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Indian startups working on ‘India-First’ solutions instead of localising foreign models, says WhatsApp India Head

FE Online
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What began with the likes of Flipkart and Ola in bringing business models of technology firms (such as Amazon and Uber) from the west and localising them as per the India market is now changing as Indian startups are creating solutions that unique to India, according to WhatsApp India Head Abhijit Bose. The biggest role model for such startups has been OYO that began as an aggregator of budget hotels and is currently the world’s sixth largest hotel chain — a model that was first-of-its-kind in the world.

“…we are seeing innovative ideas that are India-first,” PTI quoted Bose as saying adding that the since technology and platforms are now there on which the ecosystem is now getting built, it will scale very quickly. Bose, who earlier co-founded mobile payments startup Ezetap, was appointed by Facebook as the head of its messaging app WhatsApp’s reportedly biggest market — India with over 200 million users, in November last year to boost the growth of its Business app and Business API in India.

“Focusing on India-specific challenges and solutions by entrepreneurs has started happening in the last two-three years. There are plenty of startups focusing on real challenges for India around pollution, lack of clean water, energy efficiency etc. Also, there are startups working on space technology as India has demonstrated low-cost and affordable space activities. For instance, there are startups that are looking to launch mini satellites for few lakhs of rupees,” Suresh Jayaraju, Senior Director, Head,10000 Startups, Nasscom told Financial Express Online.

Bose also announced the winners of Startup India-WhatsApp Grand Challenge that was announced in February this year for startups across areas including financial and digital inclusion, education, rural economy, healthcare, and citizen safety.

MinionLabs (reducing electricity cost for businesses and consumers), healthtech startup MedCords, agri startup Gramophone, Javis (conversational AI), and Melzo (virtual reality content) won $50,000 each as prize money.

“Now entrepreneurs want to solve large problems for India and many of them are not motivated by the valuation or other growth metrics. Also, there is support available for them from NGOs and government to solve India problems,” said Jayaraju.

Bose didn’t respond to calls and texts for comments related to this story.

As WhatsApp India head, he had the task of dealing with the fake news challenge for which the company had received much flak even as the government had warned social media platforms being used to spread fake news.

The company had in March this year said that it will work on more measures to limit viral content. Bose had said that security is fundamental to the messaging platform and that he would work with the stakeholders in India to achieve the common safety goal , PTI had reported.