\u201cBut darling\u2026 in the end, you have to be your own hero because everyone is busy trying to save themselves.\u201d \u2014 Anonymous.\r\n\r\nYes, we all have to be our own heroes, some more than others. Entrepreneurs, who take considerable risks to turn their ideas into reality and take along others in their journey, need to be their own heroes more than most others.\r\n\r\nBut everyone deserves a leg up, especially when they\u2019re working on some lofty idea that they \u00a0believe will change the world. In the startup ecosystem, enablers \u2014 mentors, incubators, accelerators, venture capitalists (VC) and angel investors, etc \u2014 play the role of these saviours.\r\n\r\n\u201cI personally believe that this...(entrepreneur-enabler) relationship is very synergist,\u201d says Indian Angel Network cofounder Padmaja Ruparel.\r\n\r\nAnd she is right. A combined effect is greater than the sum of separate effects.\r\n\r\nRuparel was speaking at a panel at the startup summit, entitled \u2018The Community Builders\u2019 during Inc42\u2019s The Ecosystem Summit, held in New Delhi on November 16.\r\n\r\nThe startup event brought together well-known enablers from the Indian startup ecosystem \u2014 Abhishek Gupta, head, TLabs; Srinivas Kollipara, CEO, T-Hub; Padmaja Ruparel, cofounder, IAN; along with Rajat Tandon, IVCA president, as the moderator.\r\n\r\nThe panellists discussed their experiences in assisting Indian startups to achieve their goals, the changes they have observed in the ecosystem, their views on the role of a mentor, and, most importantly, explored the unique relationship between startups and the enablers of the ecosystem.\r\n\r\nAccording to Inc42\u2019s The State of The Indian Startup Ecosystem 2018 report, India currently has 39K operational technology-enabled startups. Helping these startups establish, expand, and scale their businesses, there are a large number of enablers \u2014 195 VC and private equity funds, 235 international funds, over 1,500 angel investors and platforms, 19 government action points, eight research parks, and various ecosystem bodies like NASSCOM, FICCI, Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TIE), ASSOCHAM, Competition Commission of India (CCI), etc.\r\nEnablers Must Know Their Strengths To Help Startups\r\n\u201cWhether it\u2019s capital or product building or user experience building or going to market, we need to understand where we are strong at and accordingly build that bridge for startups to help them scale their business,\u201d says Abhishek Gupta, head of TLabs, a Times Internet-backed accelerator.\r\n\r\nGupta founded TLabs in 2011 as a startup accelerator. But the organisation\u2019s model changed last year and it has now become more of a venture fund, focussed on consumer tech and consumer internet startups. So, how has been the experience for Gupta in helping startups? What changes does he notice in the startup ecosystem?\r\n\r\n\u201cIf I compare then to today, the startup ecosystem has risen manifold but the challenges are still the same, although (we\u2019ve) moved on as there are more mentors, product people, tech people, marketing...\u201d Gupta says.\r\n\r\nT-Hub CEO Kollipara feels that India\u2019s startup ecosystem has matured due to the adoption of technology. \u201cUnlike those days when founders who were either from an engineering background built stuff but didn\u2019t care about the customer or business guys who thought they had an idea but didn\u2019t have a tech team \u2014 that maturity has changed. Today, there are people addressing real issues, building teams that can handle every single component and are able to scale,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nKollipara moved out from Silicon Valley to Hyderabad and launched T-Hub in November 2015 in collaboration with the Telangana government. While in the Valley, he realised a huge gap, which determines whether a startup will fail or succeed. To bridge this gap, Kollipara started T-Hub, a not-for-profit organisation.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cI thought if I can do something to bridge this gap, that would be a noble cause. This is why T-Hub is a not-for-profit organisation,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nWell, Kollipara is not the only enabler who has started a venture with a noble thought. Ruparel founded IAN with the same idea of bridging this gap way back in 2006. IAN is now touted as the world\u2019s largest cohort of over 500 angel investors and has helped over 135 startups from different sectors.