By Deepa Iyer WG’16 and Aditya Nair WG’16, Directors of the Wharton India Economic Forum Startup Competition
A marketplace connecting small businesses to buyers nationwide. A healthcare appointment booking service. A luxury apparel rental app. An online grocery store. No, this isn’t a list for a Silicon Valley office park—it’s a tiny sampling of some of the top startups receiving funding in India this past summer alone.
Every year, for the past twenty years, Wharton has hosted the country’s premier conference on India: the Wharton India Economic Forum. Two years ago, the forum evolved to include a startup competition, focused on supporting the rapid evolution of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem at a critical juncture. It has quickly grown to become a seminal event for startups aspiring to gain exposure both in India and the United States.
Past finalists include prominent startups like Zoomcar, Zostel, Postergully, Flintobox, and BabyChakra. Most finalists received funding offers through investors and judges at the competition itself, while nearly all went on to raise a significant round of funding within six months of the competition. Past judges include prominent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, including Sanjeev Bhikchandani, Alok Kejriwal, Sunny B. Rao, and Arihant Patni.
Why this year is special?
Wharton is uniquely positioned to support Indian startups with truly global exposure and access. This simple realization led us to make an exciting decision this year: to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Wharton India Economic Forum, we are holding the Wharton India Startup Competition exclusively in India, on January 5, 2015.
Conducting WISC in India has multiple benefits. First, startups get to present their ideas to a truly phenomenal set of investors through the competition. Some of the judges that we have already finalized this year include individuals like Ravi Gururaj (Nascomm), Sasha Mirchandani (Mumbai Angels), Kirthiga Reddy (Facebook), and Sandeep Murthy (Lightbox Ventures).
Second, an India based competition is bound attract extensive national coverage, which is excellent value addition to startups looking to raise funds. This year, we have already established partnerships with CNBC’s Young Turks and Yourstory, and have received coverage in the Economic Times, Business Insider, and Times of India.
Third, this year, we are able to offer multiple prizes to competition winners, celebrating different aspects of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem and allowing for a larger pool of finalists. Additionally, the overall winner of the startup competition will be flown to Philadelphia to showcase their startup in front of a global audience and receive mentorship from Wharton professors. In the past, many finalists have leveraged their time in Philadelphia to visit Silicon Valley investors as well.
What might the future hold?
We want WISC to expand in the coming years, both in terms of participation and funding. This year, we anticipate approximately 600 applications, and have already received over 300. Our dream is for our startup competition to close the gap between seed-stage entrepreneurs and capital in India, and to further foster the already powerful spirit of Indian entrepreneurship. Ultimately, we want our participants to leverage the competition to scale their vision, receive solid feedback, and take their ideas to the next level.
Are you an entrepreneur focused on the Indian market? Do you want a unique opportunity to showcase your venture in front of high profile investors, serial entrepreneurs and corporate leaders? Want to win over $10,000 in prize money? Apply to the Wharton India startup competition now at https://letsventure.com/lvp/wharton!
Know a startup that is doing something awesome? Nominate the startup at http://bit.ly/1HhntmK and if it is shortlisted, win a free pass to the 2016 Wharton India Economic Forum!
Bios: Deepa Iyer is a full-time Wharton MBA student currently in her second year. She has previously worked in consulting with large technology clients with the Oliver Wyman Group in San Francisco, as well as with governments in over seven countries in Africa, South Asia, and South America as a senior researcher at Princeton University. During her MBA summer, she worked with Omidyar Network in investments and with Netafim, an Israeli ag-tech company. At Wharton, Deepa is Director of Investment for the Wharton Social Venture Fund, and Director of the Wharton India Startup Competition. She is passionate about improving access to capital for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Aditya Nair is a 2nd year MBA at Wharton and will spend the fall 2015 semester in Wharton’s Semester in San Francisco program. At Wharton, he is a board member of the Wharton India Economic Forum and is working on conducting the conference for the first time in both India and in the US. He is also the Director of the Wharton India Startup Competition, and is conducting the competition in India for the first time. Prior to Wharton, Aditya co-founded and ran Banker’s Quotient, a financial services focused skill development venture. Prior to BQ, he was a management consultant with McKinsey & Co, primarily serving clients in the financial services industry in India and the Middle East.