Building hubs for entrepreneurship is very important for sartups to thrive primarily for one reason: The Support System. Any startup which is in a network of other startups, startup friendly people, has a chance of surviving longer because as they say, ‘Death is the default destination for any startup.’ And these hubs take shape in certain regions where the circumstances are supportive or also from a college or university.
Talking about India, some of the IITs (particularly IIT Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur), BITS (Pilani, Goa) and the IIMs (predominantly engineering and management schools) have been hotbeds for entrepreneurship in the recent past and we’re seeing an increasing number of startups coming from these colleges. NITs (National Institute of Technology) are the next in line and having graduated from NIT Surat a few years ago, I decided to take a look back and see if there are any encouraging signs here.
The eCell NIT Surat is pretty much non-existent but it has student run laboratory called Drishti which predominantly focuses on robotics and was started back in 2002. Ashish S was one the founding members of Drishti and now is also the co-founder of mPi which recently started its Socio Apps campaign. To invigorate the spirit, Ashish is going back to the college with Drishti 2.0. “My recent visit to Drishti was entirely focused on developing the entrepreneurial spirit among students. We are trying to connect alumni and then support student to try their innovative idea/s for at least 1 year,” says Ashish.
In the recent batches, two promising startups have emerged- Silicon Ray founded by Rujal Angadia which is into cleantech (lighting solutions) and the other one being Robosis into robotics which is founded by Rikil Shah. Rikil was an active member of Drishti during his college days and along with Ashish, the plan is to sow the seeds of entrepreneurship in the college. “We’re trying to make Drishti as a Link between market (industry) needs to practical innovative solutions,” says Ashish.
Traditionally, the college has been very unsupportive towards students who’ve tried to venture out on their own but the alumni network can play a role in shuffling up things a bit. Mukund BS is an alumnus of the college who after his corporate stint and an MBA turned to entrepreneurship to create a deeper impact. He runs a company called RenewIT which is making computers affordable for the masses. Cleanfanatic is another venture founded by Nishant Prasad which is into cleaning services.
“The college should have an independent Incubation cell run by Alumni,” says Rujal Angadia of Silicon Ray. The mindset of the faculty has been very discouraging and bringing about a change has been very difficult but the formation of a strong network is what these entrepreneurs are gunning for. We see an inclination towards services and social impact startups from the college but there are a couple of technology startups that have also emerged.
Affine Analytics has Abhishek Anand as a co-founder while Sidekick is mobile startup founded by Raghuram Belur. Most of these entrepreneurs are willing to work with the students from the college who’re looking to startup and are ready to give projects which can help make the students ‘startup-ready’. Each NIT is allocated with enough funds to have a blossoming entrepreneurship cell and with some push from the alumni network along with some of the enterprising students, the college can become a good pool of startup talent.