CISCO & Villgro Launch Accelerator Program to Support Women-Led Climate Soln Startups

Villgro and CISCO India Cash Grant Program have revealed that they will together be launching TVARAN, an initiative to support the growth of India’s women-led social enterprises in climate action. One of its kind in design, the program aims to expand the market presence of women-led start-ups innovating in renewable energy, water and waste management and climate-smart agriculture.

According to the World Economic Forum, women are more affected by climate change than men, and yet greentech is currently a male-dominated field. Moreover, it is well documented that the participation of women in climate response actions leads to better outcomes overall. However, one of the largely unaddressed challenges for women entrepreneurs remains access to markets.  TVARAN aims to overcome this problem, through a focused market-entry and market expansion program to help five of the country’s upcoming women-led climate solutions.

“Powering an inclusive future for all is CISCO’s purpose. Through our partnership with Villgro, we are announcing our commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs driving climate resilience through their business. We are excited at this unique opportunity and look forward to staying closely engaged with the startups,”  Harish Krishnan, Managing Director & Chief Policy Officer, CISCO India & SAARC said.

The six-month targeted acceleration is a high-engagement initiative that is designed to finance and implement the go-to-market strategies of women entrepreneurs. Through the acceleration program, Villgro and CISCO will deploy support mechanisms in the form of financial support of INR 1 crore (up to INR 20 Lakhs per start-up), as well as support the capacity building, business planning, mentorship and peer learning, focussed towards the implementation of go-to-market strategies.

Jenaan Lilani Bhargava, Chief Operating Officer, Villgro Innovations Foundation said, “Villgro’s work with women entrepreneurs has had a steadfast focus on market access enablement. That is where we believe ecosystem support is yet inadequate, and where Villgro can add the most value. TVARAN has been born out of this belief, with the objective of increasing the market presence of women-led solutions to climate change. We are grateful to have found a committed partner in CISCO towards this mission.”

Call for applications is  now open for TVARAN and start-ups in the climate action sector that are founded/co-founded by women with at least 50% shareholding, playing an active decision making role are eligible to apply.

Villgro is among India’s foremost and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators. Established in 2001, Villgro claims its mission is to make innovative, impactful businesses succeed in health, agribusiness, and climate action. Since 2001, Villgro has supported 340 social enterprises that have raised over INR 4.28 billion in investments, created  5646 jobs and impacted over 20.8 million lives.  Villgro was awarded the ‘Top Incubator’ award by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (GoI) in 2020 and the DivHERsity awards in 2022.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in technology that powers the internet. The India Cash Grant program uses innovation to identify new ways to solve challenges and partners with civil society agencies and key stakeholders to collaborate effectively.

Encouraging Women Climate Leaders 

Several reports agree unanimously that the investments made in women-led startups are disarmingly low. Add to that the fact that the energy sector remains to be dominated by men and a dismal picture is painted. However, there is some hope in the fact that more and more firms are joining hands to encourage women to take on the role of changemakers. In a similar initiative, UNDP and ReNew Power joined hands last year to launch an entrepreneurship development platform to support women climate entrepreneurs. In another initiative that amplifies the voice of women in the arena of climate, ‘Women in Climate Tech’ is a platform where  women working and making investments in technology aimed at combatting climate change come together to contribute to the evolution of climate tech.

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