Three days in July take aim at Indian health woes

The India Israel Affordable Healthcare Hackathon seeks innovation, offers rewards for 600 participants

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

An Indian woman and her daughter carry a bucket of water in the streets of Pushkar Rajasthan (photo credit: Liron Almog/Flash90)
An Indian woman and her daughter carry a bucket of water in the streets of Pushkar Rajasthan (photo credit: Liron Almog/Flash90)

How do you give psychological counselling to cancer patients in hard-to-reach areas in India? How do you monitor the vital signs of fetuses of Indian women who have no easy access to doctors? These are among the critical challenges innovators, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals in Israel and India will be dealing with for three days in July.

The India Israel Affordable Healthcare Hackathon on July 22-24 will bring together 600 participants including programmers, engineers, designers, health practitioners and entrepreneurs simultaneously in four major cities, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Their aim is to develop innovative ideas and prototype solutions for hardware and software to address the healthcare challenges of lower-middle income communities in India.

It is being organized by the Pears Program for Global Innovation, a partner of OLAM, an organization promoting global Jewish service and international development made up of 44 partner organizations from Israel and the Jewish world.

“The aim is to connect Israeli technology to world challenges and penetrate developing markets,” Andi Gergely, a community and outreach manager at the Pears Program, which is run by Tel Aviv University. “In Israel there are over 1,000 startups in the healthcare sector, but most of them target the US and European markets. We believe there is a lot of potential in Africa and India. There is an opportunity for growth, working with the low income consumers in these markets, to make their lives better.”

The teams will have to contend with one of seven pressing healthcare challenges: creating an anemia diagnostic test for young girls; finding a technological solution to monitor food and milk intake among infants; screening and diagnosis solutions for hearing impairment; real-time monitoring devices for pregnant women in remote areas; managing the side effects of chemotherapy in remote areas; improving access to funding for cancer treatments and creating a technology driven-solution to give psychological counseling for cancer patients by connecting them to doctors and counselors.

The participants will have face-to-face and online access to dozens of top industry mentors along with direct access to leading stakeholders, investors, corporate and healthcare providers in both countries. Teams will compete for cash prizes and mentoring packages, and winners will be able to join either the Pears Challenge accelerator in Israel in November 2016 or get a placement at a parallel program in India, and potentially access seed funding, Gergeli said

About 120 entrepreneurs, engineers and investors attended a “Disrupting Affordable Healthcare – Changing the World” rooftop event in Tel Aviv on Tuesday ahead of the Hackathon, where they heard first-hand about the challenge ahead. About 150 are expected to take part in the event from Israel, Gergely said.

Pears Program's Andi Gergely speaks to participants ahead of India challenge (Courtesy: Sára Salamon Photography)
Pears Program’s Andi Gergely speaks to participants ahead of India challenge (Courtesy: Sára Salamon Photography)


India is a $2 trillion economy growing at an 8 percent rate annually and its consumer market is expected to reach $3.6 trillion by 2020. Its healthcare sector will grow to $280 billion by 2020 and the Asian giant is the world leader in frugal innovation, data provided by the Pears Program to the participants shows.

The Asian markets holds huge earning potential for Israeli startups, who traditionally have directed their efforts toward US and European markets, according to Israel’s Economy Ministry. Only in recent years have efforts turned to China, and now also to India.

Judges will be a mix of leaders of Israeli and Indian healthcare institutions, VC funds and industrial groups. The event is in collaboration with companies, VC and government institutions, including Google, Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, The Israel Export Institute, Startup Nation Central, and Indian VCs including Unitus Seed Fund, Villgro and Aarin Capital.

This is the first time Pears is holding its challenge in India. The organization held its previous challenge in Kenya last year, dealing with improving food security in Africa.

The Pears Program is funded by the Pears Foundation, a British family foundation. OLAM, which is the umbrella organization for many of the participating organizations, introduced the Pears Program to the Gabriel Project Mumbai at their Focal Point conference in Washington, DC, last year. That conference was the first time that Jewish and Israeli humanitarian, aid and development organizations met together under the OLAM umbrella for such networking purposes. The Gabriel Project Mumbai is a Jewish volunteer based initiative caring for vulnerable children in India.

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