Posted on Monday, November 12, 2018
Startups are focused mostly on commercial needs rather than the country’s social problems, says Ambarish Datta, MD & CEO, BSE Institute. In the not too distant past, BSE Institute and NITI Aayog launched a Startup Incubator–Atal Incubation Center-Mahamana Foundation for Innovation and Entrepreneurship–at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Varanasi, for promoting social entrepreneurship in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and the allied areas. The incubator was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi in keeping with the Atal Incubation programmes to encourage setting up of startup incubator centres across university campuses.
The Incubator (with a total project outlay of about Rs 20 crore for a five-year period) has been started to encourage the youth, especially women to set up enterprises to solve real problems, innovate and create incremental jobs. “The incubator is expected to help women entrepreneurs and the youth in multiple domains including eGov, social, watertech, clean tech, defence, financial inclusion amongst other areas,” says Datta. “The startup ecosystem in our country has been skeptical about women entrepreneurs on the premise they tend to quit midway because of familial/societal commitments. This merits a special programme wherein women mentors can handhold them in the initial stages of their entrepreneurial journey,” he adds.
Talking about BSE’s involvement in the domain, Datta says the institute runs a programme called ‘Empower’, for women techpreneurs under Canadian collaboration, which emphasises on mentorship, industry connects, peer network and investor meets through a 6-week accelerator programme followed by a one-year support programme.
As for the incubation centre at BHU, BSE has initiated the QUEST accelerated bootcamp for startups to implement solutions in Varanasi, to enable market access in Mumbai through a 2-week in-city programme, followed by a 3-month virtual programme. Under each cohort, 10 startup teams will be provided a hands-on mentorship programme for pursuing their ideas, and convert them into scaleable businesses. So far, 23 startups have been selected from 80 plus applications across India of which 14 are from Varanasi and the rest from Allahabad, Jhansi, Bhubaneshwar and Kanpur. “Startups from small towns and tier II and III cities are aggressively looking at local challenges. In Varanasi, for instance, there is chronic water crisis and issues concerning clean drinking water. Since funds are being disbursed to address these issues, bringing startups will help create more jobs through a multiplier effect,” says Datta.
Though not too optimistic about incubators within campuses, Datta says, “Student entrepreneurs starting out in an academic setup do not receive adequate market feedback. Most professors have no entrepreneurial experience and struggle to guide startups appropriately to approach the market. Unless academia forms industry linkages and is incentivised to do empirical research and innovation, there will always be a disconnect between the academic world and real market.”
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