Despite Kolkata being one of the first few metro cities in India, the biggest challenge that West Bengal faces is the lack of good talent in other parts of the state, which has created an imbalance in the startup ecosystem.
This lack of talent was put into perspective by Abhishek Rungta, chairman of TiE Kolkata, who said that years of government discouragement for new businesses has tainted the state’s attitude towards entrepreneurship. This negative perception towards entrepreneurs has led to young people drifting away from the state in search of better opportunities, and as a result innovation outside of Kolkata is limited.
Rungta noted that most of the talent in top startup hubs such as Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru — many of these people are from different parts of West Bengal, including Kolkata. The investors and ecosystem enablers that Inc42 spoke to noted that the state ecosystem has to work on inspiring more youth and young talent to take the startup plunge.
And while these enablers wait for the government to back this innovation in the form of grants and funding, they are also doing their bit to keep startups alive and kicking in West Bengal.
Here are some of the prominent players that are working on enabling this mindset shift in the eastern state.
Investors And Mentors
A nonprofit body catering to entrepreneurs in all industries, TiE has a presence in many cities in India. Starting from the incubation stage and guiding startups through their entire entrepreneurial life cycle, in the last 14 years, TiE Kolkata has been helping founders bring useful products and services into the market. It is also doing its bit to strengthen the Kolkata ecosystem by organising various events throughout the year.
These events cover various aspects of entrepreneurship, including geographical expansion, business and organisation management and multiple opportunities to showcase and network. Some of the prominent events organised by TiE Kolkata are TiECon, TiE Institute Deal Flow Meetings, TiE Young Entrepreneurs, and, most recently, TiE Women’s Forum and CEO Forum.
West Bengal’s first investor network Calcutta Angel Network merged with Mumbai Angels in January 2018, to work as a single team. Started in 2013, the angel investment network had a membership strength of 75 at the time of merger and had invested in 21 Indian startups till that time. Some of their investments include legaltech concierge startup MyAdvo and healthtech startup LetsMD.
Together with Mumbai Angels, the Calcutta Angel Investor Network boasts a portfolio of over 130 startups including Exotel, Newsbytes, Myntra, Explara, Ketto and more.
Indian Angel Network has also been an active investor in the West Bengal ecosystem. Started in 2006, IAN is a is a network of angel investors focused on early stage startups. The average ticket size of IAN investments are between $400K -$600K and go upto a maximum of $1 Mn.
The sectors under the focus of IAN include agriculture, gaming, ecommerce, education, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, information technology, internet, lifestyle, manufacturing, retail, semiconductor, services and social impact. Some of the notable investments made by IAN include West Bengal’s Wow! Momo, Box8, Faballey, Druva and more.
Incubators And Coworking Spaces
The NASSCOM Startup Warehouse or 1,000 Startups Incubate programme is a plug-and-play coworking space for tech startups. Every such NASSCOM facility is backed by state government, in this case West Bengal. The idea behind the NASSCOM Startup Warehouse is to create a micro-ecosystem where entrepreneurs can work together and share their learnings and best practices with each other.
Startups incubated at NASSCOM get access to a wide network of investors, mentors, industry experts and enterprises which can prove to be beneficial for the growth of these startups. Further, the 1,000 Startups Incubate programme is also backed by the government’s steering committee members who come from diverse experience in the startup ecosystem.
IIMC Innovation Park (IIMCIP)
IIM Calcutta Innovation is a not-for-profit company established by the Indian Institute Of Management Calcutta. The Innovation Park provides both physical and virtual incubation to startups. Some of the facilities provided by IIMC Innovation Park to its incubatees include a mentor pool cof IIMC Alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs, and investors. It helps startups to connect with various funding sources including funding schemes floated by IIMCIP (in association with investors), funding partners, government seed / venture fund, and collateral free bank loan.
IIMC Innovation Park also provides plug-and-play workspaces for incubatees and other support services such as legal, secretarial, IT infrastructure services, HR & payroll, travel, logistics and more . Some of the incubatees at the Innovation Park are Doctors For You, SwitchON-ONergy, Edwell Solutions and Utopia among others.
Venture Catalysts is an integrated incubation space which offers startups access to funding, mentorship and a network of CXOs, successful founders, unicorns, and deep tech product experts. The average Venture Catalysts investment ranges between $500K and $1Mn. Some of the portfolio startups of Venture Catalysts are Shaadi Saga, PeeSafe, Chai Break and Confirmtkt among others.