3 Strategies to Enable the Startup Ecosystem in India

Strategies that can help develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps address real and pressing problems faced by our country today.

Today, most of the cities in India are on a mission to transform themselves into smart cities. The Modi Government had announced the vision to set up 100 smart cities across the country soon after his government was sworn into power in 2014. The vision has led to a race among cities in India to secure a place in the list of smart cities compiled by the ministry of urban development. Smart cities are expected to drive economic growth and improve standard of living of citizens by empowering local development and harnessing technology as a means to generate smart outcomes for people. The development of smart cities in India is likely to increase efficiency, cut down expenses, and advance quality of life. It links human and business capital with digital technology and creates an ecosystem where people, business and government are unified and contribute towards a shared vision to craft a more productive, thriving, habitable and sustainable city. Alongside the government’s smart city mission, a start-up revolution is taking place in India. The once conservative Indian population is now seeing a significant rise of entrepreneurs who are coming up with solutions for all kinds of issues faced by urban consumers. While one of the advantageous outcomes are provisions of greater opportunities for employment in the country, they also contribute considerably towards accelerating the smart city initiative. The challenge however, is in channelizing entrepreneurial efforts towards opportunities in Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and beyond creating the ecosystem that supports this. There are several ways in which this can be achieved in India: Promoting entrepreneurship in tier 2 & Tier 3 cities One of the key outcomes of the smart city initiative is ensuring development in India beyond the metro cities. Currently, 31 percent of the country's population is living in urban areas who contribute 60 percent of India’s GDP.

Promoting entrepreneurship in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities will play an important role in creating job opportunities beyond the metros and helping the population self-sustain in the long run.
Supporting this by creating ecosystems that can offer business incubation support along with financial and mentorship support can give confidence to entrepreneurs in an otherwise risk-averse areas. Thus building smart cities in tier 2 and 3 cities should involve  developing well-functioning start-up ecosystems including access to quality business incubator and prototyping facilities, fast internet connectivity, quality logistics support, opportunities for interaction with successful local and national level entrepreneurs etc to allow local entrepreneurship to flourish. Enabling start-ups that solve larger social problems India has problems of its own, with its unique socio-economic settings which require different degrees of sensitivities than offered in the West. In light of this, it is important to identify and promote start-ups that find effective solutions to address the unique problems plaguing the country. For instance, start-ups providing: solutions to enable easier and cost effective access to healthcare in areas where none is available new solutions for smarter energy consumption, reduction and reuse of water, solutions for women’s safety etc. These solutions address very relevant problems and hence opportunities in the Indian context, help improve the standard of living and if executed well can become highly commercially viable and profitable ventures.
The good news is that various state Governments have already taken measures to help young entrepreneurs to set up micro, small and medium enterprises in their respective states.
These governments should continue to come up with dynamic start-up and open data policies for these budding start-ups. Identifying problem areas and seeking solutions As a country, we need to mobilise youth and entrepreneurs involved in finding solutions to India’s problems and help them build viable and profitable businesses. This will encourage them to think beyond western models and innovate across verticals such as healthcare, clean-tech, education, financial institutions etc. by developing innovative business models and technology enabled scalable low-cost solutions. This can be done in many ways for example by exploring and identifying large enough issues/opportunities in the specific verticals, bringing together teams with interdisciplinary and relevant talent, mapping the existing constraints (prototyping/manufacturing capability, price sensitivity, regulatory scenario etc.) for product/solution development in the target market geographies and then developing prototypes and eventually solutions designed around these constraints.
Focused efforts like these within engineering/business schools, incubators, accelerators etc. should result in more successful solutions targeting India specific problems.
Setting up of conferences and entrepreneur meets that highlight both the social and commercial potential of such entrepreneurial ventures, encouraging mass media channels to highlight these problems and the entrepreneurial efforts to tackle them are good ways to promote entrepreneurship in these sectors. Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of a thriving economy. As we strive to make our cities smarter, let us develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps address real and pressing problems faced by our country today. Shyam is the Cofounder and Investment Director, Infuse Ventures


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