The last few months have been quite eventful for Pune’s growing startup ecosystem. IIM- Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) has launched its IT verticle in Pune.
Maneesh Bhandari, who heads CIIE in Pune, elaborates on his independent plans for CIIE, and also the innovation centre, in partnership with Intel and Department of Science and Technology (DST). The multicity launch will take place between May 20 and May 31 across cities like Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai. (For more info: http://innovatefordigitalindia.intel.in/)
The following are edited excerpts from the interview.
YS: What brought you guys to Pune?
MB: Pune has a very vibrant technology and education ecosystem. It has traditionally been a thriving city for entrepreneurship, especially in manufacturing, but in the past decade or so we are beginning to see a new wave of startups in the technology space. What I find really interesting about Pune startups is the focus on IP and product creation. And as for CIIE, several ICT (information and communications technology) and cleantech startups that we have supported in the past have emerged out of Pune, example Programmr, Rolocule, Framebench and Altizon for instance. So when we at CIIE decided to expand our footprint beyond Ahmedabad, Pune was the natural choice for us to set up our ICT operations.
YS: What are your plans for the next few months?
MB: CIIE is partnering with Intel for its upcoming Innovate for Digital India Challenge. The key concept of the event is to facilitate and promote innovation that leverages the power of technology to empower India digitally. Partnering with central government entities MyGov, DST and DeitY, the acceleration program will span 12 weeks with a 3-5 day workshop in Bengaluru, followed by a 11-12 week stay in Pune, where participants will be working on the design and development of their product or platform ideas.
YS: What else can we expect from CIIE?
MB: Another thing we are rolling out is the GrowthCamps programme that is being organized by the Pune centre, and will be our way of engaging with promising startups and with corporates based in the Pune-Mumbai region. The idea is to do away with the unfocused nature of the usual startup-corporate mixer programme, and have a focused two-day, vertical-centric session lead by an anchor corporate.
YS: What verticals will you be looking at for these mixers? And do you have any anchor corporates signed up already?
MB: We’ll be looking at big data, cloud, internet of things and fintech and payments. Each anchor corporate, like VMWare for cloud, KPIT for IoT, and SunGuard for fintech, has demonstrated an inclination to work closely with the startups we bring in. On the startup side, we'll be vetting across hundreds of applicants to put forward 7-8 handpicked startups for each vertical, aligning closely with the current anchor corporates. (For more info: http://growthcamps.ciieindia.org/)
YS: What is the funding pool now? And how much do you plan on investing this year?
MB: For Intel, we are planning a combination of grants and investments of INR 1.5 crore. It will comprise a combination of prototyping grants of Rs 2 lakh each, given to 20, product development grants of Rs5 lakh each given to 10, and seed funding for three startups for up to Rs20 lakhs each.
YS: What kinds of Startups are you planning to incubate/invest in? And how many this year?
MB: CIIE will primarily be looking at tech startups across four domains, cloud computing, big data, internet of things and fintech.
For the Intel programme, we would be looking at startups that can have a citizen empowerment or e-governance services applications too. These could be hardware, but also software or platform ideas which tie in well with this criterion are welcome.
YS: Are there any startups in the pipeline?
MB: We're actively scouting for startups - both for the Intel programme and the GrowthCamps; and as potential investments, too. Recently, a CIIE team completed a six-city tour, for which over 300 startups applied, and 114 pitched to us. Some of these are being shortlisted for GrowthCamps, while we are keeping a close watch on a few others too.
YS: Pune needs to see more startup activity, how do you plan on nurturing this ecosystem?
MB: Depending on what stage they are in, startups need a lot of hand-holding and support from the ecosystem. We look to support entrepreneurs in many ways, including incubation, investment, corporate connects.