Mumbai/Delhi: Impressed with Indian innovations, Duke of Cambridge Prince William on Monday said entrepreneurs have a major role to play as the country is home to a sixth of the world population. "Being here today, it is clear that India is leading the way in so many areas of innovation and technology," he told an audience comprising entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at a special event here.
"Your ability to innovate is not just a good news for India, but a great news for the world. With one-sixth of the world's population, young innovators like you must play a major role," said Prince William, who was accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
The royal couple launched the third edition of the Tech Rocketship Awards, where successful Indian startups are flown to the UK to meet venture capitalists and mentors. At the event, Prince William raced a formula car in a simulator created by the Mahindra Group, tried his hand at 'preparing' the favourite South Indian snack dosa, and was also taught to read the braille script by a startup working on literacy for the visually challenged.
Mohandas Pai, of the startups think-tank 'iSpirit', said the royal couple met at least five Indian startups during the event, held at an upmarket cafe inside what was arguably one of the biggest imports from Britain in pre-independence era -- the textile mill. A big cheer greeted Prince William and Kate as they entered the cafe and the hour spent at the venue was full of conversations with Indian businesses, including the startups and also Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra.
The royal couple is on a week-long visit to India and Bhutan which kicked-off on Sunday afternoon from the financial capital of the country. They paid tributes to the victims of the 26/11 attacks, played cricket with under-privileged children and attended a glittering reception and dinner alongside some of the biggest names in business and Bollywood. After interactions with the start-ups and launching the awards, Prince William and Kate were scheduled to fly to New Delhi.
The launch of the awards was followed by a pitching session, where four business promoters looking for funding presented their ideas before a special panel comprising of Mahindra, the Indian Angel Network (IAN), iSpirit and a website devoted to profile startups. Project Mundra, a social venture started out of BITS Pilani's Goa campus, which has created special machines that help the visually challenged learn the braille script, seemed to be the toast of the show with Mahindra and IAN promising investments.
Its co-founder Sanskriti Dawle said only 10 per cent of the visually challenged people in the world are literates or know the alphabets, and hence it is both a pressing social need and market opportunity out to be tapped. The company is looking to raise $500,000 at present to scale up operations, she said. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's India trip is high on fashion radar and the royal has charmed everyone by mixing her British aesthetics with distinctive Indian colours and prints.
Kate's sartorial choices came in for praise on Monday from Indian designers, who have hailed her for respecting Indian traditions, as the 34-year-old Duchess, known for her understated style, seems less conservative in choice of her clothes and accessories for this outing.
For her maiden appearance in Mumbai in India's western state of Maharastra on Sunday from where her husband and Duke of Edinburgh Prince William commenced the week-long trip, she opted for a bright red Alexander McQueen outfit, featuring paisley motifs with a slight slit in the front with a peplum detail.
She soon changed into a colourful printed maxi by Indian designer Anita Dongre, which was an apt choice considering the humid Mumbai weather. Kate teamed her Mughal-prints inspired outfit with a dangler from Accesorize and mink coloured wedges as she played cricket with kids in the company of her husband and cricket great Sachin Tendulkar.
"Her team contacted us, but I never knew she chose one of my outfits. Watching her pictures wearing my creation was a really proud moment for me. She carried it off beautifully. I have always admired her and loved the way she dresses. She has a strong sense of style," Dongre said.
For the grand Bollywood charity gala, the royal, who met the who is who of the Indian film industry like Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt opted for a caped blue sequined floor-length gown by one of her favourite designers Jenny Packham. She teamed up the outfit with a stunning diamond double oval drop earrings by Indian jewellery brand Amrapali. It was an interesting melange of Indo-British sensibilities as the gown by the British fashion house had Indian embellishments.