Founded during the Kalinga empire nearly 3,000 years ago, Bhubaneswar is an ancient city that currently serves as a major economic and religious centre in eastern India. Its modern avatar was architected by Otto Konigsberger in 1946. In 2015, World Bank crowned Bhubaneswar as the best place to do business in India. With robust infrastructure and a well-connected ecosystem of investors, accelerators and incubators, startups in Bhubaneswar are slowly coming to the forefront.
To bolster these fledgeling startup ecosystem that is emerging in the capital city of Odisha, Inc42 in partnership with Amazon India recently hosted the sixth instalment of its localised startup meetup series – BIGShift on December 2 in Bhubaneswar.
The event brought prominent startup founders, influencers, investors, and ecosystem enablers together for an engaging discussion about the challenges of team building in tier II/III cities and the right time to fundraise. Besides, seven startups were given a chance to pitch about their business in front of an eminent jury.
So, Why BIGShift In Bhubaneswar?
With the aim of emerging as one of the top three startup hubs in India by 2020, the Odisha government has increased its focus on fostering strategic partnerships, investment opportunities and policy interventions in recent times.
The state government currently provides funding, mentorship and incubation support to startups, in order to create a conducive ecosystem for investors and other stakeholders as well.
Let’s start with startup policy first. The Odisha government announced its startup policy in August 2016. The startup policy was aimed to set up 1,000 startups in the next five years for which the state’s MSMEs were to provide a Seed fund of $3.7 Mn (INR 25 Cr).
In August 2016, CM Naveen Patnaik met over 60 startups and announced an investment commitment of $13.5 Bn (INR 90,490 Cr) as state investments for improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Till date, they have identified over 225 startups and more than 24 incubators in the state.
The Government of Odisha has been working aggressively towards making Odisha the foremost startup hub of the country. It entered into a partnership with Invest India in March this year to provide professional support for strengthening the local startup ecosystem in the state and bring it at par with global standards. Invest India is India’s investment promotion and facilitation agency set up under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
Around the same time, the Odisha government launched the Startup Odisha Toll-Free Helpline 1800-345-7100 in partnership with Startup India, aimed for startup stakeholders to have a platform for redressal of their queries related to startups.
Later in May, the state government of Odisha with support from Invest India also launched a web portal for startups. The portal aims at “promoting ease of doing business for budding entrepreneurs and creating an ecosystem for startups in the state.”
Most recently, in August, the Government of Odisha recognised 80 startups over the course of two months under its Startup Odisha initiative. The statistics revealed during a meeting of a task force formed under the Chairmanship of Shri L.N. Gupta, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, MSME, stated that more than 32 more applications were under process and a monthly grant of $310 (INR 20,000) had been given to eight recognised startups.
A Look At Some Of The Prominent Startups, Investors And Influencers In Odisha
Among the startups that are currently operating out of Bhubaneswar are online grocery delivery platform VeggieKart, hyperlocal services provider Wizy, customised printing solutions provider Printview, e-grocery platform Grozip and Rourkela-based Estinno, among others.
Coming to Bhubaneswar specifically, AngelList claims that there are around 103 startups in the capital city of Odisha alone, including SakRobotix, cloud-based accounting software SlickAccount and IT services company Tatwa Technologies, to name a few.
Fundraising is always a major concern for startups. To ease the anxiety that surrounds fundraising and make working capital more accessible to new companies, several investment firms and angel networks have sprung up in Odisha in recent decades.
When it comes to key people and organisations driving the startup ecosystem in Odisha, there are an ample number of mentors/advisors and incubators that are nurturing promising new startups in the state.
Well known mentors in the state include Mrutyunjay Suar, CEO of KIIT Technology Business Incubator (TBI); 2Tab Healthtech co-founder Tapendra Senapati; Satyabrat Ratho, founder and Director of PNV Group; Amiya Nayak, MD of Bio TechNet; K. K. Rao MD at Transgene Biotek; Prof. Nandini Vaidyanathan, founder of CARMa (Creating Access to Resources and Markets) and Rajeev Roy, Associate Professor at XIMB, among others.
Two of the accelerators and incubators in Bhubaneswar are KIIT’s Technology Business Incubator (TBI), XIMB’s incubator Manjee and Odia Accelerator, which provides startups in the state with access to “hands-on” education, business resources, infrastructure, capital and experienced guidance.
