Anoop Ambika,CEO of Kerala Startup Mission,says the state has a thriving startup ecosystem.
Indians settled or working abroad often dream up business ideas while on holiday in India, but these ideas usually fade away once they return to their daily routine. Keralites are no exception.
To bridge this gap between dream and reality, the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) is launching “Startup Infinity”, a programme designed to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to establish co-working spaces in selected locations around the world. The goal is to provide a platform for NRIs to collaborate with KSUM and turn their ideas into successful companies rooted in Kerala.
“The idea is to encourage their dream of establishing a company here in Kerala without having to shift their lives back here immediately,” said Anoop Ambika, CEO of Kerala Startup Mission. He told TikTalk Newsletter that KSUM aims to provide the necessary resources and support for these entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to fruition.
Startup Infinity is among several innovative strategies KSUM is implementing to attract individuals with business ideas and nurture novel concepts generated by young minds in Kerala into tangible products and services.
To avail the Startup Infinity facility, users will have to register their startup in Kerala. Such startups should be working on innovation, refinement, or upgradation of existing products, services, or processes, and should have the potential to generate employment, create wealth, and have scalability.
KSUM has so far registered 3,839 startup firms which qualify for its unique identification tag which incorporates several requirements. These startups are supported by KSUM with resources and programs to help them grow and succeed.
The central government's nodal agency, Startup India, lists around 7,000 startups in Kerala. KSUM is now trying to bring those outside their system also into the fold. “This is a large number and it's a sign of Kerala having a thriving startup ecosystem,” said Anoop Ambika.
As part of KSUM's mandate to nurture more startups, they are also actively looking to increase the pool of funds available to the newly established companies. One such move is the establishment of a “Fund of Funds”, in which individual angel investors get an opportunity to invest in startups without having to go through the time-consuming process of a detailed vetting process themselves and trying to comprehend the futuristic ideas of some startups.
The fund will see the government matching the contributions of these investors, and that accrued sum will be invested with venture capitalists on the condition that the fund should be invested in startups registered in Kerala. This will open the way for investors anywhere in the world to fund startups in the state through a professionally run venture platform created by KSUM. It will also insulate the investor from dealing directly with each startup, but create a well-funded ecosystem that will encourage more aspiring entrepreneurs to come forward.
The widely predicted funding winter does not worry Anoop Ambika too much and he believes it is not going to affect Kerala startups much. “Kerala startups are not in the league that demands millions of dollars. Our startups have comparatively smaller needs and will need only a couple of million dollars, if that, for finalising and marketing their products.”
“There are many companies in the mission’s list which need just one or two crore rupees [1 crore INR is approximately 123,000 US dollars: Ed] to hit the market. So, fundraising should not be a major challenge for Kerala startups. Only companies with higher investment needs and acquisition costs might find it difficult to find funds,” said Anoop Ambika.
This funding bottleneck is forcing many innovators from Kerala to seek greener pastures elsewhere and set up operations in cities like Bangalore. Persuading such entrepreneurs to stay in Kerala is what KSUM is looking to do. Anoop Ambika hopes to raise the number of startups registered here to 15,000 within the next three years.
We need to have a good number of healthy startups for showcasing them before the investing world. The companies should be presentable in terms of concepts, revenue generation, scalability, and sustainability. This will lead to multiple successes and wealth creation. Without increasing the number of registered new startups, we can't win this game,” he said, explaining the logic behind this target.
To achieve this, KSUM is joining hands with different colleges and trying to find innovators through Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDC) there. As an additional initiative, KSUM has also initiated a Research Incubator plan, which will identify scientific research output with commercial prospects and nurture such researchers to develop their innovations as saleable ideas to the commercial sector.
Such a project has already started at the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam. KSUM is talking to other research institutes in Kerala to identify projects that have the potential to grow out of the lab and into the market.
According to KSUM, there are around 19 teams working on their new ideas with the Research Incubator in MG University while KSUM has created a research innovation network spanning different regions in the state.
KSUM is also aiming to start innovation zones to engage different government departments, and they also plan to identify non-governmental organisations with the potential to become social entrepreneurs.
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