Panel discussion at ShelterTech Summit India, Chennai, July 20, 2023

Advancing innovation

Startups, incubators and investors gather at Habitat for Humanity’s Sheltertech Summit India to collaborate and drive impact in housing and construction industries

CHENNAI, July 20, 2023
— Habitat for Humanity organized the Sheltertech Summit India today in Chennai, capital city of India’s Tamil Nadu state, with an eye to fostering industry collaboration. Organized in partnership with Villgro and ANDE-India, the event highlighted up-and-coming sheltertech startups that are advancing housing products and services with focus on affordability and sustainability.

At the summit, leading sector players in India discussed how technology and innovation are key drivers of impact and transformation in the housing sector, and emerging opportunities that exist in this space. With increased living costs across the country, and the construction sector being one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, small and large enterprises are seeking solutions to make shelter products and services more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

In his opening remarks, Anoop Nambiar, India country director, Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, said, “Market adoption of innovative solutions is crucial to address existing challenges in the housing and construction industries. Sheltertech startups featured at today’s summit have developed many of these solutions, which demonstrate motivation, creativity, and a drive to be sustainable, affordable, and circular.”

The Terwilliger Center has supported 16 startups in India with product development, access to market and fundraising though grant funding, acceleration support, mentorship, and corporate connections. These startups have been able to establish their product market fit, find pilot opportunities, attract new investments, and access new markets to successfully scale their business. Habitat has also supported startups within reputable accelerator programs such as the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, Brigade REAP and Villgro Innovations Foundation, promoting market opportunities that address the housing needs of low-income households in the country.

The event also saw the launch of the Construction Innovation Hub, or CIH, by Habitat for Humanity and Kerala Startup Mission. The hub will serve as a platform for construction value chain players like startups, building materials companies, housing finance firms, architects, engineers, and others in the industry to share their sustainable construction experiences, best practices and solutions.

Anoop Ambika, CEO of Kerala Startup Mission, said, “With the construction sector striving to optimize processes and deliver projects on time, leveraging shelter technology presents a compelling opportunity. Through the CIH, we will be able to promote innovation and entrepreneurship around affordable and sustainable construction in India by fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing among industry stakeholders.”

To tackle the shelter challenges faced by 1.8 billion people globally, there is urgency in making housing products and services affordable, sustainable, and accessible to all. As an emerging impact investment category, sheltertech — which refers to innovative technology geared to address housing and construction challenges — is grabbing the attention of investors and corporations.

At the event, a group of cutting-edge startups presented their innovations:

Parivarthan Reddy, co-founder of Tvasta, highlighted the role of innovation in addressing the housing gap in India. He said, “As a deep-tech 3D printing startup disrupting the construction industry, we have received abundant guidance, in addition to a valuable network of visionaries through the ShelterTech accelerator program. We are on the exciting threshold of making affordable housing mainstream.”

David Gogoi, founder and CEO of Zerund Manufacturing, remarked, “The mentorship provided by Habitat and Villgro helped us a lot to understand the low-cost housing segment and focus on key market areas. Now we are providing our product — a lightweight and affordable brick compared to traditional bricks — to more than a hundred homes every month under the PMAY scheme.” (Editor’s note: launched in 2015, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, or PMAY, is an initiative by the Government of India to provide affordable housing for all in urban areas.)

As an emerging industry, sheltertech incorporates innovative and promising technology — much of which is being developed by startups — that is geared to address the housing needs of low-income families. The sheltertech ecosystem comprises all actors, ranging from businesses, incubators and social enterprises to financial institutions and nonprofit organizations, that are invested in creating and building housing solutions that are sustainable, profitable and long-lasting.

Through accelerator programs, catalytic funds and activities such as tracks, events, awards, community and a dedicated knowledge hub, Habitat has already supported 111 startups and scaleups globally.