Meta platforms is partnering with the Indian IT Ministry’s startup hub to launch an accelerator in the country to broaden innovation in emerging technologies including augmented reality and virtual reality. 

MeitY Startup Hub and Meta’s effort, called XR Startup Program, will work with 40 early-stage startups and help them in research and development and developing workable products and services. Each startup will also receive a grant of over $25,000. 

The program is supported by Meta’s $50 million XR Programs and Research Fund and will initially hand pick 80 startups to attend a bootcamp. It will also help startups with finding customers, inking relationships and raising funds, Meta said. 

The program is especially aimed at helping encourage technology innovation in smaller cities and towns. 

The XR Startup Program is the latest of Meta’s growing participation in the South Asian market’s upskilling efforts. The firm, whose Facebook and WhatsApp services identify India as their largest market by users, partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in the country, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country. 

The program is to be implemented by four Indian institutions including IIT Delhi and will also host a “grand challenge” for innovation in categories including education, healthcare, entertainment, agritech, climate action, sustainability and tourism. 

“India will play a pivotal role in defining future technologies. Decisions and investments made here in India now shape global discussions on how technology can deliver more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people.” said Joel Kaplan, VP of Global Policy at Meta. 

“It is critical that we help to create an ecosystem that will enable India’s tech startups and innovators to build the foundations of the metaverse.”  

Meta’s interest with working with start-ups in India is something we have seen before; the company has backed three startups in the country including social commerce platform Meesho and online education group Unacademy.