Business incubators as a concept came about in the US in the late 1950s. Since then, incubators have found popularity with a host of areas. One area where they’ve become a rage the world over is in the startup ecosystem, providing the handholding and conducive atmosphere fledgeling companies require to grow wings and soar high.
India is home to more than 200 incubators. State governments too have not been far behind in with India’s largest business incubator, which offers support services for free, being unveiled in Rajasthan government recently.
These incubators in India are helping startups accelerate their growth and boosting their initial journey right from the idea stage. One such incubator that’s helping tech entrepreneurs realise their dreams in building technology ventures for the Future is the Mumbai-based Sardar Patel Technology Business Incubator (SP-TBI).
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The incubator is an initiative of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Sardar Patel Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian government, which formally recognised it in 2015. With its core focus on enabling technology-based startups, the affiliation gives SP-TBI a definitive edge.
“Today through SP-TBI, we have brought Industry on Campus. Our students get opportunities to intern with the tech startups and apply their classroom learning to create business solutions,” emphasised Dr Prachi Gharpure, Chairperson SP-TBI and Principal Sardar Patel Institute of Technology
The biggest differentiator of SP-TBI for any incubatee startup is that the incubator invests in them through its seed fund. The incubator also gives access to office infrastructure, a strong investor network, access to sophisticated technology, service providers, training access, and support, among other things essential for startups to thrive and succeed in their initial stages.
“Our vision is to create 10,000 plus meaningful jobs by supporting technology ventures over the next 3 years. By December 2018, we will house and incubate 50 tech ventures at SP-TBI. We aspire to be Mumbai’s Silicon Valley,’’ shared Vikrant Potnis, CEO, SP-TBI
The incubator so far has a tribe of more than 50 founders and over 30 startups, which have, in turn, created over 250 jobs and 40 technologies.
“SP-TBI gives us a unique exposure to areas which are otherwise very difficult to understand; it offers a perfect launchpad for enterprising entrepreneurs. We also raised our first round of seed capital from SP-TBI,” said Saketh Bhagavatula, co-founder, Liminal, a startup that was part of the first batch at SP-TBI.
Valuable mentoring for startups working out of the centre is a key focus area for SP-TBI. It has brought eminent stakeholders of the startup ecosystem on board to mentor and guide the incubatee startups. One such mentor, who is also an alumnus of the Sardar Patel Institute of Technology, is Rahul Chari, CTO of digital payments company PhonePe and a Governing Council member of SP-TBI. Chari has started three successful companies in the last three decades and merged two of them — MIME360 and PhonePe — with ecommerce giant Flipkart, scaling them to the country’s top consumer Internet companies.
In a chat with Inc42, Chari reminisced about the days when talks of setting up SP-TBI were on. He shared that the noble thought behind the incubator was enabling startups to concentrate on their core function — building their product or service — by supporting them in all other areas.
“While the journey of starting three companies has been extremely fulfilling, it all started at Sardar Patel Institute of technology (SPIT). My association with the team I built from SPIT continues to date, and I hope to contribute back to SP-TBI as it scales new heights,’’ said Rahul Chari.
Chari is also keen to offer some incubatee startups the exciting opportunity to build their product in the consumer Internet space on the PhonePe platform. This would give the selected startups access to PhonePe’s extremely large consumer base.
The incubator is constantly striving to bring onboard other stakeholders to help build a robust ecosystem for startups. For this purpose, it organises a host of events that provide an opportune platform for investors, founders, and mentors to meet, learn, imbibe, and grow.
‘’Such programmes are a huge boon to early stage investors, who usually find it difficult to access highly curated pipelines of potential investments,’’ emphasised Amitabh D Sinha, Growth Partner, ah! Ventures, a company bridging the gap between investors and entrepreneurs
SP-TBI: Creating Jobs And Unifying the Ecosystem
SP-TBI started with the novel aim of helping create businesses that would, in turn, help in job creation for the country at large. There are many startups founded by students of Sardar Patel Institute of Technology:
School Atlas: A company that uses technology to transform school education in rural India
“ SP-TBI supports us in developing products and expanding our network. It has also given us very effective interns, a lively office, and, most importantly, backed us with seed capital at the stage where it was needed the most,” shared Rama Kale, founder, School Atlas, which is currently being incubated at SP-TBI.
Scholr: A personal learning app for students that provides an instant solution by scanning a problem
“Scholr is incubated at SP-TBI which provides an excellent ecosystem for startups to work with each other and with the immense talent pool at its partner colleges’’ Sardar Patel, SP Jain and Bhavans College,” stated Co-founder, Piyush Agarwal
WorkIndia: This is now India’s largest 100% automated portal for recruitment in the blue and grey collar job space. The company is supported by investors from Singapore and Japan.
Bitgenie: Bitgenie is a blockchain technology consultant who solves all queries regarding blockchain platforms.
Pods Ventures: PODS Ventures is a Lending Technology Platform company, which enables consumers to quickly process their credit requirement, helps retailers / manufactures capture market potential and assists financial institution access new markets at the point of sale.
A Feather In SP-TBI’s Cap: CITE for Technology Entrepreneurship
The launch of the Centre For Innovation And Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE), by SP-TBI offers an 11-month entrepreneurship program which is a Post-Graduate Diploma in Technology Entrepreneurship. The CITE has partnered with SKP Business Consulting LLP, Maker’s Asylum, Indian Angel Network, and other well-known names to be able to offer selected candidates access to various aspects of building and scaling a technology venture.
The aim of the programme is to provide entrepreneurs with requisite skills and training so they can develop their products, understand aspects of running a venture, and apprehend new waves of technology through a hands-on approach. A total of 20 budding entrepreneurs will be selected for the programme.
The Post-Graduate Diploma in Technology Entrepreneurship is divided into three phases:
Phase 1: Imbibe
Phase 1 is divided across 20 weekends and 16 modules. Each module takes the candidates through the process of venture formation and scaling.
Phase 2: Immerse
Phase 2 gives candidates an opportunity to be tech co-founders with existing technology ventures in their areas of interest. They get to live the life of a co-founder for a period of three months.
Phase 3: Incubate
After completing 300+ hours of the cohort and experiencing technology entrepreneurship in Immerse, the candidates enter the last phase of the programme.
Technology Startups In The Future
India, today, has more than 5,200 tech startups with the dominating sectors of the Indian startup landscape being fintech, healthtech, ecommerce, enterprise, and logistics.
According to the Tech Funding Report H1 2018 by Inc42: Indian startups are going strong. In fact, the $16 Bn Walmart-Flipkart deal went down as the largest deal in the world’s ecommerce history and the overview on the Indian Tech Startup funding was over $3 Bn in the first half of 2018, which shows the potential and future for tech startups in the country.
With advanced technologies increasingly becoming a part of mainstream life, things are looking up for Indian startups now and in the future. The Indian startup ecosystem is at the crossroads of an ongoing tech startup revolution and incubators such as SP-TBI are providing entrepreneurs much-needed support and nurturing to realise their own dreams while taking up the mantle of technology innovation in the country during the make or break initial stage of a startups journey.