A Wharton First in India With Startup Competition

The Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) has been a premier student-led meeting about business on the subcontinent for the past 20 years, and in just the past few years, the forum has aimed to have an impact on India’s startup ecosystem as well. How? With the Wharton India Startup Competition. In 2016, that influence has increased.

The student organizers of the Wharton India Economic Forum—including the startup competition co-directors, second-year MBA students Deepa Iyer and Aditya Nair—decided to hold the Wharton India Startup Competition (WISC) exclusively in India. Conducting WISC in India has multiple benefits. First, the organizers were able to recruit judges with strong ties to the local ecosystem, such as VC and entrepreneur Ravi Gururaj ENG89 W89; Sasha Mirchandani, founder of KAE Capital; Kirthiga Reddy, managing director at Facebook India; and Sandeep Murthy ENG98 W98 WG05, partner at Lightbox Ventures. An India-based competition branded with Wharton’s name received generous national media attention, including partnerships with CNBC’s Young Turks and coverage in The Economic Times and Times of India. And more finalists shared that greater attention, thanks to multiple prizes.

The competition did not neglect its Philadelphia ties however. The competition’s overall winner—nonprofit crowdfunding platform Ketto—will fly to campus in March to present to a global audience and receive mentorship from Wharton faculty.

The Wharton India Startup Competition, which was held on Jan. 5, 2016, in conjunction with the WIEF, drew nearly 600 applications. The organizers aim for even more impressive numbers and reach in upcoming years.

“Our dream is for our startup competition to close the gap between seed-stage entrepreneurs and capital in India, and to further foster the already powerful spirit of Indian entrepreneurship,” Iyer and Nair wrote in a Wharton Entrepreneurship blog. Also placing in the competition were agri-tech firm Kheyti (for People’s Choice), Kindle publisher Pratilipi (a Powerhouse Award) and fashion label Trebene (another Powerhouse).