For amassing a trove of biometric identification to activate benefits for millions of Indians. The government office is using multimodal biometrics—fingerprints, iris scans, and photographs—to build the world's most ambitious identity database. A mammoth ecosystem of agencies deploys its open, scalable model, and the robust system can enroll the identities of a million people a day with 99.99% accuracy. It authenticates people over a mobile phone network using a one-time password or their fingerprints (illiteracy is a problem in India). In the process, it enables instant, paperless provisioning of banking services and welfare benefits to millions of Indians who lacked any identification until now. At last count, 450 million Indians had received their new IDs and used them to make 40 million cash transfers. Read more >>
For dialing into the very Indian "missed call" money-saving tactic. ZipDial's marketing and analytics platform is fashioned out of the ingenious practice of escaping a charge by calling and hanging up to convey a predecided message. Its unique business model works by providing a number for brands to publish on their marketing campaigns. So far, ZipDial has targeted 416 million callers for clients like Disney, Dove, and Coca-Cola, which can now text customers about new deals and product launches. India's largest political parties, the Congress and the BJP, have recently signed up, which means ZipDial is now headed for the mainstream. The service just launched in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and will soon be in Indonesia and the Philippines. Read more >>
For bringing the Internet to India's vast underconnected masses. Innoz's SMSGyan allows feature-phone users to access the Internet anytime and from anywhere by facilitating their web searches via text messages. The service has processed 1.3 billion queries so far and has more than 120 million active users, mostly in India. But the service is also growing in Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia. Innoz was launched by a group of engineering college dropouts who came upon the idea when they weren't able to search for "How to woo girls" on their very basic phones.
For galvanizing a behavior shift in urban India to care for those in need. Goonj channels excess resources from urban households to impoverished, rural, and disaster-struck areas. In exchange for clothes, furniture, household goods, and medical supplies, village and slum communities self-organize and build schools, roads, and toilet facilities. The company has thus turned used clothes and other second-hand material into currency, successfully leading more than 1,500 such projects in the past three years alone. It recently delivered thousands of tons of material to the floodstruck in the Himalayas, to cyclone victims in eastern Orissa, and to victims of communal violence in central Muzaffarnagar, through a network of schools and nonprofits. In a large country, Goonj is a game-changer, teaching urban Indians when, what, and how to give.
For improving the country's mess of a public-toilet network. Not long ago, Bill Gates let the world know that he was serious about building a better toilet. Eram Scientific Solutions, which makes the Gates Foundation–backed Delight public toilet system, is just proof that the man delivers on his promises. The company's toilet flushes automatically—when people enter, after they leave, and every two hours—to keep tidy, but it also saves energy with motion-sensor lights and fans. Four hundred of them have been installed across the country so far, with a reported 6,000 in the pipeline.
For rethinking conventional cancer drug therapies by applying data analytics. Though it saves lives, chemotherapy—in which enough toxins are pumped into the patient's body to kill malignant cells but spare the host—is still a risky process. Founded by Harvard and MIT researchers, Mitra Biotech's CANScript technology re-creates an artificial environment for a patient's tumor sample and tests various drugs on it directly, allowing the company to arrive at a personalized treatment in less than a week. Mitra has formed partnerships with several Indian hospitals and is eyeing a U.S. entry.
For leveling the playing ground for coders all over the world. Interviewstreet's disruptive platform helps screen and hire programmers through online coding tests and contests, thus matching best performers from around the globe to business titans. Interviewstreet counts Facebook, Amazon, Morgan Stanley, Zynga, and Walmart among its customers, and it recently placed 40 Indian computer-science students in some of the hottest jobs in the Valley just as they were finishing up their degrees.
For putting smiles on thousands of faces with a Starbucks-inspired chain of dental offices. MyDentist is a two-year-old dental chain based in Mumbai and Pune that has brought dimensions of the retail business to dental treatment. With 75 locations throughout the country, which will grow to 150 this year, MyDentist offers efficient care at standard, transparent rates. It's affordable to the underprivileged crowd, such as cab drivers and domestic workers, who live in slum areas: Root canal treatments cost just 2,500 rupees ($40), and 21,000-rupee braces can be paid in 1,500-rupee ($24) installments. The chain treats a whopping 15,000 patients each month.
For smoothing the journey of India's growing but scrappy car rental market. Within a year of its launch, Olacabs has grown to become India's largest car rental brand. Its success lies in the myriad tech solutions it uses to navigate the chaos of India's urban commuter system: Its mobile app lets a user summon a cab with a single click and allows real-time tracking of the cab as it nears. Meanwhile, Olacabs' predictive algorithm helps anticipate demand at different locations and times, monitors traffic and weather conditions, and, after a customer books, accurately predicts the time of arrival. Olacabs currently aggregates 7,500 cars in India's four largest cities and achieves an explosive 25% month-over-month growth rate.
For delivering world-class services and health care to expectant mothers. Despite the ongoing efforts of India's government, the country still lags behind much of the world in infant and maternal mortality rates. Cloudnine, however, has managed to sustain a 0% maternal mortality rate and a 99.72% survival rate across 16,000 deliveries at its five Bangalore-based health-care facilities. The company, which recently scored $16 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital, credits its all-hands approach for its success: Its hospitals contain standard pregnancy and neonatal care but also feature specialized units for fetal medicine and workshops for first-time parents.
[Illustration by Chris Philpot]