Other organisations that help support emerging startups in Bhubaneswar include TiE Bhubaneswar, Wadhwani Foundation’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), KIIT Entrepreneurship Cell, StartupBBSR and Bootstrap Bhubaneswar, which is the local chapter of Bootstrap-At-Breakfast. Workloop is a co-working space in Bhubaneswar.
Now that we have learnt quite a bit about the Odisha startup ecosystem, let’s take a look at the all the action from the BIGShift Bhubaneswar edition!
Session One: Fundraising For Startups 101
For the first session at BIGShift Bhubaneswar, Mrutyunjay Suar, CEO of KIIT Technology Business Incubator (TBI) graced the stage to address some of the common notions around fundraising. With a PhD in Biotechnology from Delhi University, Mrutyunjay also serves as the founder and Director of the School of Biotechnology at KIIT.
Speaking at the event, he said, “There is a noise in the market that the government is not supporting startups with funding and mentorship services. I am here to tell you that there are plenty of funds currently available to startup founders, from grants and fellowships to $38.7 Mn (INR 250 Cr) soft funding from the government. Funds are never a problem in a our country. May be it is not structured at the moment. But if you know how to fundraise, you will get access to a range of funding opportunities.”
According to him, the first step to raising funding is to identify the problem the startup is solving. He said, “Currently, over 500 fellowships are offered to startups working on any technology-enabled concepts. Under the NIDHI scheme from DST, you can get $465.2-$775.3 (INR 30,000 to INR 50,000) per month. Another fellowship that is being introduced pertains to social innovation. Under this fellowship, you get a $7,75.3 (INR 5 Lakh) kickstarter grant once you develop the product.”
“The Seed fund available in Technology Business Incubator has gone from $155K-$2.3 Mn (INR 1 Cr to INR 15 Cr). Seed funding is currently given by TBI at 5% interest. Till date, TBI has raised over $18.6 Mn (INR 120 Cr). Compared to government fundings, startups have to really be aggressive to get money from investors. Today, the Indian government offers startup funding under a number of schemes,” he added.
Session Two: Building A Successful Business
The second speaker of the day was Abanis Nayak, MD of Zamura Software and Ishwar Software. As a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about developing an India-centric healthcare exchange, Nayak’s companies have built solutions for business development, people management, business analysis, financial Management, feasibility analysis, performance management, systems integration, quality management, software maintenance and so on.
As part of his session at BIGShift Bhubaneswar, Abanis shed some light on the challenges of building a successful business, especially while hiring people in tier II and tier III cities in India.
Highlighting some of the ways startup founders can overcome these challenges, he also talked about the importance of having a concrete vision and keeping the team motivated throughout the ups and downs of starting up.
Session Three: Entrepreneurship Unplugged
As part of the concluding session of BIGShift Bhubaneswar, Satyabrat Ratho, founder and Director of PNV Group, took the centre stage to give the audience a sneak peek into the life of an entrepreneur who has built a successful business from a tier II Indian city.
Narrating the story of his entrepreneurial journey, Ratho said, “I started 21 years ago when I was 21. Although the concept of startups was not around at that time, the company we created was actually a startup. It was novel, innovative and needed no money.”
The flagship company of PNV Group is Prelude, an event management agency. Since its inception in 1996, the company diversified into advertising, digital marketing as well as audiovisual production. Satyabrat also runs an educational training company. He has helped establish an organisation called Fame that teaches event management. The company currently has offices in Delhi and Bengaluru.
His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders is as follows, “If you think about something, do it. Don’t wait for funding or mentorship. Start something. The word ‘entrepreneur’ comes from enterprise’. Therefore, let’s be enterprising. However, collaboration helps when it comes to building a startup. Getting into the practice of collaborating with other like-minded people and starting something. I believe that being an entrepreneur is about taking risks and doing things from the heart.”
Session Four: Startup Showcase
Moving to the final session of the BIGShift Bhubaneswar edition, seven startups were given the opportunity to showcase their ideas and business plans. These included Livingadda, BookingJini, Lorven Biologics, DIGICHAMPS, Zoofresh Foods, PhoenixRobotix and Plates.
