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In a bid to facilitate entrepreneurship and job creation in the state, the Government of Rajasthan has launched a dedicated platform for startups called iStart. By nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship, iStart Rajasthan will ultimately accelerate the state’s economic growth and development.

Commenting on the development, Akhil Arora, Principal Secretary of Rajasthan government’s Department of Information Technology and Communication, said, “We wanted to create a meaningful platform. Not just one more platform for startups. The programs are all well-thought through with very clear and measurable deliverables to ensure that we can help more start-ups succeed.”

As stated by Arora, the iStart platform is based on an “access-improve-access” model, wherein startups are first provided with a detailed assessment report and Applyifi scorecard. For the next step, startups will have to undergo customised and group skill building as well as mentoring programmes. Coupled with the assessment done in the first phase, this helps startups to zero in on the areas that need improvement.

After successful completion of the first two phases, participants will be able to connect with investors and potential customers via the iStart platform. Startups graduating from the programme will then be offered opportunities to pitch their ideas for grants and investments from the Rajasthan government.

Applyifi founder Prajakt Raut added, “The objective of the program is to assist anyone with an entrepreneurial aspiration to take their concepts and business to the next level – be it at idea/concept stage or MVP or early-growth stage startups. Additionally, initiatives like alumni angel networks will help aspiring entrepreneurs raise smaller sums that they may require to develop their MVPs and test their concepts in the market.”

To participate in the programme, startups and aspiring entrepreneurs can register themselves on iStart Rajasthan’s website.

An Overview Of iStart Rajasthan And What It Entails

According to Raut, iStart is envisioned as a one-stop online platform that provides startups with access to all the essential resources needed for enhancing their chances of success. Following are the three major components of the programme:

QRate (or Quality Rating and Curation):

Managed by Applyifi, a platform that assists startups in creating comprehensive pitch decks, the newly-announced initiative is aimed at offering promising new companies access to mentoring and funding opportunities.

As part of the Qrate session, Applyifi will first assess startups on various parameters of business and provide them with a scorecard and assessment report detailing their strengths and weaknesses. The assessment report, Raut added, will help startups get a perspective on how investors might view their venture.

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As the startups progress through the different stages of the programme, they will be given bronze, silver, gold, platinum and signature iStart cards depending on their QRate score.

Based on the assessment, the platform will also offer actionable input to startups as to how they can be better prepared for fundraising. In this phase, participants will also be made the undergo a comprehensive one-month skill-building programme, wherein they will gain access to customised mentoring and expert advice.

Furthermore, the startups will be given the chance to showcase their business ideas to relevant investors and/or customers via online presentation every month. A quarterly ‘Startup Showcase Yatra’ will be held in Mumbai, Delhi NCR and Bengaluru to offer them exposure to key investors and enablers of the startup ecosystem.

The platform is also designed to cater to investors. Its extensive database will allow investors to view curated startups that have previously been made business-ready via the QRate programme.

Challenge for Change:

Another facet of the iStart Rajasthan programme will involve the Rajasthan government giving out industry contracts to tech-enabled businesses that are addressing the common problems in sectors like healthcare, education, sanitation, transportation, transparency and efficiency in operations, among others.

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This initiative, according to Arora, will have a multi-pronged objective. Firstly, it will aid the state in finding solutions that will likely have a large-scale social impact. Secondly, it will also help innovators and entrepreneurs take their tech-enabled solutions to the market.

Rajasthan Stack:

The third component of the iStart programme is focussed on building a digital infrastructure in the form of a set of APIs that the government, startups, developers and businesses can utilise for solving some of the problems faced by the state.

This would, in turn, drive Rajasthan towards creating four unique technological layers: paperless layer, cashless layer, presence layer and consent layer.

What Rajasthan Government Is Doing For Emerging Startups

Due to initiatives such as the state’s Startup Policy, the launch of e-governance and other digitisation schemes,  the Rajasthan government currently features towards the top of the ease of doing business index, according to a World Bank report. With more than $100 Mn funding raised by Rajasthan-based startups like CarDekho, CultureAlley, LogicRoots, BlueBox Media and Razor Pay, the government is doubling down in its efforts to bolster the startup ecosystem currently emerging in the state.

According to AngelList, there are at present 367 startups in Jaipur (and counting). As per a 2016 analysis by Inc42 DataLabs, 23 startups from Jaipur got funded between 2014-2016, for a total amount of $142.25 Mn. The investors seem bullish towards three major sectors: ecommerce, automobile, and edtech and about $80 Mn was infused into the ecommerce sector, contributing a staggering 56% of the total funding between 2014-2016.

Although states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra are probably leading the charge towards fostering a startup culture, Rajasthan government is focussed on creating the digital infrastructure needed for nurturing emerging entrepreneurs and facilitating the growth of startups. Initiatives like iStart are part of the government’s sustained attempts to support startups in the state.

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