IIM-CIP, Indian govt hunting for Smart 50 innovations to spur national growth

To encourage finding innovative solutions to the various socio-economic challenges the Indian economy is facing as it grows larger, the Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta (IIM-C) presented an innovation hunt project to identify and fund 50 cutting-edge start-up projects that will target the socio-economic transformation of the country.

The Smart Fifty initiative being launched in New Delhi.
The Smart Fifty initiative being launched in New Delhi.Photo courtesy: Smart Fifty

"We encourage sustainable, motivating, affordable, responsible, transformative or smart ideas and provide them necessary support so that they may create a positive impact in the country. We will provide mentorship, visibility and access to funds to the participants that will help them to take their venture to the next level," IIMCIP Director Ashok Banerjee had said at the launch.

Conceptualised in association with the Indian Government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and peer-to-peer mentoring platform Network Capital, the ‘Smart Fifty - 50 Solutions to Transform India' will accept entries nationally and internationally till December 7, 2017. Ten of the ideas will be selected from Singapore and North America.

Sanjeev Aiyar, Pan IIM Alumni Association president, SIngapore, at the NDTV 24x7 TV show announcing the launch of the initiative.
Sanjeev Aiyar, Pan IIM Alumni Association president, SIngapore, at the NDTV 24x7 TV show announcing the launch of the initiative. Photo courtesy: Smart Fifty

Sanjeev Aiyar, president of the Pan IIM Alumni Association, Singapore, said that India should look beyond its borders in its hunt for smart ideas. “Looking for solutions need not be confined to India. There are a large number of professionals outside the nation looking to solve similar problems. A linkage between India and Singapore will yield richer results; the campaign has been opened up to Singapore as well as Boston,” he said, at the televised

The IIM-C Innovation Project (IIMCIP) will help the selected few in real life know-how of sustaining their ventures and fundraising, while the DST will provide access to the start-up ecosystem and seed fund for prototyping.

The top 50 business ideas will get a seed grant of INR4 lakh each, and the top 10 will use a total grant of INR10 crore among themselves. The mission is to identify, promote and help create innovative solutions to challenges that are being faced by India.

Launch of Smart Fifty at Boston, USA in association with Brandeis University. Presented by TiE Boston.
Launch of Smart Fifty at Boston, USA in association with Brandeis University. Presented by TiE Boston. Photo courtesy: Smart Fifty

“Smart solutions are especially important for a fast-developing economy like India which needs these to give a larger section of its populace access to sustainable solutions and better quality of life, education and infrastructure – it’s what will help us stay in step with global superpowers,” said an official statement from the initiative organisers.


  • Proposal submission deadline: December 7, 2017
  • First shortlist: January 21, 2018.
  • The top 3,000 selected applicants will be called for regional knowledge sessions between January 27 and March 4, 2018. A jury will screen and pick the top entrepreneurs from each region.
  • Following the quarter-finals, the top 50 participants selected will take part in a boot camp at the IIM Calcutta campus and compete in the semi-finals from March 21-25, 2018.
  • Ten finalists will make their way to the Grand Finale which will be held in New Delhi on March 31, 2018, where the top three winning ideas will be selected by an eminent jury on TV.


  • Over INR 21 crore available via cash grants and other benefits.
  • The top 10 startups stand to get funding up to INR1 crore each and assured Incubation at IIM Calcutta Innovation Park
  • The top 50 startups get assured funding of Rs 4 lakh each and get access to dedicated mentoring
  • The top 400 startups get assured benefit worth Rs 1 lakh each
  • 3,000 startups win assured benefits worth Rs 50,000 each
  • The Top 50 finalists will also feature on NDTV 24X7’s Smart Fifty series.

Start-ups who fulfill the following criteria can apply to the Smart Fifty contest here before December 7:

  • Are an entrepreneur with an early stage venture (set up not earlier than September 1, 2012) or a promising idea with a plan and prototype or working model.
  • Have a principal business unit, or propose to set up a principal business unit in India.
  • Have a business plan or an early stage venture which is not an extension of your family business or integrated with any existing business.
  • Have a determinable revenue model.
  • Can verbally communicate in Hindi/English.
  • Are not involved in these industries — alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms and explosives.

Areas of focus

Smart Fifty program further lays out areas of focus for the applicants expecting the projects to be sustainable, motivational, affordable, responsible and transformational while addressing major socio-economic needs, and have a sustainable revenue model with a focus on any of the following areas:

  • Smart Learning: Infrastructure and delivery, skilling & re-skilling
  • Smart Agriculture: Tech-enabled farming, supply chain, food processing
  • Smart Money: Payment systems, financial inclusion, blockchain, big data
  • Smart Sustainability: Clean tech, water conservation, waste management, clean energy, pollution management
  • Smart Living: Security, mobility, city, village, home, governance, retail
  • Smart Health: Devices, home care, rural care


Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation. 


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