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Sustainable Cities Challenge Varanasi

Innovating Crowd Flow

We are looking for innovators to create innovative, data-driven solutions that make crowded areas of Varanasi's old city of Kashi safer and more accessible for all. Innovators should enter by 13:00 UTC on Thursday 5 September 2024.

About the Sustainable Cities Challenge Varanasi

Crowd in Varanasi overlayed on Varanasi highway

​​We are calling on innovators to:

Create innovative, data-driven solutions that make crowded areas of Varanasi's old city of Kashi safer and more accessible for religious tourists, local residents and vulnerable populations (such as elderly people and people with disabilities).

Successful solutions might include: 

  1. Tools that support the city to better manage overcrowding events  
  2. Interventions that improve citizen decision-making  
  3. Services that support vulnerable groups 

How can we make crowded areas of the city safer and accessible for everyone?

We are supporting innovators to develop solutions by providing:  

  • Up to ten $50,000 implementation grants in the semi-finalist stage
  • Up to five $130,000 implementation grants in the finalist stage 
  • $1.5 million final implementation funding, to be shared among up to 3 winners 
  • The opportunity to engage directly with city leaders
  • Access to city stakeholders including problem-holders, end users and beneficiaries
  • Access to a network of like-minded innovators
  • Access to capacity building support in user-centred design and other related areas 

All funding must be used to develop, test, demonstrate, and implement solutions in the City of Varanasi. 

Man in wheelchair overlayed on varanasi street
People on buggy overlay-ed on Varanasi street

Why do we need to make crowded areas safe in Varanasi?

The City of Varanasi is located in Northern India along the Ganges River. It is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world and is an incredibly important pilgrimage site.  

Large volumes of people visit Varanasi's old city (Kashi) every year for pilgrimage, end of life traditions, and other religious and cultural activities. In 2022, the annual floating population was estimated to be 35 times the local population. 

The old city comprises narrow, winding lanes, making it difficult to build infrastructure to accommodate the influx of people. A growing number of private vehicles are used to navigate these lanes, which contributes to a complex environment prone to crowding.  

Varanasi seeks to attract pioneering solutions that will enable more effective crowd management, and in doing so position the city as a global success story.


 Sustainable Cities Challenge Varanasi is now open for entries! 

Grey pin
Thursday 27 June 2024

Sustainable Cities Challenge Varanasi Launches

Thursday 5 September 2024

Entries close

November 2024

Semi-finalist announcement

May 2025

Finalist announcement

Early 2026

Winner's announcement

Participation requirements

Eligible entries that best meet the judging criteria will be invited to participate in the semi-finalist stage.


Entries that do not meet the below criteria are not eligible for the Challenge.

  • The solution must be tailored specifically for and implemented within Varanasi's old city of Kashi.
  • Entrants can be single organizations or consortia. ​  
  • Teams that enter as a consortium must nominate one organization as the lead entrant. The lead entrant will enter into contracts and receive funding from the Toyota Mobility Foundation.  
  • Entrants must be established as a legally incorporated organization to enter.
  •  Entrants must have a presence in India (if a consortium, at least one company must have a presence in India)
  • The Challenge is open to innovators worldwide, but entries must be in English.​  
  • Successful entrants must be willing and able to travel to the city of Varanasi as there will be expectations for on-the-ground presence during the next stage of the Challenge.​
  • Entrants must be able to work with local government.
Entrants must own or be licensed to use relevant intellectual property included in their entries.

If your entry proposes a new idea, we expect that you will own all the resulting intellectual property, which may be registered on a local basis if you are selected for participation in the Challenge. The Challenge would not be able to give you specific legal advice on the protection or exploitation of intellectual property.

Judging Criteria

The judging criteria will be used to evaluate the suitability of an entry for the Challenge and its potential for impact.


The solution is different to what has been tried in Varanasi before; it is clearly tailored to the unique needs of the city and takes a creative multi-disciplinary approach to addressing the problem.


The solution significantly and tangibly increases the safety and accessibility of crowded areas of Varanasi's old city of Kashi for the target groups (i.e. local residents, religious tourists and vulnerable populations, such as elderly people and people with disabilities).  


The solution is data-driven and evidence-based. 


The solution is viable beyond the lifespan of the Challenge. The solution is future-proofed, accounting for the evolving nature of the city.  

The solution has the potential to scale or to be replicated in other contexts. 

Team Capacity

The innovator team has the capacity and wider resources to develop and demonstrate their solution within the Challenge timeframe.

How to Enter

Before completing your entry form, make sure that you:

  • Read the Entrant handbook, our Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and the FAQs
  • Verify that you meet the Eligibility Criteria
  • Familiarize yourself with the Challenge Statement and the Judging Criteria
  • Follow us on our social media channels for updates relating to the Challenge. 

The deadline for entries is 13:00 UTC on Thursday 5 September 2024. Late entries will not be accepted. 

Enter the Sustainable Cities Challenge - Varanasi
Varanasi waterline, person in wheelchair and people on motorcycles in the street

Entrant Support

We have designed a range of support to help provide you with all the information and context you need to put together an entry to the Challenge. 

Join Us for a Webinar

We will be holding webinars to share more about the Challenge and answer your questions.

If you are interested, sign up below. We will let you know when webinar dates are confirmed.

Sign up for a Webinar
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Book a One-to-One Session

Speak to us directly by booking a one-to-one call with one of our team members.

There are a limited number of spaces available, so we encourage you to book these early!   


Email us at [email protected]

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Download Varanasi Entrant Handbook

We strongly encourage you to read the entrant handbook as you prepare your entry.  

The handbook provides a detailed explanation of what the Challenge is seeking and what you can expect from participating.  


News & Updates

About the Challenge
Support & FAQs
Enter the Varanasi Challenge