underscores the urgency of this initiative and through our collaboration, the aim is to increase the reach to 10,000 families.

This collaboration will also include an experiment with returnable grants, where grant funds circulate for a specified period, aligned with mutually agreed-upon goals. The expectation from this collaboration is that it will reshape the landscape of primary health care delivery, paving the way for enhanced accessibility, improved outcomes, and financial resilience!

ACT For Health welcomes C3 Medtech to its portfolio

India faces a daunting healthcare challenge with an estimated 270 million people experiencing vision loss. Among them, 9.2 million individuals are burdened with irreversible blindness and shockingly, 90% of these cases are preventable. The lack of access to quality eye care, especially in rural areas, has exacerbated this crisis, leaving millions without the opportunity to see the world around them. This has huge implications on quality of life and the overall economy of the country.

We strongly believe that there is a pressing need for Point-of-Care (PoC) devices in peripheral settings that can be easily operated by any frontline health worker with minimal training. That’s why we have decided to support C3 Medtech’s eye screening solutions to help bridge the gap on quality ophthalmology care for underserved communities and facilitate wider adoption of the solution in primary care settings. C3 Medtech’s solution plays a crucial role in the early screening of conditions such as cataract, corneal opacity, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, which are the major causes of blindness in India. By doing so, it significantly contributes to the fight against preventable blindness.

Traditionally, both slit lamps (used for anterior eye inspection) and fundus devices (used for retinal examination) have been bulky and expensive, requiring trained ophthalmologists to operate. However, C3 Medtech has developed a portable slit lamp and a fundus imaging device, which are powerful eye screening solutions that empower primary care settings to conduct efficient screenings, facilitating early detection and timely treatment for various eye conditions. The best part is that these innovative devices can be easily attached to smartphones, allowing healthcare providers to capture high-quality eye images and receive remote consultations from qualified ophthalmologists.

They are simple to operate with minimal training, making them ideal for use in primary care settings in remote regions. They effectively address the challenges faced in reaching underserved communities and offer a cost-effective solution for resource-constrained environments, where access to advanced eye care technology has historically been limited.

ACT For Health will support the deployment of 30 sets of C3 Medtech eye screening devices within our implementation partner network and charitable institutes operating in low resource settings. Our support will help them in getting real life market feedback and pathways to scale in peripheral settings and we’re excited to collaborate with them on enabling better access to quality yet affordable ophthalmology care!

Cancrie joins the ACT For Environment portfolio

Cancrie aims to impact the battery industry by significantly enhancing battery performance, reducing waste, and extending their lifespan. By using agri-waste as an input, Cancrie has created advanced-grade high-purity nano carbons which are used as an additive on battery electrode plates to increase the battery cycle life by more than 50% and enhance energy efficiency by 40%. This leads to faster charging, reduced electricity wastage, and better utilisation of active materials. Their innovative breakthrough not only benefits the end consumers and battery manufacturers economically but also creates a positive environmental impact.

One of the key advantages of Cancrie’s solution is its versatility across multiple battery chemistries. With their materials showing promise, Cancrie has already gained traction in the market, working with notable clients such as Luminous, Laurus, Future Energy and Exide. Their initial target market of $1.6 billion comprises the lead-acid segment, where they are already conducting paid pilots. Eventually, the company has larger plans to expand their solution to other battery chemistries, including lithium-ion, supercapacitors, Na-ion, and Flow batteries for which they already have proof of concepts ready. This opens up a world of exciting possibilities for Cancrie’s future as well as the resulting climate impact.

Cancrie distinguishes itself through its commitment to environmental sustainability. By extending the lifespan of batteries, Cancrie significantly reduces the need for extracting raw materials and the environmentally damaging practice of mining. Furthermore, Cancrie’s production process is far more energy-efficient compared to other carbon grades, resulting in a significantly lower carbon footprint. Their process emits 85 times less GHG than graphene and 35,000 times less than carbon nanotubes, two most advanced grades of carbon.

With support provided by ACT For Environment, Cancrie plans to increase its production capacity threefolds, helping them achieve their commercialization goals. The funding received will also enable Cancrie to conduct trials on advanced-grade lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries, further validating the performance of their materials. These milestones are projected to result in a saving of approximately 630 tonnes of CO2e and 200 tonnes of agricultural waste, making a tangible impact on environmental conservation in the next two years.

We are excited to welcome Cancrie into the ACT For Environment portfolio and witness their journey of improving the performance and lifespan of batteries in a wide range of applications. We believe that Cancrie has the potential to be a major player in the battery industry, and we are excited to support their mission to make batteries more sustainable and efficient.

ACT For Health brings Adagio VR on board in collaboration with MITR Trust

In India, research indicates that almost 50% of the prevalence of mental disorders are observed in transgender communities and that there is a visible reluctance to access support due to the real as well as perceived inaccessibility and stigma. In fact, transgender people face a 4x higher risk of mental illness along with unhealthy coping mechanisms due to:

• Stigmatization, oppression, cis-sexism, discrimination, violence, poverty as well as issues such as gender dysphoria and trauma
• Lack of spaces that are sensitive to the needs of the community
There’s a clear need for comprehensive and targeted mental health support for trans communities that is effective, preventative, private, and accessible.

ACT For Health has partnered with MITR Trust to support Adagio VR in delivering a 4-week program for the LGBTQI+ community in India. Adagio VR, an innovative startup co-founded by a British psychiatrist and a serial entrepreneur, offers a preventive wellbeing and behavioural change solution that leverages Virtual Reality (VR) to create impact. The program integrates this technology with cutting-edge clinical techniques, with a 97% success rate in addressing issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, and more. With researchers from renowned institutions like Cambridge University, PGI Chandigarh, and the London School of Economics, the solution’s design is backed by expertise and empirical evidence.

Adagio’s users are able to identify and overcome the root cognitive processes that create stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, psychological addiction, sleep issues etc. quicker and more effectively than any other non-clinical intervention in the world. With immediate relief in the first 30-minute session, there is observed systematic transformation in just 4 weeks of regular use. Delivered in Virtual Reality, the user experience is powerfully immersive, uniquely private (does not require users to disclose the details of the issue they are experiencing) and highly engaging.

Our grant will impact 70 individuals, with an additional 70 acting as a control group for research. Participants will be those dealing with distress, mild-moderate trauma, and chronic issues, excluding severe mental illnesses. A community member will be recruited to ensure program delivery is rooted in lived experience, trust, and empowerment. Beneficiaries will receive specialist consultations, VR program tests, educational workshops, access to VR programs, self-led and community exercises, and online support if needed. This research aims to help Adagio VR in establishing clear outcomes for the program to enable scalability in the future.

Overall, this collaboration hopes to bridge the gap in mental health support for transgender communities in India. By leveraging VR technology and expertise, the program strives to provide effective and accessible solutions that address the root causes of distress and disorders resulting from successive trauma.

ACT Capital Foundation For Social Impact is a not-for-profit company incorporated and registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. All donations made to ACT Capital Foundation are eligible for income tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

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