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The Government of India has announced the launch of the Startup India Virtual Hub. The Startup India Hub was inaugurated by Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry along with Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary DIPP, and Deepak Bagla, CEO of Invest India and Rajeev Aggarwal, Joint Secretary DIPP.

Startup India Hub was operationalised on April 1, 2016, to resolve queries and provide handholding support to startups. The development of the portal was further announced on January 16, 2017.

The Startup India Virtual Hub will serve as an online platform where all the stakeholders of the startup ecosystem can collaborate and synergise their efforts. “The Startup India Virtual Hub is a one-of-its-kind online platform for stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India to discover, connect and engage with each other,” was stated in an official statement by Startup India Hub.

The portal will have startups, investors, funds, mentors, incubators, accelerators, government bodies, academic and general users.

For the past one month, the portal has been live in the pilot phase. Over 500 stakeholders have participated in the pilot. Some prominent names include 91springboard, a-IDEA, Aim Smartcity, Amazon Launchpad, Edugild, and more.

Here is a video to grab a quick overview of the Startup Hub platform launch and features:

Startup India Online Hub: Brief Overview

As stated by Startup India Hub team, “The Hub is the first government website in India to be built on an open API architecture allowing seamless integration of content from Government and private stakeholders across India and the world.”

The platform has been developed with the support of Noida-based digital technology startup To The New, that won the bid as a tech vendor. It has been divided under heads such as Startups, Enablers, and Forum, with easy-to-filter sub-sections to get a quick snapshot of the relevant information.

The Hub attempts to solve the problem of information asymmetry and lack of access to knowledge, tools, and experts, especially in the nascent ecosystem across Tier II and Tier III towns. The Startup India Hub will serve as a one-stop source of collating all the information and connecting the required stakeholders of the ecosystem.

The portal provides regular updates from the startup world with information from over 20 media channels. The platform aims to impart education to aspiring entrepreneurs at a grassroots level and provide a digital infrastructure for applying to all government-related activities.One can also get updates on ongoing government and startup-related events, competitions, plus a discussion forum to get the queries and thoughts sorted on the platform.

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Information for over 60 of the Government related schemes has been placed in a summarised and concise format. This has been done in order to avoid any confusion and improve the readability of the documents. The Startup India Hub team has also introduced an AI chatbot named Sara on the online platform for pilot testing.

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As stated by Aditya Sharma, Manager Startup India Hub, the platform will be managed by a 15 member Startup India Hub team under the direct guidance of the Department of Industrial Policy And Promotion (DIPP). “The platform is more like LinkedIn for the Startup Ecosystem. It not only brings startups and investors together but aims to bring together entire communities, be it startups, incubators or accelerators, to work towards the greater good of the nation, if synergies are met,” he added.

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When asked about the efforts made to secure the users’ information on the portal, he said that the majority of the available information is public in nature. The contact information of the registered users is available only if they choose to do so. Also, the database is being managed on the cloud, to avoid server/website breakdowns.

One can also access the platform via apps available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Startup India – The Current Status

PM Modi launched the Startup India initiative ‘Startup India, Stand Up India’ last year on January 16, 2016the 16th January. The initiative aims to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country. It further aims to drive economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities in the country.

The launch event of the Hub was kickstarted by a panel discussion on the topic, “Navigating the Startup India Landscape.”. The panel was moderated by Rajat Tandon, President of IVCA and included honourable names such as Srinivas Kollipara of T-Hub, Sairee Chahal of Sheroes, Abhishek Prasad of Reliance GenNext Hub, Geetika Dayal of TiE Delhi, and Arpit Agarwal, Principal at Blume Ventures.

The panel discussion ranged from the selection criterion adopted by the different kind of investors and how one can reach them. Also, the panelists discussed how a platform like Startup India Hub can help in grooming startups in the Tier II/Tier III cities. As stated by Geetika, “Platforms like Startup India Hub will certainly help us reach the remotest corners we have not been able to reach yet.”

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The discussion was followed by an address by Ramesh Abhishek who presented the Startup India Journey to date and referred to the changes included in the Startup India policy and new initiatives taken.

Key Points Included:

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Out of all the applications received, 1,333 have been recognised as startups by the DIPP. 39 Startups have been approved for availing tax benefits by the IMB, as of June 2017.

