Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based insurtech startup Fedo has raised $1 million in pre Series A round led by Unicorn India Ventures. This is Unicorn India's fifth investment from its Rs 400 crore Fund II. The funding round saw participation from SEA fund along with Ashish Mehrotra, Former MD and CEO, Max Bupa.

Founded in 2017 by Prasanth Madavana and Arun Mallavarapu, Fedo is a Bengaluru-based insurtech startup, which has built an AI/ML platform that leverages the power of deep tech and medical research to automate underwriting in the health and life insurance sector. It uses computer vision and AI algorithms to help insurers enhance sales, reduce costs, and enrich the quality of their portfolio.

According to a statement released by the company, Fedo plans to deploy the funds raised in launching the world's first ever image-based underwriting platform this year that would enable insurance on boarding in less than 60 seconds. It is also working with a global player to dynamically price retail and group premiums as well as plans to launch its operations in South East Asia and Australia this year.


Team at Fedo

Speaking on the investment, Prasanth Madavana, Co-founder, Fedo, said,

“Our vision is to offer AI backed solutions to insurance providers, which enables early identification of potential health risks by using non invasive methods thereby reducing out of pocket expenditures of individuals and making insurance accessible, affordable, and personalised.”

Fedo works with many health and insurance players in India and abroad with data driven smart portfolio management. Apart from this, the startup also supports population risk predictions, partnering with health departments of local governments in India and globally.

Anil Joshi, Managing Partner, Unicorn India Ventures, said,

“India is one of the most under-insured countries in the world. A big reason for this is that many people may want to take insurance but they don’t know which product works for them or covers ailments. Fedo has the capability to deploy AI and assess your health related risks. With COVID situation entering into the community stage in India and coming back in the second wave in other countries, the awareness about getting a health cover is on the rise. Insurtech players like Fedo are positioned right to leverage this trend.” 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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In India, COVID-19 efforts can be combined with tuberculosis prevention help defeat both illnesses. Photo: Shubhangee Vyas

With COVID-19, our lives are no longer the same. The pandemic has overshadowed other health issues and reversed the progress made over decades in our fight against other diseases, including tuberculosis (TB). In India, despite sustained and aggressive nation-wide interventions, this deadly disease continues to haunt the population with one of the world’s highest TB infection rates. 

Under the National TB Elimination Program, the country has successfully treated over 20 million patients since 1997. Efforts have been afoot to further reduce the TB burden, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created serious obstacles.

However, rather than being an obstacle, the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to simultaneously combat COVID-19 and TB, in order to avert millions of deaths.

The respiratory route is the primary mode of transmission for both infections. Interrupting it will stop the spread of both.  In addition, global strategies to control COVID-19 and TB have common key elements: early detection, diagnosis, contact tracing, and case management. Both ailments also require a whole-of-society approach and active community engagement for implementing simple, doable, evidence-based and affordable non-pharmaceutical interventions.  

The National TB Elimination Program is a good place to start this process in India. It has demonstrated the strong involvement of civil society and community leadership in prevention and management of TB. This can be used to curb the spread of COVID-19 through community outreach that seeks to reduce close contact and promote use of non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. respiratory hygiene) in communities, public transport and overcrowded houses.

The program has also been instrumental in finding active TB cases. This can be expanded to include COVID-19 by strengthening the surveillance for influenza-like illness. The unification of surveillance activity for communicable diseases with similar modes of transmission is prudent, efficient, productive, and cost-effective.

This success can also be attributed to the involvement/engagement of the private sector, including use of the TB notification and patient management system ‘NIKSHAY.’ This IT-based platform can be strengthened to integrating notifications and responses to COVID-19. The strategies for COVID-19 can be synchronized with TB’s four strategic pillars of “Detect – Treat – Prevent – Build.”

India has scaled up diagnostic facilities by making highly effective tests available throughout the country. This has helped to make sure more people are diagnosed, receive proper medical treatment and thus reduce transmission of infection.

