The Massive Design Challenge was launched at the Massive Earth Summit, on the 6th of June, 2018.

Thanks to the good folks at the GoMassive Incubator who gave us a complimentary pass, we spent a good day at yesterday at The Massive Earth Summit in New Delhi.

GoMassive is a new incubator, started by Shailesh Vikram Singh and a few other luminaries from India’s startup ecosystem to fund and build startups that will solve the really big problems faced by humanity today.

Problems like increasing Air Pollution, Waste Management, Plastic Usage , Unsustainable Agriculture, Fossil fuel based Energy Systems, Mobility etc to name a few. The Massive Design Challenge is an attempt to solve some of them.

There was a mix of bad and good news.

Let’s start with the bad news first.

It’s going to become worse before it gets better – There are about 7 billion people on Earth with the numbers increasing everyday. As large parts of the developed world develop, consumption is going to increase.

With increased consumption will come it’s associated challenges of energy requirements, waste and strain on water and natural resources.

To give you an example: Delhi in 2000 had 3 million cars. Today, in 2018 it has about 9 million cars.

All those new cars on the roads have led to increased air pollution, traffic congestion and parking space problems.

You might be tempted to say that “People buy more cars because the public transport is not good” or the government is not doing enough.

However, that picture isn’t really true.

As one gentleman on one of the panels said, “The government has suffered from a serious lack of data on the causes of pollution and associated insights and patterns to adequately frame policy. Wherever data has been available, efforts have been made”

And it’s true to an extent – The initial data points in early 2000’s led to the formation of the Delhi Metro and adoption of CNG.

Imagine if the Delhi Metro was not present today and those cabs and vehicles which run on CNG had to carry the 100 crore metro passengers in badly maintained diesel vehicles.

Water is another big issue – Nobody who can afford to, will ever drink tap water. The increased usage of RO systems, while providing clean water for a select few end up also wasting a lot of water.

So What’s The Good News ?

If you think about it, a lot of the challenges are on account of technology – More cars, more construction, more industries to fuel the increased consumption have led to a huge strain on the environment.

However, it’s technological progress which can heal and make a better world.

Just as technology drove humans from wood based fuel to fossil fuel based fuel, today, technology is driving the move towards clean energy from Solar, Wind and Nuclear power sources.

More and more cars will move to electric.

Solar power production capacity is there today – the biggest problem is storing energy and making it available on demand 24×7 – As battery and storage technology improves, solar will become more pervasive.

There is a small but steadily increasing shift to Zero Budget Natural Farming – This not only improves yields but also reduces inputs like chemical fertilisers and pesticides to almost nothing, thereby helping the soil heal and reducing ground and water pollution

People are segregating organic and kitchen waste more – And there are more and more startups coming up which recycle and reuse the waste so less and less of it finds itself in the landfills.

As better pollution sources data becomes available, steps will be taken resulting in better air quality.

ALL OF THIS WILL TAKE TIME, ENERGY AND LOTS OF CAPITAL.

Today, Sweden declares a severe health advisory if the AQI moves to 51 – In Delhi, we have got used to living with a regular AQI of 300 and above.

The government cannot do all of it alone. Private capital needs to step in and we as individuals need to move from capitalist consumerism to conscious consumption.

Here are some interesting startups working to solve some of the problems:

  • Chakr.in – Cleaning diesel generators exhaust fumes and converting to ink
  • AranYaani.in – Natural Food Forests
  • Pirika – An app to help reduce litter
  • MobiTrash.in – Converting household waste into compost

Here are some potential business ideas for entrepreneurs:

  • Pollution Monitoring and Data Intelligence
  • Last Mile Connectivity for local mobility
  • Black Carbon – Proving better quality and cleaner cooking systems for lower sections of society
  • Clean Water – Tap Water  ( Maybe developing systems which can provide potable tap water to individual housing societies )
  • Improved Solar Power Storage Systems
  • Local village based solar grids with pre paid power
  • Ridesharing systems for commutes tapping the large number of private vehicles in which individuals travel alone.

As someone said, we are just scratching the tip of the iceberg.

If you are a social impact entrepreneur or have an idea, consider participating in the Massive Design challenge or applying to the GoMassive Incubator here.

Massive Design Challenge