The jury consisted of Abanis Nayak, MD of Zamura Software and Ishwar Software, and Prof. Shridhar Dash of XIMB.
Let’s take a look at these startups and the problems they are trying to solve!
Founded in December 2016 by Ramesh Singh, Livingadda is an online accommodation discovery and rental platform. With the help of Livingadda, users can find flats, independent duplexes, PGs, guest houses, service apartments and hostels on rent. The startup has a presence in most major cities in the country, including Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Gurugram and Ahmedabad, among others.
Established in the beginning of this year by TiE Joint Secretary and former CEO of 5 Elements Sibasish Mishra, BookingJini is a booking engine for hotels that, unlike OTAs, allows direct bookings without altering the URLs of hotels to other 3rd party booking panel, thus being trust and reliance among customers.
In addition to a booking engine, the startup provides a range of products such as Channel Manager which helps hotel owners to manage various OTA accounts from a single place. It also offers digital marketing services to its hotel partners.
Started in 2015 by Andhra University alumnus Dr Venkataramana. M with the vision to develop affordable healthcare technologies/products through innovation, Lorven Biologics is a startup currently involved in multi-sectoral research activities.
The company is connecting modern biotechnology and synthetic biology with chemistry through affordable innovation. Its mission is to identify the major problems in healthcare and provide clear solutions that are also affordable.
DIGICHAMPS is a Bhubaneswar-based startup that was founded in February 2016 by Swoyan Satyendu with the mission to change the dynamics of the current education system in India. In order to provide quality education that is equally accessible and affordable, DIGICHAMPS combines state-of-the-art teaching methodologies with advanced technology.
The startup is currently on its path to create an online school where there exists no barriers in terms of location, income level, quality of teachers and infrastructure.
Based in Kalahandi, Odisha, ZooFresh Foods is an integrated agribusiness with self-owned farms, network of tribal farmers, retail points and value-added products. It was started in April 2013 by Young India Fellow Ambika Satapathy. The startup’s aim is to provide unique, healthy, path-breaking food products and services to consumers by leveraging the skills and wisdom of small and marginal tribal farmers as well as local producers.
It also focusses on sustainably utilising natural resources and promoting indigenous species and production systems. The platform currently sources from small tribal farmers, operating retail outlets selling live fish, chicken and mushrooms.
Founded in 2014 by Amiya Kumar Samantaray, Phoenix Robotix is a Birmitrapur-based startup that is working to create a smart mesh connected ecosystem. Using technology, the company aims to optimise industrial processes and cities to consume fewer resources to get more benefits.
Phoenix Robotix is currently working on Wireless Sensor Network(WSN) and Internet of Things (IoT) for smart cities and smart industries. Its prime focus at the moment is to achieve smart city solutions like online environment quality monitoring systems, which is a network of cloud connected gas sensor nodes for pollution monitoring and mitigation analysis.
Created by engineering student Sarthak Mishra in July 2016, Plates is a social discovery tool that seamlessly stitches photos clicked by different people around a common event, topic, project or any idea at one place. Publishers on Plates can post photos related to the theme for any number of followers. The aim of the startup is to enable storytellers to create well-knitted stories and lasting relationships on social media.
Inc42 and Amazon India have already successfully concluded BIGShift in Chandigarh, Kolkata, Indore, Nagpur and Ahmedabad. Through BIGShift, we are looking to support the startup ecosystem that is building up in cities beyond Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The aim is to help bridge the gap that currently exists between the ecosystems in tier I and tier II cities by making the essential resources available to fledgeling startups in these geographies.
Amazon India, for its part, has been doing quite a bit to facilitate the growth of the startup ecosystem in non-metro cities. In remote areas where a dearth of proper infrastructure is a crippling problem for startups, firms like AWS (which works on the cloud) are working to assist promising new companies by enhancing access to pay-as-you-go IT and cloud services. In the next leg, BIGShift will be hosted in Kanpur.
We would like to thank KIIT University for letting us host the event at the KSBT Auditorium. Our ecosystem partners – eChai, TiE Bhubaneswar, Workloop and KIIT Entrepreneurship Cell who helped us put together this wonderful event. Special thanks to Abanis Nayak for continuous support. We also want to thank our knowledge partner, Wadhwani Foundation.