INITIATIVE Education

Springboards for startups

Incubation centres are making it easier for students to pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship

There was a time when starting a new business meant joining an existing business, gaining experience, saving money and then years later, one could finally consider starting their business. However, we have come a long way since then.

Starting a business, or as millennials call it — ‘having a start-up’, is a dream that is now more achievable. While the process is still long and difficult, getting your startup off the ground is not that difficult. A part of the credit for this goes to incubation centres.

Ground support

“After weeding out random sparks of fancy from workable ideas, these are incubated and nurtured to create value for the nation and help convert dreams into profitable realities. Incubation centres in universities support these initiatives by providing technological facilities, initial growth funds, network and linkages, co-working spaces, lab facilities, mentoring and advice,” explains Asheesh Gupta, Director of Atal Incubation Centre.

These centres help create an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship and support early stage start-ups or innovators who are in the idea-generation stage.

Incubation centres are recognised by the government. But there are still approximately 250 incubation centres at are not recognised by the government (including the 56 that fall under the startup policy), several of which are sponsored by institutions such as IITs, IIMs and more.

Even private universities are making sure that they help their students put their start-ups on the map. Some private universities across India, such as SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Lovely Professional University (LPU), Phagwara, Amity University, Noida, among others have been helping students set up their startups.

They help students by providing them a coach and mentor, referred to as ‘E-coach’ (Entrepreneurship Coach). Students get various facilities here and are taught skills such as pitching ideas, conducting market research, preparing and managing a client base, and much more. “The start-up school brings together like-minded students who can collaborate and work together if they have similar ideas. We have various sessions for idea generation, planning, and revenue ideas which are very helpful for every budding entrepreneur,” shares Anurag Reddy, owner of Penguinkart, a start-up launched with the help of LPU’s incubation centre.

While some universities boast of successful start-up stories, not many students, especially freshers, know how to approach incubation centres. “Students can reach out to the faculty/mentor teaching them. They can also directly reach out to the E-Coach, or come visit the incubation centre directly. Students can book an online appointment through the intranet to meet the startup school officials as well,” explains Manish Saini, Head of Division of Startup, LPU.

The incubation centres also provide numerous courses (certified and uncertified) for students that can help them strengthen their entrepreneurship skills. These course range from tech entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship development, to idea generation workshops, and much more.

Funding

Some universities keep their incubation centres open for all, whereas others provide their services exclusively to their students. It depends a lot on the funding that a centre receives.

“Every year, the centre funds around 40 student and faculty teams with an average seed money of R 20,000-30,000 per team towards prototype building. These ideas are selected by a committee consisting of eminent internal and external subject matter experts. The shortlisted teams are provided mentorship and guidance to complete their prototype. The successful prototypes are then selected for patenting and seeking further support from industry and government bodies, or are explored for licensing and production,” explains V G Idichandy, Chief Mentor, SSN Innovation and Incubation Centre, Chennai.

While these centres are independent divisions of private universities, they are granted funding by the government too. “Recently, we received a grant from NSTEDB to set up New Gen Innovation and Entrepreneurship development centre at SRMIST,” says Nikunj Panchal, Manager, SRM Innovation and Incubation Centre, Kattankulathur, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu.

Incubator centres have an important role to play in supporting new-age start-ups, which will undoubtedly help in the growth of our nation.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:32:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/springboards-for-startups/article29118552.ece

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