While Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala have focussed for over half-a-decade on the tech ecosystem to create many startup hubs in the states, Punjab took a backseat as the tech revolution made its way to India. While in conversation with the enablers of the startup ecosystem in the state during the BIGShift tour which highlighted emerging startup hubs, Inc42 realised that this can be attributed majorly to the fact that the state was comfortable with the way businesses were running.
However, the enabler community of the state, along with the government, is actively working to change the status quo. These enablers have helped Punjab take steady strides on its journey to becoming a major startup hub and have given many innovative ideas the right push.
Leading the way are the likes of CII (Chandigarh Innovation Circle), the Startup Elevator Pitch by ASSOCHAM, events and networking opportunities by TiE Chandigarh and early-stage networking platform eChai Ventures and more. These private efforts are being supported by the government through startup-friendly policies and initiatives but also through active participation in funding and mentoring startups.
The Tricity (Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula) region of Punjab is clearly setting the pace for the emerging startup-friendly cities of the state, thanks to plenty of research institutes, examples of successful startups and easy access to young talent.
“While initially, it was all scattered—there was access to mentoring but no funding or vice versa or access to both but no government support—now the efforts of the community are more consolidated,” Munish Juhar, TiE President and an active angel investor in the state, told Inc42.
Here is how the enablers of Punjab are helping boost the state’s tech ecosystem through various startup hubs:
Incubators And Coworking Spaces
Amongst the most prominent names in the enabler community of the state is the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), well known for promoting IT growth in the country. STPI Mohali works with the same goal, providing coworking spaces and governmental support to the tech startups in Punjab.
It recently launched the Startup Punjab Hub initiative to help startups across the country, get access to not only infrastructure but also support by the state. It has already onboarded prominent entities such as the government of Punjab, Indian School of Business (ISB), Punjab Technical University (PTU), and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) as partners in the initiative. Besides a chance to network and exchange ideas, STPI will also provide startups access to funds, incubation facilities and any other support to go to market.
STPI’s ‘Open Challenge Programme’ gets entrepreneurs to solve real-life problems related to specific domains using AI, data analytics and IoT. It has roped in TiE Chandigarh to run and coordinate the Open Challenge Programme with a cash reward of up to INR 1 Lakh to the winners of the programme.
As one of the most prominent educational institutions in the country, the Indian School of Business (ISB), Mohali has played a crucial role in nurturing an entrepreneurial culture in Punjab. ISB Mohali has come up with two major initiatives in this regard:
ISB CIE: The ISB Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) promotes the ideas and startups that seek to address socio-economic challenges in emerging markets. It also focusses on disseminating research-based knowledge to help entrepreneurs deal with knowledge, policy and execution gaps.
AIC ISB: The Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) is the incubation and acceleration arm of ISB set up in partnership with the NITI Aayog. AIC ISB supports post-POC (Proof of Concept) stage startups in their market strategies by leveraging the expertise of ISB faculty as well as its vast network in the industry.
A coworking space providing infrastructure and support to the startups, Starthub Nation works with the objective of creating a nurturing environment for new ideas and innovation. Apart from providing infrastructure support, it helps startups stay up to date with the happenings in the ecosystem in the state by providing them with access to global startup events, mentors and more.
The Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) is an incubator and accelerator within the Chitkara University (CU) that promotes the entrepreneurial mindset in students during their academic tenure. The student founders get the opportunity to run two entrepreneurship development cells set up by CEED under the guidance of a mentor. While one of these cells is in the university’s Himachal Pradesh campus, the other is in Punjab.
CEED also provides students with entrepreneurial ambitions incubation facilities at Chitkara University Innovation Incubator near Chandigarh IT Park. The website of CEED claims the incubator already has over 40 startups working with the centre.
Startup Accelerator Chamber of Commerce (SACC) is playing a huge role in the enabler role in the state. Through its Startup In A Box coworking space, it is not only providing access to monthly, dedicated mentoring from industry experts, but also to productive workspaces, a startup library and more.
TBI- IISER Mohali
The Technology Business Incubator at IISER (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) Mohali helps startups and SMEs in their research by providing them access to the ecosystem. It has three programmes through which it is helping the startups, entrepreneurs and SMEs in the state:
Entrepreneur-in-Residence Programme: With the aim of promoting entrepreneurship in new technology areas, this programme provides budding and existing startups and SMEs the chance to develop their products and services in a residency format with accommodation and other facilities provided.
Lab Access Programme: This programme gives startups the chance to use labs to test out their products in the development stage, conduct research and make sure their PoCs are ready for any market testing.
Mentor Access Programme: This programme provides access to the faculty mentors at IISER Mohali to help startups gain subject matter expertise, guidance on research, tech development and more.
IIT- Ropar Incubator
Focussing on information and communications technology (ICT), this incubator helps startups score financial support from the Department of Information Technology under the Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs scheme—which provides financial assistance to institutions with TBIs with the aim of helping them enable young entrepreneurs develop and set up successful startups.
Amongst the investing organisations, there is one name that has been actively investing in startups not only from the state but all over the country.
Chandigarh Angels Network (CAN)
Committed to supporting and helping promising startups from the state and the country, CAN is a community of angel investors with already established successful ventures. Helping startups validate their business models, the organisation focusses on startups in the seed or growth stage. It claims to have more than 45 members on board, creating 1,500 jobs through its portfolio and having helped over 12K entrepreneurs.
Angel Investors And Mentors
Thanks to CAN, the state boasts of many angel investors. Here are some of the most prominent and experienced mentors and investors from the state.
- Munish Jauhar, president, TiE Chandigarh
- Sameer Jain, CEO, Net Solutions
- Kunal Nandwani, founder and CEO, uTrade Solutions
- Alok Ramsisaria, CEO, Grazitti Interactive
- Ajay Tewari, CEO, smartData Enterprises
- Param Kalra, Founder, Start Hub Nation
- Sumeer Walia, Director, Chitkara Innovation Incubation Centre
- Manipal Dhariwal, Chapter President-SACC India and founder CEO, SebizInfotech and Netsmartz
- Kunal Nandwani, founder and CEO, uTrade Solutions
Government As An Enabler
The government of India has been an active participant in the growth and boost of startups in the country. There have been many initiatives and policies from the government in every state to promote the startup ecosystem in the region. The government of Punjab is not far behind. While with the Startup And Entrepreneurship Development Policy of 2017, it set many goals such as facilitating a 1,000 startups in five years, setting up of ten incubation and accelerators in the state and more.
Though Startup Punjab and Invest Punjab are the most well-known initiatives from the government, the state has also hosted many events and summits to further boost the ecosystem in the state. Amongst them, Innovation and Technology Summit 2019 with the view of ‘Mission Innovate Punjab’ is the most prominent one.