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Karnataka launches scheme to fund startups run by SC/ST youth or those with rural focus

BENGALURU: The State Government on Friday launched Unnati, its ambitious programme aimed at promoting technology startups steered by SC/ST entrepreneurs as well as those that are developing a product or a solution with a strong rural-focus.

“We will support these startups by way of funding which can go up to Rs 50 lakh,” Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge told ET.

The government has divided it into two categories. One: Those startups where an SC/ST entrepreneur has a substantial stake with a hands-on role in the management. For this, the only criterion is the idea has to be good enough regardless of the sector.

Two: The startups can be run by anyone from any community, but must be working on solving a real world problem in areas such as health, education, sanitation, waste segregation, and mechanised scavenging in rural areas. “We want their invention to have a lasting social impact,” the Minister said.

The government has set aside a budget of Rs 20 crore to encourage startups that will result in job creation and skill development among Dalit and Adivasi youth, among the others, and push for real change on the ground. “Funds are not an issue if startups come up with good ideas. If the response is good, the budget can go up to Rs 100 crore,” Kharge said.

A three-member screening committee chaired by the Minister will screen proposals and evaluate them. The application forms will be available from Oct 10 at

The shortlisted startups in the second category will be eligible to run pilot tests of their ideas in rural areas, and to receive mentorship from the Social Welfare Department as well as industry experts. At the successful completion of the pilots, their products will be guided through to a Proof-of-Concept and Market ready stage. The department too will share governance and social problems which it believes would need an immediate and a sustainable solution. “We are looking for great new ideas to solve age old issues,” Kharge said.

The scheme is open to all startups that are under four years, and registered as an entity in Karnataka, with half of their workforce employed in the State, he added.


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