Zone Startups India hosted the demo day of the 3rd cohort of empoWer accelerator program, on 29th March 2019 at the BSE International Convention Centre. The demo day was attended by over 100 guests, that largely included the investor community, industry leaders and large corporations. The grand Demo Day followed a 6-month accelerator program, which connected these entrepreneurs to over 90+ mentors, including industry leaders and subject matter experts.

The 3rd cohort of empoWer was launched in September 2018, with a focus on technology-led women-owned businesses in enterprise tech and social tech. 15 women founders were on-boarded as a part of the 2 parallel tracks.  This edition of empoWer is in partnership with Indian Clearing Corporation Limited (ICCL), a wholly owned subsidiary of BSE Ltd. (BSE), as the lead Industry Sponsor and Department of Science and Technology (GoI), Government of Quebec, Concordia University, La Coop fédérée, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Amazon Launchpad,  as Supporting Partners.

The launch was a part of a full-day conference that was presided by 25+ women leaders from the industry. This was followed by multi-city roadshows at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune, and an online application campaign that brought in 285 applications from diverse domains – ranging across financial services, media, smart cities, healthcare, education, agriculture and retail to name a few. The program focused on technology areas such as Deep Tech, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Enterprise Mobility, Search & Feedback Engines, Enterprise Software; making it is a very interesting mix of tech applications.

Says Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director (India), Zone Startups – “This was a new experience for us, to manage 2 parallel cohorts under empoWer. The nature of startups is to be iterative, and we at Zone Startups India consider ourselves to be one. After the first 2 cohorts, we realized the need to split up enterprise tech and social tech as separate themes; as the nature of support and program required is different. One the feedback we got over the past 2 years, was a request from entrepreneurs who missed out due to smaller cohort size, asking if we would think of expanding the same. This year, with the funding availability it gave us the bandwidth to so. We are extremely delighted by the composition of the cohorts and the kind of companies that are being built. We look forward to greater success with empoWer and enabling more women entrepreneurs in India”.


The opening Keynote at the empoWer Demo Day was delivered by Apurva Purohit, President – Jagran Prakashan Ltd., and she touched upon an empowering message to our women leading the way in today’s startup ecosystem

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The keynote address was followed by a high profile panel discussion on whether gender inclusion is the key to boosting innovation in entrepreneurial ecosystem. The panel was made up of representatives from a diverse background, and comprised of Deepali Naair, Director – Marketing (India & South Asia), IBM, Anjalli Ravi Kumar, Social Mission Director, Unilever and Shweta  Aprameya, Co-founder HAPPY & Founder AU Welfare Foundation. The session was moderated by Kritika Saxena, Chief of Bureau- Mumbai and South, CNBC-TV18.

After much deliberation, the jury of investors and tech leaders awarded the top 18 women-led startups with an equity free seed funding of INR 5 lakhs each, based on the strength of their business model, their team, their market viability and their products/services. The seed funds were supported by BSE CSR Foundation.

The grantees were:

– A. Soumya Rao, Founder,  UpSoil Technologies

– Gayatri Mathkar, Co-founder, Skygge

– Gitanjali Banerjee, Founder, Fertility Dost

– Kajal Gohil, Co-founder, ARKidzoo

– Manasi Kulkarni, Co-founder, Innoweave Biocare

– Poonam Choudhary, Co-founder, Vendaxo

– Poonam Gupta, Founder, WeeSure

– Prajakta Kuwalekar, Founder, EngenderedCo

– Pritha Datta, Founder, Econolytics

– Richa Sethi, Co-founder, GetLitt!

– Ridhima Gauba, Co-founder – Interview Air

– Romita Ghosh, Founder, MedSamaan

– Sailaja Nori, COO, Traxion LLP

– Shilpa Malik, Founder, Bioscan Research

– Sonam Motwani, Founder, Karkhana.io

– Sridevi Arunprakash, Co-founder, GUVI

– Surabhi Srivastava, Co-founder, Innovision Tech

– Vartika Manasvi, Founder, StackRaft

The grant awards were followed by several category takeaways by the partners.

2. Based on the international scalability potential, seven startups were offered a 1-week market access trip to Montreal by Government of Quebec:

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– Kajal Gohil, Co-founder, ARKidzoo

– Keerti Singh, Co-founder, Hitwicket

– Poonam Choudhary, Co-founder, Vendaxo

– Poonam Gupta, Founder, WeeSure

– Prajakta Kuwalekar, Founder, EngenderedCo

– Pritha Datta, Founder, Econolytics

– Shilpa Malik, Founder, Bioscan Research

Dominic Marcotte, Consul, and Director of the Quebec Government Office in Mumbai is very happy with this partnership. He says, “It is a matter of great pride for the Government of Quebec to support the empoWer program. Our partnership with Zone Startups India has flourished in the second year with more partners from Quebec supporting the market access trip. As a part of its international policy, Quebec supports diversity and minorities. We believe that enabling women to become successful entrepreneurs is the best means of empowerment.”

Sravani Chandramukhi Cheemala, Co-founder, Mirsae was offered to join the Amazon Launchpad Program.

The program received amazing positive feedback from its participants. “Being a part of empoWer has been an extremely enriching experience. As an entrepreneur, you are always looking to meet people who can mentor, partner, share and do business with. In these 4 months of being associated with empoWer, I was able to meet a variety of such people that have helped me and my business grow.”, says Pritha Datta, Founder,  Econolytics.

empoWer now has a cumulative cohort size of 65 women entrepreneurs, built over 3 cohorts. From the first 2 cohorts, a cumulative of INR 60 Crores has been raised by Founders, and there have been 3 solid acquisitions. empoWer is at the forefront of being the go-to platform for women entrepreneurs that are looking to accelerate their ventures, and Zone Startups India is gung-ho about launching newer initiatives under this banner.

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