Meet TiE Pune’s Biz QuoTiEnt Competition’s Student Winners!

48 colleges, 10 universities, 228 teams, and over 500 students participated in TiE Pune’s Biz QuoTiEnt competition, which had three winners. Rohan Sonawane, Pawan Kale, and Vishwajot Bhagyawant of Agriyan won the first prize (Rs. 50,000) and the opportunity to participate in the global contest to be held in Silicon Valley. Shalmali Kadu, founder of Aivara Solutions is the first runner-up winning Rs. 30,000 and Vedangi Kunkikar is the second runner-up with a cash prize of Rs. 20,000.

But more exciting than the prize money are the solutions that these young minds have developed for age-old problems. Consider this – over the decades almost all rural labourers choose to come to the city in search of better-paying jobs. Result? Famers do not have help to sow the crop, put fertilizers, pesticides, do the weeding and harvesting. Result? Often the loss of crop, high costs, and reduced profits for the poor farmer as he can’t compete with urban salaries that rural folk get in the cities.

Rohan Sonawane

But not if Agriyan can help it. Says Rohan, “we have developed a robot that helps the farmer with most of his tasks like sowing seeds, weeding, putting fertilizer and pesticides, and even harvesting.” These young students from IIT Bombay have a small farm in Dhule district and went there as the country was locked down.

“There we understood the problems that the farmer had to deal with. If he has five days to remove his weeds, he finds it next to impossible to get labourers as he can pay about Rs 400 per day whilst the same guys can go to a city and earn Rs. 600 working at a construction site.”

Egged on by this problem the trio worked on building a robot guided by their Professor Bakul Rao. “We aim to make different accessories that can be attached to the robot for the different tasks a farmer has to do. We have already built a prototype that can do the weeding for now and are working on the other tasks as well. We aim to test this out at our farm in Dhule and then offer it as a service model to farmers.”

The cost of the robot is around Rs. 8 to 10 lakhs but Agriyan aims to have a robot that can service farmlands in a cover of about 10 to 15 km radius. “this way it can be affordable to the farmers.”

So, what do they aim to do with the prize money and the trip to Silicon Valley? “It’s all very exciting. We are looking forward to being mentored by the gurus and getting help to take our robot to the market. We also will need money once we are ready in about a year’s time. We will need all the help we can get from TiE.”

Shalmali Kadu - Aivara Solutions

Shalmali Kadu

Shalmali Kadu, a student of Cummins College of Engineering is the first runner-up who has figured out a way to find out if the water you use is safe or not. Yes, we all use water purifiers at home but before it reaches the overhead tank of your society, the municipal body has to ensure it is safe for consumption. Currently, this is done physically at a lab.

But Shalmali used the benefits of technology to do the job better and faster. With artificial intelligence that she built into her software. “What my software does is detect the type and number of microbes in the water sample. With this information, it is possible for us to know the chemical, physical and biological parameters of the water.”

Aivara Solutions has tested its software with 25 labs across the country and 80% of these labs felt that the current systems they use need to improve and adapt to better technologies (read Aivara’s software). Says Shalmali, “we want more and more users to try our product so we can improve our product’s accuracy.”

And what does she expect from TiE? “Well we are now part of the global cohort and we look forward to being mentored by them and improving our business model. We want to participate in more such events, attend TiE sessions, and be part of TiE actually. It’s really very helpful.”

Vedangi Kunkikar

While Agriyan aims to make robots to make life easy for the farmers, Vedangi Kunkikar’s Connect Agri looks at the bigger picture. Says Vedangi, “we will need an advanced workforce for the Agri sector now that there are about 4000 start-ups and over $2.6bn investments focused on the sector. This means we will need a new and advanced workforce in the Agri field.”

Agri jobs, according to Vedangi, are not just about on-farm activities, they involve supply chain, consulting, insurance, credit, input sales & marketing, post-harvest sales & marketing, etc too. Says she, “there is no shortage of jobs here, but due to lack of a one-stop platform to find the best jobs, Agri brain drain is quite evident in India for decades. We at Connect Agri, have resolved to stop that, to keep our Agri human resources intact, and to add more upgraded talent to this field so that it contributes to the Indian economy in the most efficient way.

“We aim to provide services to the employers for posting jobs as well as cater to the job seeker who will need skill upgradation. If you look at a broader picture, both of these activities are interconnected. Skill up-gradation and recruitments are very closely linked to each other, and we are working on both ends in this domain. Our mission is to make the smallest of the agribusinesses have access to the best of the talents locally as well as globally, and vice versa.”
What does Vedangi expect from TiE? “Well, I want to understand how strong our value proposition is, to meet more mentors, grow my network and get support to refine my pitch deck.”

Here’s wishing all our student entrepreneurs the very best!

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