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Think Beyond Your Cos, Start Mentoring Startups: Kris Gopalakrishnan To Industry Leaders

Infosys Co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan has a vision to accelerate the growth of startups, and he shared it at depth while participating in the CII Northern Region Startup Conclave in Chandigarh recently. He was of the view that if all industry leaders, those who have successful, sustainable businesses, can devote 3-4 hours every weekend to mentor and guide startups and work with the government to create a fair, equitable ecosystem for startups, India can do wonders.

This appeal by a doyen of the industry, and a renewed call to startups by the Indian Army to help arm it with hi-tech indigenous and disruptive technologies to win future wars, were the high points of the well attended conclave held at the Northern Region headquarters of CII on Thursday.  

Think Beyond Your Cos, Start Mentoring Startups: Kris Gopalakrishnan To Industry Leaders, Lifeinchd

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

Looking relaxed and very attentive towards the proceedings, Gopalakrishnan, who is also Chairman, CII National Committee on Entrepreneurship, and Chairman, Axilor Ventures, in his keynote address at the inaugural session of the conclave said today technology is disrupting almost everything in the world, including warfare, and India had a great opportunity to take a global leadership role in this.

“Talent, wherewithal and demand are all there. And, the youth in India believe in themselves that they can conquer the world. Nothing can stop India from assuming a leadership role,” he added.

He said it is the responsibility of the government to assist, and the industry to create jobs for the aspiring youth, and therefore building a robust ecosystem for startups to succeed and thrive becomes important to generate greater employment opportunities. “The industry leaders – all those who have successful, sustainable businesses – need to adopt an attitude whereby they start thinking beyond their companies. If these leaders can devote 3-4 hours on weekends to mentor and guide startups, and work with the government to create a fair, equitable ecosystem for statups, India can do wonders,” he shared.

Giving the example of Kerala and Gujarat where entrepreneurship development programs have been started in schools, colleges, science and technology institutions and management institutes, he said these needed to be emulated by the rest of the country to give a big push to the startup culture in the country. He particularly singled out for praise the work done in this direction by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) in Ahmedabad and the Kerala Startup Mission.

Gopalakrishnan said students enrolled in these entrepreneurship programs need to be given credits on the lines of activities undertaken under NCC and NSS programs. The best way to learn business, he felt, is to run business and not just by getting an MBA degree.

He also gave example of the ‘Elevate 100’ initiative of the Karnataka government. Under this program 100 innovative startups are being provided government support to scale up their product or solution and to elevate to the next level. In 12 months, government funding to the tune of Rs 72 crore was provided to them, he said, adding that in a cascading effect another Rs 400 crore worth of funding came their way from “outside sources”.

He suggested that a group of universities in particular regions could collaborate to set up research facilities or centres of excellence with the help of industry, as was happening in Karnataka. Another successful initiative of the state government is the ‘Grand Challenge Karnataka’ aimed at channelizing innovations for social impact, where the state government throws up developmental challenges before startups and the selected awardees are funded in stages by the state government to find solutions.

Still another successful Karnataka initiative, which he thought was worth replicating by the other states, is a single minister overseeing all line departments associated with creation of a startup ecosystem like IT, biotechnology, science & technology, etc. for better cohesion of action and optimum results.

For the agriculture sector, Gopalakrishnan recommended the Amul cooperative model since scale and size of business is essential for scaling up operations. The export potential of all agriculture based products should be explored. He cited the example of tribals in Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh whose organised cooperative operations have resulted in their unique coffee brand ‘Araku Coffee’ becoming world famous, fetching Rs 8,000 per kg in France which is 10 times of its market value in India.

In the ultimate analysis, he firmly believed that it is the execution of an idea, and not the idea itself, which is more important in the success of any startup.

Think Beyond Your Cos, Start Mentoring Startups: Kris Gopalakrishnan To Industry Leaders, Lifeinchd 

Brigadier P P Singh, VSM, Vice Chairman – Make Indian Army initiative, reiterated the Indian Army’s invitation to the statups to play a big role in the military ecosystem, and said the country is keen on self reliance and using latest indigenous technology to win future wars since technology had a disruptive influence on outcomes in a war or conflict scenario.

He informed that the processes for a close engagement between the Army and the startup ecosystem has been simplified and now startups, which are “agile, resilient and up to the challenge”, can send a simple two-page proposal to the Army Design Bureau if they have a hi-tech idea or product with military use.

Eleven such proposals from startups have already been selected and being funded by the Army. The field operations, firing and test ranges of the Army are being thrown open to such startups to get a fair idea of the military requirements in specific areas which can help them in designing equipments and solutions. Co-production option is also available to them, Brig PP Singh added.

