TechnoparkToday.com(May, 2015): Displaying unparalleled speed of execution by supporting 530-plus nascent firms in three years, Startup Village in Kerala won today the National Award for Technology Business Incubator, thus reflecting a sea change in entrepreneurship in the southern state known for its hostility to industry.
Sanjay Vijayakumar and Pranav Kumar, who are respectively the chairman and the CEO of the Kochi-based business incubator, received the award from Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan at a function in the capital, bagging Rs 3 lakh and a trophy for their not-for-profit firm that is planning to now expand as an electronics incubator.
Official sources said the achievement was “phenomenal” considering that firms need to be three years old to contest for the award (being conferred on National Technology Day), while Startup Village is only a fortnight more than the requisite qualification.Incepted in April 2012 as the country’s first Public-Private-Partnership model Technology Business Incubator, Startup Village is directly promoted by the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), along with Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi-based MobME Wireless Solutions—a 2006-founded company focused on mobile internet services for mobile-phone users.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, addressing the function at Vigyan Bhawan, urged entrepreneurs for a “renewed vision”, saying a reassessment of strategy could fetch better results.Sanjay, 30, said the award would boost Startup Village’s plan to launch a billion-dollar campus startup in India by 2022, when the incubator would complete its first decade and the country would be celebrating the 75th year of Independence.
Startup Village, which has the Government of Kerala providing the infrastructure, marked a paradigm shift in PPP, which was hitherto practiced in the infrastructure sector. “Instead, we focus mobile-internet innovations by primarily incubating student startups,” he noted, pointing out about the experiment was “unique” also because the incubator was outside premier institutes such as IITs and IIMs.
The venture proved not only successful by altering Kerala’s classical anti-capital mindset; the PPP even led to rolling out a startup policy. Today, the state has a Startup Mission to its credit, its 1% budget is kept aside to assist entrepreneurs, and there is an Entrepreneurship Day organized every September 12.
In fact, DST’s target for Startup Village was 48 startups in five years, while the figure exceeded 530 in three years during which it raised private capital of over Rs 6 crore.
May 11 has been officially declared as National Technology Day in India to commemorate the first of the five nuclear tests that were carried out on that date in 1998. The day is celebrated by giving awards to various individuals and industries in the fields of science and industry.
“We delivered twice of what we promised in half the time,” pointed out Sanjay, who heads Startup Village that has Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan as the chief mentor besides support from a host of industrialists like Dr Ravi Pillai and Jose Thomas along with companies like Federal Bank and Kerala State Electricity Board.
Sanjay, who did BTech from College of Engineering in his native Thiruvananthapuram, said the Startup Village model is proving to be a force-multiplier for youth in tier-2 and 3 cities. “Multiple states are reaching out to multiple us as there is potential for startup villages there,” he said, pointing out that its Visakhapatnam facility is picking up as part of Andhra Pradesh’s big plans to create a world-class startup destination. In last October, the government of that state inked a pact with Startup Village to create 1,000 startups in five years.
CEO Kumar said there was “abundant support and capital” available in metros such as Bangalore but smaller cities and towns have “lesser support ecosystem”, revealing that Startup Village had a perennial focus on early-stage startups.
“Startup Village’s role is to play a foundation layer in the creation a culture of entrepreneurship among youth, particularly in engineering colleges by converting final-year academic projects into startups,” he added.
A key achievement of Startup Village has been its student entrepreneurship policy, which gives 20% attendance and 4% grace-marks to student entrepreneurs. It is now working with partner universities to integrate entrepreneurship deeply into the college curriculum along with the ability to learn Massively Open Online Courses from Stanford and Harvard as part of engineering syllabus.
In January 2013, Startup Village launched an initiative called SVSquare. “Every year, we select promising young student entrepreneurs from India and sponsor their trip to the US,” Sanjay said. “Our aim is to expose our youngsters to the legendary startup environment in Silicon Valley.”
The incubator is now collaborating partner governments to develop a grassroots entrepreneurial pipeline and culture. Startup Boot Camps have been organised in across 75 colleges. Going deep into schools, it has also helped the state government in distributing 2,500 Raspberry PI units to eighth standard schoolchildren for learning to code and be future entrepreneurs.
Startup Village has been a bold experiment for Government of India as well to find new models to build world -class incubators in partnership with private sector. For every one rupee of grant-in-aid by Government of India into the incubator, four rupees have been donated as grant-in-aid by the private sector. For every rupee of investment by central government, 32 rupees have been the investment raised by startups, thereby creating a multiplier effect in fund utilisation through Startup Village.