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Villgro in collaboration with Habitat to support affordable housing innovations

Villgro, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter is providing funding and incubation support to affordable housing startups and entrepreneurs in India. The partnership is an outcome of Villgro’s flagship startup deal discovery event, iPitch, which seeks to connect social entrepreneurs with impact investors across the globe for funding opportunities.

The two organizations will support the incubation and launch of high‐impact, highly scalable, innovation‐based affordable and sustainable housing enterprises in India that improve shelter for low-income families. Selected startups will receive technical guidance and mentorship to improve their product, service offerings, commercial viability and business model. Startups will gain access to platforms connecting them with investors and other experts in the market.

Habitat’s Terwilliger Center will provide catalytic grants and technical support for up to 7 startups, to pilot promising ideas that can enable their business growth. The following companies have received up to 45 lakhs (US$ 57,934) of funding collectively so far:

GreenJams is an award-winning social enterprise that manufactures Agrocrete, a carbon-negative building material made from crop residues, such as paddy straw, wheat straw and cotton-stalk, and industrial by-products (slags, sludge and fuel ashes). Agrocrete is available in the form of blocks and replaces conventional building materials, reducing construction costs by up to 50%.

Zerund manufactures recycled bricks, known as Plastic Embedded Lightweight Brick, which are 50% lighter than traditional red clay bricks, provide thermal and noise insulation and are pest and fire resistant.

Bandhu is involved in the design, development and deployment of software and other IT solutions tailored to solving problems for low-income migrant workers in India. Through its digital marketplace, Bandhu connects workers with jobs and housing by matching workers, employers, landlords and middlemen.

“Social enterprises can bring in the innovation needed to make housing affordable, without losing track of social and environmental impact. At Villgro, we are excited to be part of this partnership and bring our two decades of experience in startup incubation to scale these solutions, as we learn from the deep sector expertise of Habitat’s Terwilliger Center,” said Ananth Aravamudan, Sector Lead, Climate Action at Villgro Innovations Foundation.

“Innovative products and services from startups are an important part of our strategy to make housing markets more efficient and inclusive in India. We are delighted to partner with Villgro, a pioneer in social innovation, to identify and support impactful enterprises in the affordable housing space,” said Anoop Nambiar, Country Director for the Terwilliger Center in India. The Center works across the housing value chain, by facilitating promising companies to enter the incremental homebuilding market. Its hands-on technical advisory and support has guided over 150 partners, globally, to serve low-income families with affordable housing products and services.

Selected startups will also join Habitat’s ShelterTech, the world’s leading platform for affordable housing innovation, which brings together impactful and cutting-edge housing-related technologies and practices from around the world.

“ShelterTech has already supported more than 70 innovative ventures with knowledge, network, connections and capital since 2017,” said Lizan Kuster, global lead for ShelterTech. “We are now partnering with leading accelerators to run affordable housing tracks and leveraging our expertise to support even more entrepreneurs.” Habitat also invests in promising startups through its Shelter Venture Fund. Three of the Fund’s investments, which was launched in 2017, have been in Indian startups: ECOSTP with its sustainable sewage treatment system; waste-based roofing startup ReMaterials; and India’s 3D-printing construction startup, Tvasta.

About Villgro

Villgro is India’s oldest and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators — creating impactful, innovative, and successful enterprises in Health, Agribusiness, and Climate Action. Since 2001, Villgro has supported over 323 social enterprises that have raised over INR 4,388 million in investments and impacted over 20 million lives. Villgro was recognised as the “Top Incubator” in India by Invest India (DPIIT, GoI) in 2020. To learn more, visit: https://villgro.org/

About Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter

The Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, a unit of Habitat for Humanity International, works with housing market systems by supporting local firms and expanding innovative and client-responsive services, products and financing so that households can improve their shelter more effectively and efficiently. The ultimate goal of the Terwilliger Center’s market systems program is to make housing markets work more effectively for people in need of decent, affordable shelter, thereby improving the quality of life for low-income households. To learn more, visit habitat.org/tcis.

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