Chief guest for the conclave, Punjab Governor and Administrator UT Chandigarh VP Singh Badnore was of the view that startups have to be spurred in rural areas as well if the gains of progress are to percolate down to the grassroots level. Without ensuring the prosperity of rural India, the country cannot hope to achieve its cherished target of becoming a $ 5 Tn economy by 2024-25, he affirmed.

Observing that North India has been left behind in the race for initiating a conducive startup ecosystem, he said given the dozens of research and higher education institutions of national importance in and around Chandigarh, it can become a great startup hug of the region.

He informed the gathering that he has moved a proposal for the Chandigarh Innovation Circle (CIC), a not-for-profit organization tasked with connecting the academic institutions, industries and the administration on a platform to boost economic and technological growth in the region, all the way up the Prime Minister, who has taken note of it. He was hopeful something will come out of it in the coming budget.

Think Beyond Your Cos, Start Mentoring Startups: Kris Gopalakrishnan To Industry Leaders, Lifeinchd

Later dwelling on the proposal in a plenary session on ‘Government Initiatives, International Outreach and Role of Incubators & Accelerators’, keynote speaker and Principal Secretary to the Governor JM Balamurugan said CIC, once it comes through, will have a few independent verticals like agriculture and food technology, pharma and information technology with a CEO heading each of them. It will be initially funded largely by the Chandigarh Administration, with the industry and academia as major collaborators. The Indian diaspora abroad can also invest in this venture, he added.

Balamurugan shared that the aim is to bring all stakeholders on a single platform to drive innovation and startup activities aimed at creating marketable products, services and solutions for the benefit of society at large.

Dr Dinesh Dua, Chairman, CII NR Committee on Entrepreneurship & Startups and CEO, Nectar Lifesciences, in his theme address at the inaugural expressed confidence that the momentum will return to the Indian economy in the next three years and then it is expected to grow from the current projection of 4.6% to somewhere between 7.5-8%. He however, opined that for this, the next wave of startups has to happen in the mofussil towns if India’s growth story is to be sustained.

He pointed out that though there is worldwide pessimism regarding prospects of India’s growth rate, the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) figures, which talk about 26 startups being added every single day in the country, clearly show that there is no deceleration in the startup space at least. He was hopeful that the forthcoming Budget will further spur this momentum.

Noting that women startups were also performing well in various fields, including fashion and food, he said increased focus on them will reap rich dividends for the country.

Harish Agarwal, Chairman, CII Himachal Pradesh & Managing Director, Asian Concretes and Cements Pvt. Ltd, himself a startup who began his journey from scratch and now does Rs 1400 crores worth of business with an employee strength of 2,000, said the basic requirement for any startup is not money alone, but bigger than that is the idea he or she is propounding and the passion with which it is being taken forward. There is no link to gender, he added.

Giving his own example, he said he had executed 100 projects so far, each with a new idea behind it. He advised young startups not to depend on bank loans to start their ventures because banks most certainly will not support young entrepreneurs.

In his welcome remarks, Sarvjeet Singh, Chairman, CII Chandigarh UT and Managing Director, Finvasia, said while the government can be a facilitator, the onus is on the industry and the startups themselves to ensure that the startup culture thrives in this country. Not all startups can be unicorns (doing business above $ 1 Bn), but each one of them can be a fruitful contributor to the country’s economy and to employment generation.  

The session on ‘Government Initiatives, International Outreach and Role of Incubators & Accelerators’, moderated by Sumeer Walia, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship & Education Development, Chitkara University, had as its other panellists Kris Gopalakrishnan; Mrigank Singh, CEO, Atal Incubation Centre, Mohali campus of Indian School of Business; Ajay Prasad Shrivastava, Addl. Director, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), Mohali; Prof Arun Kumar Grover, former VC, Panjab University, Chandigarh; Taranjeet Singh Bhamra, CEO, AgNext Technologies and Jitin Talwar, Founder, XLPAT, a patent search and review platform for collaboratively managing and monitoring patents, developed by TT Consultants and XLPAT Labs.

Think Beyond Your Cos, Start Mentoring Startups: Kris Gopalakrishnan To Industry Leaders, Lifeinchd

Another plenary session on ‘Tapping Multiple Funding Sources for Your Startup: The Art & Science of Fund Raising by Startups’ was moderated by Sarvjeet Virk and had as its panellists S Rana, General Manager, SBI; Rahul Priyadarshi, GM & Regional Head, SIDBI; Munish Chawla, himself a startup and Co-founder & Chief Happiness Officer, Jeevitam, a technology platform that helps businesses which hire blue-collar workforce; and Deepak Maheshwari, Co-founder & Director on the board of Jindagi Live Consulting.  by APR Media House is an enjoyable digital reading startup, which keeps you abreast of the latest meaningful happenings of interest to large sections of folks in Chandigarh tricity, and expats from the region. It has been promoted by a public spirited senior journalist and media consultant with a view to encourage good quality and healthy journalism, a dire need of the times.

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