  • The Startup India Hub has handled more than 52,000 queries from startups through telephone, email, and Twitter.
  • The Startup India Hub has mentored more than 400 Startups for incubation, funding support, on business plans, pitching support, etc.
  • A Panel of 423 facilitators for patent and design applications and 596 facilitators for Trademarks applications has been constituted for assistance in filing Intellectual Property (IP) applications and to fast track the process of patent filing and acquisition.
  • Under the scheme for Startups Intellectual Property Protection, 200 Patent applications have received the benefit of up to 80% rebate in patent fees and free legal assistance. Overall, more than 350 Startups have benefitted from the scheme.
  • Startups can now avail income tax exemption for three years in a block of seven years, if they are incorporated after April 1, 2016.
  • A ‘fund of funds’ of INR 10,000 Cr is being managed by SIDBI. INR 623.5 Cr have been committed to 17 AIFs. 65 Startups have been funded.
  • A four-week free Learning & Development programme covering six modules has been launched. More than 1,40,000 applicants have signed up for the course and 4,800+ applicants have completed 100% of the course successfully.
  • 457 Tinkering Labs have been approved and 350 have received a grant of INR 12 lakh each. Pre-incubation training through 25+ mentorship sessions has been conducted. NITI Aayog also recently announced to set up 1,000 tinkering labs in various schools this year.
  • EICs have been approved for a scale-up grant of INR 10 Cr and 10 institutes have been approved for establishing new AICs.
  • 7 Research Parks will be set up as per the Startup India Action Plan. Research Park at IIT Kharagpur is under construction and INR 74.8 Lakhs has been released. The Research Park at IIT Gandhinagar is being set up by DST which has sanctioned INR 90 crore and disbursed an initial instalment of INR 40 Cr. The remaining five are being set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and DST at IIT Guwahati, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi, and IISC Bangalore. In addition, another Research Park at IIT Bombay is under construction and INR 7.70 Lakh has been released for the same.
  • Under the Biotech Equity Fund, INR 1 Cr each to be given to Bioincubators. Three Bioincubators have been selected as recipients of the above-mentioned Equity Fund. A total of 20 bio-incubators has been supported by the DBT.
  • 15 TBIs and 15 Startup centres are being set up. 11 TBIs have been approved and the other 4 are in advanced stages. A funding amount of INR 3.75 Lakhs for each of the 10 Startup Centres has been released by the MHRD as the first instalment.
  • A Smart India Hackathon, under MHRD, was conducted on April 1, 2017. About 7,500 teams from Tier-II/III cities including 40,000+ students, 29 Government Departments participated in the 36 hours non-stop digital programming event.
  • INR 475 Cr for 2016-18 has been earmarked under UAY and 92 research proposals from IITs have been approved. INR 75 Cr has been disbursed under this scheme.

Startup India Virtual Hub: Current Tie-ups and Future Initiatives In Line

Along with the homegrown stakeholders, the Startup India Online Hub has also partnered with NYC-based tech incubator Collaborizm. As mentioned on the company blog post, “We have already started selecting Top Projects led by Indian makers for The Hub to support, and they are already providing detailed mentorship around angel funding, manufacturing aid, and legal help to the Project team members.”

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Collaborizm will select one-two promising Indian-led Collaborizm commercial ventures each week and provide The Startup India Hub with a detailed description of these projects, including the kind of assistance they need. The first startup to be selected for The Hub was Sciencotonic, which is a project to teach robotics online using augmented reality.

“This pilot partnership is revolutionary because it enables the Startup India Hub to directly engage and support aspiring Indian entrepreneurs in a scalable, virtual environment. The Hub gets to directly see the positive impact they are having on the aspiring entrepreneurs they are mentoring, and they will also learn first-hand what these talented, motivated young people need to succeed with their ventures,” the blog post added.

Also, the Startup India Hub team is working towards adding regional languages to the platform. As shared by Aditya, several other features are also in line to make the platform a one-stop destination for all startup needs.

“Going forward, the Startup India Virtual Hub aims to be the one-stop-shop for stakeholders of the startup ecosystem in India and globe to interact and engage in a dynamic online environment and facilitate the growth and development of the Indian startup ecosystem, “ shared the Startup India Hub team in an official statement.

As stated by Nirmala Sitharaman, “The Startup India Virtual Hub is an effort to create a marketplace where all the stakeholders can interact, exchange knowledge and help each other to grow. It will streamline the life cycle of existing and potential startups, helping them access the right resources at the right time. From our side, we are trying to expedite critical things such as funds, meaningful benefits, and cutting down the time lag to the minimum. We want the objectives to be served in a speedy manner and, with Startup Hub, I think that objective will be better served.”

Towards the end of the programme, she also announced to launch a coworking space in Mangaluru as “the people are moving towards Bengaluru which is over-serviced and very expensive for many of them”. She further said, “It might take a month to launch the cowork space but the 60 capacity cowork is already booked.”

Recently, she also infused $183k in a Mangaluru Startup Incubator from the Member of Parliament (MP) fund. She further elaborated on the ongoing discussions with Germany on creating an exchange programme for the startups of both the countries.

In his closing remarks, Joint Secretary Rajiv Aggarwal requested all the members of the ecosystem to register on the hub.

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