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From Traditional To Tech Innovation: The Startup Enablers Boosting Gujarat’s Digital Ecosystem

From Traditional To Tech Innovation: The Startup Enablers Boosting Gujarat’s Digital Ecosystem

Gujarat has more than 33 incubation centres with over 200 startups with them at a given point in time

Cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot have risen as major hubs in the state

Here are the top names from the enablers community in the state, who are helping it in the journey of being a startup hub

“Gujarat has a high entrepreneurial spirit and is a large consumption centre, couple that with extensive incubator support, highly supportive govt policies and low-cost tech manpower and one understands the performance and the potential of the state.” Sanjay Randhar, managing director, Gujarat Venture Finance Limited (GVFL)

In our conversations with the startup enabling bodies in Gujarat, we were able to draw various insights on what the state lacks and how these incubators, accelerators and startup networking bodies are working to bridge these gaps.

The contribution of these enablers is often overlooked when one gauges a state’s startup ecosystem. Inc42 got various insights during its BIGShift tour across India and one of its host cities was Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s leading startup city. This helped us get a better idea of what’s working and what’s not and organisations such as GVFL are coming up as crucial supporters for the startup ecosystem in the state.

“Gujarat’s ecosystem for startups is quite mature. It started developing at least an entire year before the Startup India initiative,” explained Suneel Parekh, founder, Gujarat Angels, another organisation, which has not only boosted the overall funding in the state’s startups but is also the fount of many of Gujarat’s key startups’ mentors. But these are but two examples — Gujarat has several such enablers worth highlighting.

Incubators, Accelerators And Coworking Spaces

“We have more than 33 incubation centres with over 200 startups with them at a given point in time,” Randhar told Inc42.

Here are some of the more prominent ones that are making a big difference:

  • CIIE.CO: As a leading enabler body in the state, IIM-Ahmedabad’s CIIE.CO (Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship) is helping the state’s startups not only with incubation but also in terms of investments, acceleration programmes and more. It provides facilities such as physical infrastructure, training programmes, access to a network of collaborators and partners, workshops, coaching curated according to the startups’ goals and stages, non-dilutive, patient as well as venture capital for startups across prototype to scale-up stages, research and data-driven tools and more.
  • iCreate: A technology business incubator set up by the central government, the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate) is situated on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It is a joint venture between Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited (GMDC) and Gujarat Entrepreneurship and Venture Promotion Foundation (GEVPF). The incubator claims to be able to house over 100 incubated companies simultaneously. Besides helping early-stage startups develop the right products or services for the market, it also provides startups with access to funding, a network of mentors and opens up business opportunities when products are ready for the market.
  • CrAdLE: Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) is the state’s nodal agency for startups under the Startups and Innovation Scheme. Centre for Advancing & Launching Enterprises (CrAdLE) is EDII’s business incubator for early-stage ventures. Supported by the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board and the central government, it offers workshops, courses, and mentorship programmes for the startups. In addition to that, it also offers physical infrastructure, management support, tech support, access to funding, and networking.
  • Venture Studios: Ahmedabad University in active collaboration with Stanford University — Centre for Design Research, established VentureStudio in 2011. Since its inception, it has helped incubate over 45 startups across various sectors such as health, education, agriculture and more. It also offers multiple fellowship programmes to aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • DevX: One of the most prominent names in the coworking community in the state, DevX has an accelerator programme in place to boost independent innovation in the state. Under this programme, it offers technical mentorship, legal advice, funding support and more.
  • The Address: Like DevX, The Address is one of the most prominent names in the coworking space community in Gujarat. Not only does it provide spacious workspaces for startups but it also helps them by providing them services such as legal consultancy, asset management, strategic planning and more.

Investor Community From The State

  • GVFL: One of the first venture capital firms in the country, headquartered in Gujarat, the Gujarat Venture Finance Limited has had a major contribution to the development of startups in the state. Over the past two decades, it claims to have raised eight venture funds and supported over 91 companies through these funds.
  • GAIN: Gujarat Angel Investor Network (GAIN) focusses on startups and early-stage companies in Tier 2, 3 and rural counterparts of India. Apart from providing investments, it also helps startups with mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and networking with other budding entrepreneurs and enablers from the startup community.
  • Claris Capital: Backed by a 20-year-old corporate group, Claris Capital aims to incubate and help new-age businesses with investments, leveraging its own experience and industry exposure. Its portfolio includes many early-age startups from the state such as fintech startup, ZebPay, and a specialised job portal, IIMJobs.

HNIs, Angel Investors And Mentors

As a state that has a long tradition of producing entrepreneurs, there’s no shortage of founders and those with the right business knowledge in Gujarat. The state’s many HNIs and angel investors are helping startups raise the capital they need to get started and grow.

  • Pavan Bakeri, managing director, Bakeri Group
  • Sunil Parekh, founder, Gujarat Angels
  • SB Dangayach, founder and trustee, Innovative Thought Forum
  • Pratul Shroff, founder and CEO, eInfochips
  • Piyush Shah, managing director, Hitachi Hi-Rel Power Electronics
  • Munir Thakor, founder and director, Silicon Computech P. Ltd

Government Turns Proactive Enabler For Startups

It is no surprise that Gujarat’s government has been the most proactive supporter of startups from the state. From hosting events such as the Vibrant Gujarat Startup And Technology Summit to launching official policies such as the IT and Electronics Policy and Student Startup and Innovation Policy (SSIP), it has been doing its bit to boost the entrepreneurial culture in the state.

In addition to these measures, it set up nodal agencies, incubators and entrepreneurship cells to scout startups and help them avail the benefits from the government.

“Government has done a lot for Gujarat startups, it has provided deserving startups from the state grants of up to 20 Lakhs. Where essentially 10 Lakhs would be for prototype development for hardware-based startups and other 10 for marketing,” pointed out Dheeraj Bhojwani, executive director, TiE Ahmedabad.

Swarup Pandya, senior associate, programmes, CIIE, pointed out that the government has been promoting student entrepreneurship in the state to great effect. “If a student has an idea that he wants to build on and it is a valid and implementable one, then through SSIP, he or she will get grants of up to 2 Lakhs to experiment and work on that idea and bring it to life,” he added.

Even though there is still a long way ahead for the state for its startup hub dream, there are various private institutions contributing their bit in the journey such as Global Shapers – Ahmedabad Hub, TiE Ahmedabad, Headstart and more. In addition to that are cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot which are the major regional hubs in the state. This is primarily because of better access to ecosystem players, better tech talent and research institutions, networking opportunities, funding and more.

Why Does Gujarat Lag Other States?

With the enablers and the govt being so proactive to help startups in the country, the question arises, where is the lag in Gujarat’s startup ecosystem? What is holding it back?

Our conversations with the enabling bodies made us aware of the fact that it is largely due to the fact that many entrepreneurs in the state aren’t able to break out of the comfort zone of the traditional manufacturing and conventional non-digital service businesses. This meant that entrepreneurs were forced to play catch up to other states that had already adopted tech and joined the digital revolution. While that is a major factor, there is more to the story, “We are catching up with the rest of the country in terms of tech and while there is a lot being done, I believe we need to provide the startups with bridge capital as well,” explained Pandya.

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