One of these tests, the cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test, is rapid, highly sensitive, specific, and also detects resistance against recommended antituberculosis drugs. This system has also been extensively used during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the possibility of cross-use and integration of this system for diagnosis of other infectious diseases. With minor modifications it has the potential to become an affordable and reliable diagnostic aid across the spectrum of infectious diseases.

The pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to simultaneously combat COVID-19 and TB, in order to avert millions of deaths.

The other, TrueNat®, is a chip-based, portable reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine that is the fastest available test for COVID-19. It also has the potential to become an important diagnostic tool for multiple infectious diseases.

These tests can be made more effective by strengthening diagnostic outreach in the community with well-defined referral mechanisms. 

Using the same facilities for testing TB and COVID-19, with possible expansion and strengthening, can help in successful reductions of both diseases.  India has, in a remarkably short period of 6 months, scaled testing capacity for COVID-19 from the initial 15 testing laboratories to more than 1750 labs across the country. TB detection services can benefit immensely from this feasible, affordable and quality service network-based delivery model.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Tuberculosis Free India Campaign (TB Mukt Bharat), presenting his vision to eliminate TB from India by 2025. Similar leadership has been shown in managing the pandemic. India even allocated about $10 million to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for fighting the pandemic in the neighboring countries in South Asia. The pandemic response can benefit from adopting best practices in India’s TB program, including telemedicine, doorstep delivery of drugs, insurance coverage, improved logistics, private sector partnerships and other benefits to community and frontline health workers.

The COVID-19 response has put the focus on public health interventions like social distancing, use of masks, cough etiquette, and hand hygiene. Continuing these steps will help in preventing new infections of TB as well. In the long term, strengthening efforts on providing properly ventilated houses to the poor contributes to the prevention of all respiratory infections. Initiatives such as the 30-second coronavirus mobile phone ring tone produced in India can be also be used to promote control of TB and other infectious diseases.

Managing the COVID-19 outbreak can help end tuberculosis in India in other ways as well. A major challenge in TB elimination continues to be “missing cases”. Sustained awareness amongst communities on various facets of TB – including the lethal consequences of late diagnosis and incomplete treatment of TB, will encourage people to seek health services more quickly. A strong network of diagnostic laboratories – on the pattern of COVID-19 labs, is needed to confirm the diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.

Lessons learnt from pandemic should also include integrated training on related ailments. The disease dynamics and management of TB and COVID–19 can be communicated simultaneously to medical professionals and the public to ensure uniformity and better compliance. Other diseases can also be easily integrated into these training modules or platforms for broader upgrading of skills and efficient use of training resources.

Across the world, enormous technical and financial resources are being invested into fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these are fortifying existing public health services and skills in managing cases and implementing effective measures for infection prevention and control. It will be prudent to sustain these achievements and use them to provide a swift response to future epidemics or pandemics as well as improved health services, especially those pertaining to respiratory infections.

covid, covid-19, coronavirus, novel coronavirus, corona virus, covid-19 response, communicable diseases, infectious diseases, emergency response, health response, outbreak, pandemic, covid-19 prevention, India, tuberculosis, TB, respiratory illnessSonalini KhetrapalSungsup RaPatrick L. OseweCountries: IndiaArticle

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Rashmi Verma, Executive Director and Co-founder of MapmyIndia, had one thing in mind when she returned to India from the US in 1990 – build something lasting and powerful. 

A graduate in Chemical Engineering from IIT Roorkee with a master’s in Operational Research and Computer Science from Eastern Washington University, Rashmi worked for the likes of Citi Corp before joining IBM in the US. She then returned to India with her husband and realised India did not have a map reading culture like the US. 

With the firm belief that India has a huge market for digital maps, Rashmi co-founded MapmyIndia in 1995 along with her husband, Rakesh Verma. The Delhi-based company offers digital map data, telematics, and location-based SaaS and GIS services, and is now making waves with its app, Move. 

