Check out the three winners of the Wharton India Startup Challenge 2019.
What do diesel, student loans and business travel have in common? The creative minds behind start-ups that maximize the effectiveness of the ways in which fuel intake, educational loans and business travel planning are conducted have been chosen as winners of Wharton India Startup Challenge (WISC) in 2019.
The three winners of the challenge cover different areas of business: MyPetrolPump is an on-demand fuel delivery service; ITILITE is a business travel platform; and Credenc is an edtech platform offering student loans.
WISC is part of the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF), a conference hosted by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The last WIEF was held in Mumbai in January 2019. Already in its 23rd year, this student-run business conference focuses exclusively on India and its growing presence in the global economy. It brings together entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, academics and students from across the world. One of the top attractions at the forum now is the start-up challenge. Currently in its sixth year, the challenge offers recognition and validation to start-up companies, which are judged by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. It is a great platform to raise awareness and attract potential investment for these businesses. Past winners, for instance, have gone on to raise over $50 million.
MyPetrolPump, a company that delivers diesel fuel to the consumer, currently operates in Bengaluru and in surrounding areas. Ashish Gupta, the company’s chief executive officer (CEO), conceived of MyPetrolPump while serving as a reservoir engineer at Shell on a remote island on the West Coast of Africa. “That island had a measly population of 5,000, with only one fueling station in service. Every weekend, people would drive down 25 kilometers, cross a jetty and queue up several hours to get their vehicles refueled,” says Gupta. He figured that there must be a way to let people “be lazy on weekends” and have the fuel come to them. That is how the idea for MyPetrolPump was born.
MyPetrolPump currently serves schools, travel companies, car rental companies and other businesses that require diesel for their backup generators. These include apartments, tech parks, shopping complexes, office complexes, hospitals and hotels.
“Our experience of winning WISC was unique in a sense, as it provided us the visibility to showcase our brand and opportunity to introduce to people what we are doing and how we would impact Indian consumers’ lives,” says Gupta. “Winning such a high-profile event, which was judged by industry experts such as Sequoia, Matrix, IAN, Omidyar, etc., is validation that what we are doing has a huge impact, commercially and socially, on Indian consumers and, in general, on India.” He adds that the company is developing a “last mile delivery of energy” ecosystem, which is not present in India. “Current methods are prone to fuel theft and are inconvenient,” he says.
Gupta and his company will be expanding the business across India in the near future.
“We are scaling up very aggressively and would be starting our services in three cities soon. We aim to be present in all Tier I cities like Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. by end of next year,” says Gupta.
ITILITE is business travel company for corporations. Specifically, it utilizes an AI (artificial intelligence)-powered SaaS (software as a service) platform to help companies digitize travel. ITILITE claims it can reduce costs significantly, in fact by 30 percent, all while streamlining the process. “We are building the first smart, cost-efficient and employee-friendly platform in a market which is currently dominated, globally, by offline processes and clunky systems,” says Mayank Kukreja, co-founder and CEO of the Bengaluru-based start-up. This is achieved by incentivizing employees to save money for the company by choosing more economical travel and hotel options. That is, by finding better deals, employees get to keep a portion of the savings. In addition, Kukreja continues, “a convenient, unified booking system, along with smart, personalized recommendations, allows employees to plan and book their entire trip within 90 seconds.” Combine this with smarter workflows and realtime insights and it’s a formula for success.
Getting to this point was, itself, a fascinating journey. “Participating at the Wharton India Economic Forum,” says Kukreja, “was a great opportunity to showcase ITILITE to a large audience. Winning the start-up challenge was yet another validation that our product is the much-needed technology boost to this sector. We are bringing new-age tech to the legacy processes of corporate travel and are super excited by the speed at which everyone is lapping up the proposition.”
In the coming year, ITILITE plans to grow its clientele to 500 businesses, while establishing an international presence. “As we grow our market share,” he continues, “we will also forge partnerships with other technology start-ups and companies that will allow us to offer a seamless experience to our customers. The Wharton brand has an international presence. And as a challenge winner, it will help us get recognition among new customers and partners across markets.”
Credenc is a New Delhi-based fintech startup. It is revolutionizing the education loans industry in India by “deploying technology to reduce inefficiencies in the lending process,” says co-founder Avinash Kumar, “as well as by enabling financial institutions to process more and more education loans using alternate credit scoring models and innovative product structuring.”
This works by actively cooperating with banks, non-banking financial companies and universities across India to create a self-sustaining ecosystem. “The online lending platform,” he adds, “is for all students, parents or colleges that believe education should be on the basis of a student’s potential and not their parental income.”
Extending this philosophy, Credenc has developed a proprietary algorithm, which “predicts the future potential [income] of a student on the basis of his or her academics, hard skill and soft skill assessment,” says Kumar. Machine learning makes income prediction possible. This model takes into account over 15 million data points to predict the future income of the student. “This is increasingly being used by partner financiers in underwriting the education loan applications, contrary to the traditional benchmark of college placement information, while giving out loans,” he adds.
In addition to financing, Credenc engages in downstreaming services, including employability services, repayment planning and customer tracking. “The financial services company goes beyond lending,” says Kumar, “as it curates job opportunities and facilitates community interactions to provide exposure to students from an employability perspective.”
Credenc is working to help pave the way in India for millennials to take control of their dreams. “Being judged among the top three start-ups at the Wharton India Startup Challenge in 2019 strengthened our belief in what we’re striving to achieve,” says Kumar. “Education is a cause which is very close to our heart. We’re really looking forward to this journey of catalyzing quick, simple and affordable solutions, breaking financial barriers and, thereby, empowering students and parents in realizing their aspirations.”
Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.