City-based organisation ties up with 10 colleges
Can Madurai and the other southern districts produce young entrepreneurs such as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg or give birth to innovative business ideas such as Google? Pose these questions to T. Sivarajah, founder director of Nativelead Foundation and a prominent computer professional of the city, and pat comes the reply, “Yes, why not?”
Co-founded by him and six other entrepreneurs, including Ashwin Desai of A&T Networks and Kathir Kamanathan of Chella Software, last year, Nativelead Foundation is identifying youngsters with innovative business ideas, providing value addition and linking them to leading businessmen interested in putting the ideas into practice by investing money.
The Foundation has already tied up with 10 engineering colleges in the southern districts and plans to expand the tie-ups to 20 colleges by next year. It follows a four-pronged strategy of enabling, nurturing, incubating and investing. Ideas invited from students are shortlisted, depending upon their practicability, and nurtured by expert mentors.
Eyeing IT Park
The Foundation has sought the State government to allot at least 5,000 square feet of space in ELCOT IT Park here for setting up an incubation centre.
“The Government of Kerala has supported a similar initiative by allotting over 10,000 sq.ft of space in Kochi on a nominal rent of Rs.2 per sq.ft.,” says Mr.Desai.
After incubation comes the crucial stage of investing and efforts are already on to create a network of ‘angel investors,’ a term used to refer to individuals who provide capital for business start-ups. “We have spoken to many successful businessmen who hail from Madurai and are interested in investing money in innovative ideas emerging from their soil.”
“An investor who wants to be part of the Bangalore Angels network should commit to invest at least Rs.50 lakh within three years. Similar is the case with Chennai Angels, Mumbai Angels and so on. Here, in Madurai Angels we are looking at making each investor commit Rs.5 lakh in three years,” says Mr.Sivarajah.
Though it is just a year since the Foundation was floated, it has already tasted success by convincing SAP, one of the world leaders in business software solutions, to extend technological support to the innovative ideas of two college students hailing from Madurai. One of them, B. Vijayaraghavan, is the son of a carpenter and the other, R. Rajesh Khanna, has lost his father.
Routes to food supply
While the first idea related to development of software that can divert buses from one route to another depending upon demand, the other was with regard to taking excess food from restaurants and hotels and distributing them to the poor and needy.
“It is not only the software. We support almost any kind of innovation emerging from here. Recently, mechanical engineering students of a private college came up with the idea of a blackboard duster which can absorb the dust while rubbing the board. We have connected them with the Innovation Manager of Fenner India to help them fine-tune their innovation,” adds Mr.Sivarajah.
Mr.Desai points out that his Foundation has arranged a visit by a team from TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), a non-profit organisation founded in Silicon Valley in 1992 by a group of successful entrepreneurs with roots in the Indus region, to promote entrepreneurship. The team will visit Madurai on October 18 and 19.
“The ultimate aim is to bring about an entire cultural change; tap the potential of the youngsters here and make them see beyond traditional business ideas. We call this new age entrepreneurship system and it works under co-creation model. Another decade down the line, we should be saying that Madurai is no more a sleepy village,” Mr.Sivarajah says.