From building GIS mapping tech for Coca Cola to offering solutions to customers in industries such as automobile, ecommerce, banking and insurance, spacetech, and more, today MapmyIndia’s in-built digital map solutions are used by auto companies like Tata Motors, Hyundai, Mahindra & Mahindra, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, TVS Motors, and others. The maps also power Flipkart, Amazon, and Ola Cabs.

With over three decades of experience in technology, Rashmi, who always believed technology has the power to bring quick and fast solutions, is now focusing on the broader strategic tech roadmaps and plans for MapmyIndia. 

The MapmyIndia Move app was also awarded the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge for its unique indigenous solution for ensuring hyperlocal discovery.

Techie Tuesday- Rashmi Verma

Rashmi Verma at an event in 2017


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Engineering and coding 

Rashmi’s father was a doctor, who worked for the Northeastern railways, and her mother was a homemaker. She spent most of her childhood in different parts of North India like Gorakhpur, Bareilly, and Banaras (Varanasi). 

Rashmi describes herself as an academically inclined child and wanted to do medicine like her father. As it meant a lot of studying, she chose to do engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee). 

“I didn’t appear for many entrance exams and directly joined University of Roorkee. I was one of the nine girls who took up the Chemical Engineering course in 1973,” says Rashmi. 

She says in those days there wasn’t much information of what electives to take, but in retrospect she feels she chose the best one. “It gave me a strong base on the fundamentals of engineering and also helped me in the future, and it made it easier for me to understand and learn different things and new concepts,” says Rashmi. 

Rashmi got married during her third year of engineering, in 1976, and a year after her graduation she went to the US with her husband and pursued her master’s in Operational Research and Computer Science from Eastern Washington University. 

She defines the course as the precursor to big data and data science. It was here that she learnt all about analytics, coding, and programming. After completing her master’s in 1979, Rashmi joined Citi Corp where she worked on building and handling the information technology for banks. 

“I learnt all about banking technologies, and it was my first foray into building banking solutions, working on programming and coding,” adds Rashmi. Techie Tuesday - Rashmi Verma

Rashmi at Eastern University Washington in 1979


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A mix of hardware and software 

After her stint at the Citi Corp in the early 80s, Rashmi joined Scowell systems that worked on technology for home appliances. She explains that working at these firms gave her a detailed understanding of both the software and the manufacturing aspects of technology.

“It gave me an understanding of coding and programming across different sectors, and the impact and power of technology in each of the spaces,” explains Rashmi. 

But according to her, it was only after joining IBM in 1984 that her horizons expanded. At that point in time, IBM had 600 people, and it was the beginning of an era where computer science professionals were hired as project consultants.

She says, “Not only was I travelling around the country training different software professionals, I was also working on billable projects going to different customers, building the core technology for different parts of the business with IBM Mainframe. I realised that I am a detail oriented person, and programming and building different mainframe products and projects gave me the much needed push.” 

“One thing about technology is that you have the ability to find solutions for different kinds of problems. It is always zero to one,” she adds. Techie Tuesday - Rashmi Verma

Rashmi Verma with the IBM team in 1984


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India calling 

After working at IBM in the US for six years, Rashmi realised she wanted to come back home and use technology to solve real problems. She returned to India along with her family in 1990 and continued to work in IBM Mainframe technologies. 

Rashmi explains, “We had our family here, and while that was one strong driving force, another strong force was the work we could do. We knew that technology had the power to transform lives, and we wanted to make that difference to the everyday lives of people in India.” 

“We started doing projects for Tata Steel and we had also built a pool of people who could work on these projects. I continued to shuttle between India and the US, but then realised I didn’t want to lead that kind of life. What was the point of coming back to India if I was working on projects in the US, and my two children were here and I wanted to spend time with them,” says Rashmi. 

Until then India did not have digital maps used by the general population. Most of the maps used satellite images and were built for government or military purposes. The maps, as we see it today, were built later manually by gathering data and information. 

When the husband-wife duo decided to focus on India specific problems, they knew mapping was one area that will help solve several logistics challenges. But purely working on IBM mainframe systems didn’t help. It was then they realised they needed to work on smaller DC systems, and one core problem that stood out was the lack of any digital maps. People just weren’t using any map-based technologies in India. 

