“One of the startups I know got approval for government funding but the policy also required a bank to approve this funding and unfortunately none of the banks approved. So there was no chance for that startup of actually getting the funds,” says Appointy founder Nemesh Singh.
Singh is talking about Madhya Pradesh’s funding crunch which has not been solved despite dedicated efforts by the state government. In fact, when it comes to startups, Madhya Pradesh seems to have gone under the radar.
Known for its rich cultural heritage and natural resources, Madhya Pradesh, at the heart of India, is also one of the emerging startup ecosystems of India. Powered by a startup-friendly state government, Madhya Pradesh earned its spot as one of the leading startup states in DPIIT’s 2018 state startup ranking.
In October 2019, Madhya Pradesh cabinet had approved the implementation of additional benefits under Madhya Pradesh Startup Policy from April 1, 2020. The state’s existing startup policy offered entrepreneurs a separate venture capital fund of $15.4 Mn, and initiatives such as Global Investors Summit 2016.
Further, the government had also planned to set up 60 incubator partner networks for financial assistance and an INR 60 Cr seed investment fund to nourish the state’s budding ecosystem. But as Singh told Inc42 that government policies for providing startup funding have not made life easier for new-age startups.
In addition to this lacuna, the state also does not have any private venture capital funds based in the major hubs. This has forced Madhya Pradesh’s startups to take the bootstrap route, similar to many other funding-deprived Tier 2 ecosystems as we have seen in the Indian Startup Hub series over the past few months.
Madhya Pradesh’s Emerging Startups
Like many emerging ecosystems, Madhya Pradesh also has a culture of copying business models of big successes and applying the model for the smaller markets in the state. This shows that the state has an aspiration for entrepreneurship but innovation is still at a nascent stage. But this does not mean there is no glimmer of hope, some mavericks have indeed broken the mould to build out-of-the-box ideas into businesses. Some of the most promising startups from Madhya Pradesh are the ones who are work in edtech, content creation and startups thta are working with SMEs and small businesses. Here are four that stand out above the rest.
WittyFeed: Founded by Vinay Singhal, Shashank Vaishnav, Parveen Singhal in 2014, WittyFeed is a content marketing platform based in Indore. It’s arguably the most renowned startup from the state. The company has raised funding from a clutch of marquee investors Anand Chandrasekaran, former Snapdeal CPO; Apurva Chamaria, VP & Head Corporate Marketing, HCL Technologies; and Ritesh Malik, founder innov8 among others.
Appointy: Founded by Nemesh Singh in 2006, Appointy lets businesses schedule meetings, reservations, interviews and more through one window. The company claims to have worked in multiple industries including healthcare, education, beauty and more. It also lets businesses run social media marketing campaigns and get insights about customer behaviour. Appointy was selected by Microsoft Ventures for summer acceleration programme in 2014 and was also among the top 50 emerging companies by NASSCOM in 2013.
Magnet Brains: Bhopal-based edtech startup Magnet Brains is founded by Pankaj Agarwal and Neeraj Agarwal. It aims to provide free education for students from class IV to XII. Its content is said to also help students in test preparation for competitive exams such as IIT JEE, AIPMT, NTSE, SSC, and others. Students can access tutorials, videos lessons and more for free through the company’s YouTube channel, which currently has nearly 70K subscribers.
ShopKirana: Indore-based ShopKirana was founded by Tanutejas Saraswat, Sumit Ghorawat, and Deepak Dhanotiya in 2015. It is a B2B ecommerce platform that connects retailers with suppliers to solve the middle-men problem in supply chain. The company is now working on connecting farmers with retailers through its platform. It’s also looking to launch affordable private labels in the grain produce segment. In August 2019, ShopKirana raised $10 Mn Series B from Info Edge, Incubate Fund, Akatsuki AET Fund, NPTK Emerging Asia Fund, and Better Capital.
Other prominent names include Rackbank, founded in 2013 and which has a client base across 120 countries, catering to data storage needs for businesses. Its founder Narendra Sen was a key figure behind India’s first Data Center Park being established in MP.
Joining this list are names such as EngineerBabu, a web and app development agency for startups; AiTrillion, ecommerce marketing platform; Weyu, a home rental platform; online laundry platforms GetIronman and Remphi; on-demand beauty and wellness platform Calipso; as well as personal safety app CitizenCop. These and others have put Indore on the map in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Ecosystem Enablers In The State
The state has access to an ample number of incubators and coworking spaces. Some of the incubators and coworking spaces in the state are government-backed Atal Incubation Centre, B-Nest Bhopal, Workie, Incubation Masters, VASPL Initiatives, LNCT Group Incubation Centre, IIM Indore’s incubator Cliqué and more.
In October 2019, the Lakshmi Narain College of Technology (LNCT) in Bhopal and Incubation Masters came together to launch the Kalchuri-LNCT Group Incubation Centre (KLIC), a full-fledged state-of-the-art modern incubation centre set up by LNCT Group.
Further, Madhya Pradesh also has a set of ecosystem enablers such as eChai Indore, Startup Ignition, and Indore Entrepreneurs Network, among others.
Among the enablers are organisations such as Madhya Pradesh Angel Network, founded by Sawan Ladha works to help startups secure funding, connecting them to investors and mentors across the state. Some companies in its portfolio are Edu-Net, Shaurya Infravision, Eatoutadvisor and more. Another prominent name in the angel investor community in Indore is the Swan Angel Network, founded by Abhishek Sanghvi, which is a group of 35+ HNIs from Indore, Mumbai and the US.
The wave of emerging startups has given rise to the coworking culture in the city with names such as Workie, Incuspaze, ADITED and others.
But when it comes to mentors, more needs to be done to connect startups to the right experts.
Speaking to Inc42, many founders and incubation enablers said that the success of startups is heavily dependent on getting the right mentors. In Madhya Pradesh, the lack of permanent mentors in these spaces has resulted in slower pace of development of startups and innovation.
“Most of the incubators struggle in getting mentors from other states, who then spend a day or two with the incubates. But mentorship is not about grooming someone for one day, it requires continued support,” said Singh.
Given that cities such as Indore boats of an IIM and IIT, there are plenty of startups and entrepreneurs emerging on the scene in this city, as seen during Inc42’s BIGShift series in 2019.