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut, the more you evolve, there are new hurdles and new challenges,\u201d says Ruparel. The existing challenge, she points out, is how early-stage startups face difficulties in raising funds after seed funding.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor most companies, after raising the first half-a-million, getting the next round becomes a challenge. After raising the seed fund, they have two to three team members and a few customers, but they need more funds to scale rapidly because half-a-million is not going to take them very far,\u201d says Ruparel.\r\n\r\nThis is one of the major areas where startups need hand-holding to scale their service, hire the right team, get market access, or leverage the entire supply chain. In 2017 alone, 17\u00a0 popular startups shut down operations, Inc42 earlier reported. Most of them were just two-year-old companies and the main reason for their shutdown was the dearth of the follow-on funding.\r\nSeeking A Mentor? Better Be Specific\r\nIt is this fear of having to shut down one\u2019s startup that keeps entrepreneurs on their toes and hungry to learn as much as they can \u2014 so they can keep the engine chugging. Along the way, they need help from mentors. While seeking a mentor, \u201chave a specific question,\u201d emphasises Kollipara.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou better know what you\u2019re asking for. You can\u2019t go to a mentor and say, \u2018I need help on everything.\u2019 Have a specific question as he is there for a reason,\u201d says Kollipara.\r\n\r\nThe panellists gave different versions and definitions of the word \u201cmentor\u201d, but all agreed to the point that every mentor should be able to help startups.\r\n\r\nGupta says, \u201cMentorship means to roll up the sleeves and actually start helping startups.\r\nFor mentors, it is very, very important to understand that you are a coach, not a captain. You can\u2019t be standing on the wicket and batting for them, says Ruparel.\r\n\r\n\r\nHowever, startups should be careful while seeking advice from mentors who don\u2019t really have their best interests at heart. \u201cSo founders have to use their head as well,\u201d points out Gupta.\r\nIndia Becoming A Cynosure Of The World In Breeding Startups\r\nIndia is among the three largest startup ecosystems in the world. Its size, reach, and impact have witnessed huge transformation due to the country\u2019s enormous purchasing power. The ecosystem has garnered increasing interest from a large number of global companies as well.\r\n\r\nWhen Kollipara started T-Hub, the whole point was to build density (a focussed geographic area for a business) in Hyderabad and to turn the city into one of the top cities for startups, in turn impacting the entire country and even the world. And T-Hub is right on track.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur step one was to build just density in Hyderabad. Now to do that, you have to work with every stakeholder,\u201d says Kollipara.\r\n\r\nFor Gupta, if startups have density in a particular place, they will get to success. \u201cBy density, I mean a very good quality of startup even in a very small area,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nThe experience was, however, slightly different for Ruparel. \u201cFor us to be geography-leveraged was a bit ultimate. We created a global investor group so we can actually leverage people across the globe and, in some ways, we succeeded,\u201d says Ruparel. She also points out that if companies have to scale and move ahead, it is important for them to break the geographic model.\r\n\r\nGupta and Kollipara, however, believe that startups need to succeed in their density first in order to expand countrywide or worldwide.\r\n\r\nThe panellists also shared stories of startups that have done well after raising series of follow-on fundings to expand beyond geographies. Speaking of which, 15 startups across sectors including ecommerce, hospitality, fintech, hyperlocal, among others received $442.13 Mn last week, according to Inc42\u2019s funding galore roundup\u00a0(03-08 Dec 2018).\r\n\u201cI think, India is becoming a bit of a cynosure for the world and we are breeding companies,\u201d says Ruparel.\r\nUndoubtedly. On one hand, India is becoming a hub for international companies to invest in technology-enabled Indian startups and on the other, it is also a lucrative market for companies given its big, smartphone and internet-enabled population.\r\n\r\nThey say you can\u2019t have the best of both the worlds. But India certainly does.