“That was the beginning because without the map we can’t solve any problem even if we have all the technologies like GIS software,” explains Rashmi.

Techie Tuesday-  Rashmi Verma

Rashmi during her IIT Roorkee days


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Mapping India 

The Indian economy was opening up in the 90s, and companies like Coca Cola were looking closely at the Indian market. 

“They needed maps, and we scrambled to build something to give them an early solution,” says Rashmi. She says they built a high-level map with the district boundaries to help with the distribution network. 

However, the company needed a solution for cities where the trucks would ply and sell Coca Cola bottles to every outlet. This meant building streetwise maps with the outlets. 

“This wasn’t just a digital map. We built a solution using GIS mapping technology. We worked for the likes Motorola, Modi Xerox, and a few others,” adds Rashmi. 

While there was no GPS, Rashmi says she leveraged the telecom revolution to help build solution for telecom companies. This was for their towers, where they wanted to know the maximum amount of technology they needed to deploy. 

“We built the triangulation services on our maps to help them with the best areas and what technology they could deploy, which also helped us scale our maps,” says Rashmi. It also gave them an idea of demography and signal strengths in each areas. 

Techie Tuesday- Rashmi Verma

Rashmi being felicitated at an event in 2018


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A deeper understanding 

Rashmi says the pace of technology is faster now. Earlier, they had to painstakingly collect data manually. “Now we have real-time data gathering, map building, and machine learning that makes it easier to understand the changes,” she explains.

Today, MapmyIndia’s product – Move – offers a detailed house number-level map search, compatibility with India’s own satellite imagery service from ISRO’s Bhuvan, real-time traffic and safety-based navigation, and more.

The company has grown with location technology, specifically in the areas of navigation, tracking, IoT, and analytics to provide products, services, and solutions to over 10 million end users – consumers, enterprises, and governments.

Advising techies Rashmi says, “My advice to techies is that whatever area you pick, ensure that you deep dive into it. I believe there are now two kinds of techies – one is the techie who goes into the bits and bytes and rebuilds deep tech. Another type of techie is one who goes to the business side of things and understand the plethora of things that helps give them a broader overview of what solution can be built. If you happen to be the first kind, I would advise you to dive extremely deep.” 

Edited by Megha Reddy

Original Source:

UPI in India
In 2016, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system launched in India. Its goal was ambitious: a level playing field for small businesses and impoverished communities through re-imagined banking. In the midst of a global pandemic that has forced a socially distant lifestyle, UPI has never been more important nor more successful.

UPI’s Humble Beginnings

UPI’s primary purpose was to become an online platform that would eliminate bureaucratic and socioeconomic barriers to financial transactions. The goal was to allow anybody, from small Kickstarter businesses to multinational banks, to have the same access to banking capabilities.

UPI creates a standard set of rules for everybody on the platform—all Indian banks have access. Thus, smaller banks have equal opportunities to reach people as big ones. This goal is feasible due to UPI’s innovative techniques. With UPI, the party collecting money from an individual is decoupled from that individual’s bank account. This allows third-party apps such as Google Pay, PhonePe and Amazon Pay to collect and administer transactions without excess burden to the customer.

UPI makes things even more consumer-friendly by eliminating the need to enter long bank account and routing numbers for transfers. A virtual payment address, a simple username akin to an email address, replaces detailed information.

Finally, it is important to note that UPI serves a myriad of functions in the financial world. Simple peer-to-peer monetary transactions are carried out seamlessly. Advanced maneuvers are also handled with ease, including merging banking features from different banks, micro pensions and digital insurance.

UPI’s Growth

Since its launch, UPI has seen tremendous growth in both users and the number of transactions. Its user base is strong—recent numbers indicate over 100 million users. Its goal is to reach 500 million users by 2022. While this seems ambitious, early critics of the program did not expect UPI to gain the traction it has already.

