Real Innovation Awards 2017: People's choice winners

From an Indian online jewellery portal to Britain's top IVF clinics, these innovative companies won your vote.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2017

The George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person people’s choice winner: Sanjiv Gupta, Liberty House

Conventional wisdom says you can’t make money manufacturing low value commodities like steel in high cost developed economies anymore. Try telling that to Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty House. Gupta shot to fame in 2016 with the acquisition of a big chunk of Tata Steel’s UK operations – losing £1m a day at the time – as well as Rio Tinto’s unprofitable Scottish aluminium smelter. By cutting costs and recycling scrap, Gupta made these unwanted industrial assets pay again – Liberty House now has annual revenues of £6.7bn and ambitious growth plans to match.

Harnessing the Winds of Change people’s choice winner: Villiger Entsorgungssysteme

Swiss businessman Paul Villiger was originally in farm machinery, but in 1991 he spotted an opportunity in the important but slow-moving waste management industry and went for it. Villiger Entsorgungssysteme was the result, and today it manufactures and installs fully integrated waste collection systems, complete with underground storage facilities and automated collection trucks. Over 50,000 of the high tech modular systems - which include sensors so that users can be charged directly according to weight - have been completed to date, making the firm a European leader in waste management.

The Alexander Fleming Serendipity people’s choice winner: Hire Space

A dearth of readily-obtainable community event spaces in Austerity Britain led to friends Will Swannell and Ed Poland setting up Hire Space in 2011. An online platform to allow schools and community centres to make extra cash hiring out facilities, whilst also helping local event organisers find ready venues at prices that are as good as or better as going direct. Four years in, Hire Space has raised several million in funding, employs 40 people and its growing client list includes Facebook, Google and the NHS.

The Best Beats First people’s choice winner: CREATE Fertility

For decades, IVF treatment has been improving the chances of parenthood for many thousands of people. But conventional methods can be burdensome, painful and expensive. CREATE Fertility eschews the usual chemical stimulation techniques which produce lots of eggs – many more than are required – in favour of a gentler approach focussed on harvesting fewer, higher quality eggs. Safer and more affordable, says leaning obstetrician and CREATE MD Geeta Nargund. It’s helped make the firm one of the leading private IVF clinics in the UK, servicing both private patients and the NHS.

The Masters of Reinvention people’s choice winner: CaratLane

The family jewellery business, India’s Jaipur Gems, was doing well, but Mithun Sacheti and Srinivasa Gopalan wanted more. So in 2008 they founded CaratLane, with a mission to democratise jewellery and make it accessible to all. Nine years later the firm is India’s leading ‘omni channel’ jeweller, seamlessly combining bricks ’n’ mortar stores with e-commerce and renowned for its style and affordability. It’s planning 30 more stores and has also launched what it claims is the world’s first 3D app for virtually trying on earrings. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed people’s choice winner: OYO

Ritesh Agarwal’s OYO is now India’s largest hospitality company offering access to 70,000 hotel rooms in 7,000 hotels across 200 cities in India, Malaysia and Nepal . Valued at $850m, it’s raised $200m from the likes of Softbank ad Sequoia Capital, and in 2013 Agarwal himself was the first Asian to be accepted for Paypal Founder Peter Thiel’s prestigious Thiel Fellowship. But it would never have happened had he not pivoted his struggling first venture Oravel away from budget accommodation and towards the better guest experience of OYO.

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