Before co-working spaces and plug-and-play offices became the buzzword in the startup ecosystem in India, industry body Nasscom had opened one of the first such centres in India three years ago with its Startup Warehouse in Bangalore. Following the success of the 10K program aimed at fostering the growth of 10,000 startups in 10 years, it has made significant headway in creating a micro-ecosystem where entrepreneurs and investors connect and collaborate.
“The program itself began as a startup a little over three years ago, gradually picking up pace as participation rose“, says Rajat Tandon, Vice President, Nasscom 10K program.
With a focus on how startups stand to benefit from this program, concerted efforts were made to create awareness around the initiative, including organizing 650 events anchored around its ‘FAME’ structure.
Elaborates Tandon, “With this system, we simply wanted to assure startups who sign up with us that we can get them ‘FAME’, that is funded, accelerated, mentored and get their enterprises connected overall.“
The program today sees 1,380 startups supported across 8 such incubation setups including one in Pune and Visakhapatnam. In addition to getting incubated for a period of six months, these startups also have access to VCs and technology corporations, to help give life to their ideas.
“We are making efforts to help them get global market access as well, where startups can connect to enterprises and potential funding partners and scale up“, says Tandon.
“We have also been taking some of these companies to the Silicon Valley for the last three years where they have received a lot of positive pitches“, he added.
The program is now entering its fifth phase where startups which are part of the 10K program can pitch to investors and mentors. In the last four phases, a total of 13,800 startups had applied.
“These pitch sessions give very interesting insight into the kind of startups that are trending“, says Tandon.
“Consumer tech had taken a big leap in the last session – 28% of applications were in this category, closely followed by IoT at 22%“, he adds.
Starting up right
SaaS platform Applop had applied for the 10K program last year and has already secured its second level funding.
“The Warehouse provides the perfect environment to explore an idea in depth. It also greatly helps that you have so many people at one place who are skilled in multiple fields. The program also hosts many sessions which becomes the platform to connect with investors and other entrepreneurs“, says Rahul Singhal, Founder, Applop.
A startup that enables SMEs to create mobile apps in 5 minutes, Applop was nurtured under the 10K program in Kolkata. These startups form the cream of the crop as each of them are chosen after a rigorous selection procedure.
“Our partners in the ecosystem, who make up the Steering Committee, help us shortlist startups to be incubated at the Warehouse. We basically assess how passionate the startup is to build on their ideas before shortlisting them for the nurture program. Other screening processes are standard, including the quality of their product, its scalability and potential market. The overall makeup of the team is also important and we look for dedicated people who are driven by their ideas,” Tandon says.
But the organizers had their work cut out initially in just getting people to understand the import of their proposition.
“Putting across a business plan was a real challenge. Once that was out of the way, there have been certain issues when it came to unavailability of the incubation facilities. Securing funding for these startups has also not been very easy“, he says.
Despite these challenges however, Tandon is optimistic about the start-up ecosystem in India.
The number and range of startups in India has grown rapidly over the last few years. Only time will tell if this is a passing fad or a sign that a new work order has arrived.
“Any business takes nothing less than 3-5 years and successful businesses take up even 15-20 years to establish itself. Brand creation and recall takes more time. But startups today are already ahead of the curve when compared to entrepreneurs before them because they have adapted to think innovatively. They are employers of tomorrow who are trying to solve genuine problems in the urban and rural world today. I am optimistic about the ecosystem as it stands today and firmly believe that this spirit should continue in the years to come“, says Tandon.
Going forward, Tandon wants the focus of the program to be on creating lasting impact on startups rather than just supporting them for a temporary period of time.
“Now rather than supporting 10,000 startups in 10 years, we want to impact 10,000 startups till 2023. This number currently stands at over 1300, and includes companies like Faircent, Hiree and SmartVizX. It will only go up in the years to come – perhaps a 1000 startups a year. Startups today are delving into a range of sectors including retail, education and health tech and we want to fuel that innovation“, he concludes.
Source: Economic Times