The novel coronavirus impacted UPI both positively and negatively. During the worst of the lockdown, UPI’s transaction count decreased. People staying at home lowered demand for the platform’s services. However, since May 2020, UPI has boomed in both the number of transactions and the amount of money transferred. The number of transactions grew by 12% in July 2020, with 1.49 billion in the month of July 2020. UPI saw 822 million transactions in July 2019, indicating exponential growth during the last year. Similarly, the amount of money transferred in July 2020 was up to 2.9 trillion Indian Rupees, while July 2019 saw only 1.46 trillion Rupees.

As of July 2020, UPI reports services at 164 banks across India. With service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, UPI is lengthening its reach and its impact on the financial marketplace of India.

Looking to the Future

Looking forward, COVID-19 has provided a new opportunity for UPI and digital banking in general. India wants to decrease the amount of physical currency in circulation, and the pandemic has shown many people the virtues of online banking. For example, young adults wary of infecting their older parents have helped an older generation get on UPI and utilize everything it has to offer.

UPI’s recent boom focuses back to the platform’s original goal: creating an even playing field for all people, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. In 10 or 20 years, it would not be surprising to see all banking conducted virtually. Therefore, it is crucial to create a solid infrastructure that eliminates a system of preferential treatment based on wealth. UPI is helping to fight that fight.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Flickr

The post UPI in India: Changing Banking for Millions appeared first on The Borgen Project.

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Data and artificial intelligence (AI) can add $450-500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, representing about 10 percent of the $5 trillion economy aspiration of the Indian government, a report by industry body Nasscom said on Tuesday.

Nearly 45 percent of this value is likely to be delivered by three sectors – consumer goods and retail ($90-95 billion), agriculture ($60-65 billion), and banking and insurance ($60-65 billion), the report said.

Artificial Intelligence

Image Source: Shutterstock

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The report, titled Unlocking Value from Data and AI, presented an action plan with five key building blocks to promote increased data utilisation and adoption of AI, including strategy, data, technology stack, talent and execution.

It emphasised that datasets of national importance be identified with each ministry with specific use cases, a programme to create a marketplace of data and derived assets be created, and a central agency be established for defining and enforcing data standards.

The report said platform(s) to securely host data, AI services, models, open-source libraries, applications and testbeds should be created and that policies be formulated to ensure the security, reliability, interoperability, and economic viability of the stack.

It also suggested the launch of the National Programme for AI and creation of a central, apex body to steer its execution, in collaboration with various ministries, industry groups, and other stakeholders.

The report highlighted the importance of building an AI innovation ecosystem and seeking greater participation from the private sector and entrepreneurs.

Engaging the AI ecosystem

It added that schemes to engage the AI ecosystem (industry, startups, civil society, and academia) should be created and guardrails be set up to protect public interest, while accelerating programme and economic impact.

Launching lighthouse projects in the public sector, partnerships to create data, tech and services, and grants or incentives to invest in research and innovation were also key suggestions of the report.

Unveiling the report, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Digital India had reimagined how the government connects with citizens, and the accelerated deployment of AI and other emerging technologies would help this objective further.

"…the kind of data we are generating because of the sheer size of India, we need to leverage it…data is a national asset and this asset, we have to leverage it…

"What COVID has done is enable the world to see India's potential…we need to further exploit it. AI for three areas of human development (education, agriculture and healthcare) is very important to be focused upon," the minister said.

Debjani Ghosh, President of Nasscom, said the report can help India emerge stronger from the COVID crisis.

"Data and AI's true potential emerges from its ability to drive transformation across multiple sectors through a diverse range of applications. The report articulates the key structural steps that India needs to take to realise the value of this opportunity," she added.

The action plan and report has been reviewed by industry leaders, including Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji, Infosys COO UB Pravin Rao, and Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari.

Nasscom will also hold Xperience AI summit 2020 in partnership with the Telangana AI Mission from September 1-4 with curated discussions on four key themes – Build AI from and for India, Scale AI Adoption in India, India's AI Policies, Thought Leadership in AI.

Additionally, deep dive sessions will be organised for developers to understand latest trends in AI technologies and use cases.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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