11 cities and a thriving Indian startup ecosystem: 37 key takeaways for startups


With all the talk on the growing and burgeoning startup ecosystem, we at YourStory decided to showcase that innovation is not the sole preserve of big cities. The 11 city meetups as a part of TechSparks 2015 was just a way to prove that.

More than 2150 entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts attended the pre-TechSparks 2015 round across Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Kolkata, Pune, Goa, Indore, Hubli, Kochi, Jaipur, and Coimbatore. It wasn't just the numbers that were mind-boggling, the learnings and takeaways from each destination reiterated the fact that the Indian startup ecosystem is a robust one and is not limited to cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi-NCR alone.

Deciphering the startup ecosystem in God's own country

With the growing awareness and initiatives of the government of Kerala encouraging startups, we decided to bring TechSparks to Kochi. From intellectual conversations to various insightful takeaways, there seemed to be a sense of comradeship fuelling the different discussions at the Kochi TechSparks MeetUp 2015.

From a blind Android developer to a marketplace builder of local services and repairs, entrepreneurs kept the jury thinking and asking for more with their pitches. However, it was Gopinathan Subramanian's Cinnovator, a car infotainment platform, that won.

While the startups in Kochi seem to be enthusiastic and fast-growing, as Mukund Krishna, Founder of Suyati Technologies, said, it's important that the startups work in synergy and collaboration with one another. He said that instead of sending two teams to Silicon Valley, the government should send 50 startups to Bengaluru to receive more exposure.

The key learnings for Kochi startups according to the meetup was as follows:

  • Travel to see what’s happening in the world outside of your ecosystem
  • Fail and learn fast
  • Start with a co-founder and join a startup to learn more, before starting up

One half of Karnataka's twin cities join the startup bandwagon

It wasn't Mysore, but Hubli of twin city Hubli-Dharwad fame that YourStory decided to go to for the first time. Hubli is known as one of the largest cotton markets in Asia, and is home to some well known educational institutions of the state. That's not all, Hubli is also believed to be an industrial base. So we decided to mark Hubli as one of the 11 in our TechSparks MeetUp.

The ballroom at the Taj Gateway Hotel was abuzz with infectious energy.

Panelists at the TechSparks meetup in Hubli

Intriguing pitches about startup ideas arising from a broken Mercedes in the wild Western Ghats to an artificial eye lens that can auto-adjust your vision enthralled the audience.

The panel discussion moderated by YourStory Champion Anand G.Naik primarily revolved around starting up in uncharted territories. The key takeaways were:

  • Train your managers to retain employees
  • More collaboration in Tier II and III cities
  • Startups in this region need to survive on their own and fend for themselves

“If you don’t fix a problem, you are over, and you cannot fix a problem until you know the root cause,” said Vivek Pawar, Executive CEO, Sankalp Semiconductor Private Limited.

A startup hub mushrooming in the heart of India

Over 98 stories have been covered by YourStory till date that were directly or indirectly related to Indore. No, we aren't bragging, we were informed of this by Rackbank Data Centers Director Narendra Sen in his keynote address to an enthusiastic crowd of entrepreneurs and youngsters working in startups in Indore.

The third highest in terms of attendees after Ahemadabad and Pune, startups from Indore, in a panel discussion, truly lived up to the ‘Tech for a billion’ theme of TechSparks 2015.

The meetup stated that in a technologically connected world, physical locations don’t make or break startups, ideas do. Team Shopkirana – an aggregator of Kirana (grocery) stores – won the pitch competition from Indore.

Co-founder Tanutejas Saraswat said after winning, “I am thrilled and thankful for YS team not just for the competition but for also thinking of a concept like this. I loved interacting and answering questions that has further added to my confidence. I look forward to the Bengaluru event.”

The six startups that were selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and investors included: Fullonshaadi.com, Kabadiwala.com, Zootout, Janta Choupal social network, Shopkirana, and Paathshala.

During a panel discussion that comprised Narendra Sen, MSG 91 CEO Pushpendra Agrawal, and Twist Mobile Founder Virat Khutal, the Indore startups focused on the positive points from Indore.

A Nagpur-based entrepreneur Akshay Bawse shared that he had joined hands with Indore-based Janta Choupal after he read their story on YourStory, because he had a similar idea.

The key takeaways as pointed out by Twist Mobile Founder Virat Khutal were-

  • Startups here don’t share ideas out of fear of the idea getting stolen.
  • However, they must realise that everyone can do business in the same space.

When asked about the challenges faced by Indore startups, Vatsana Technologies Founder Vinay Singhal commented, “Let’s not ask what the challenges are. Let’s count the blessings that Indore has in terms of the low cost of infrastructure.”

Register for TechSparks 2 for 1 Ticket sale

We will be running a very limited number of TechSparks 2 for 1 tickets on sale. Tickets are currently priced at Rs 7950. This sale will allow you to buy 2 tickets for the price of 1. Tickets are limited to the first 150 people to redeem only and we'll run this offer just this one last time. Register now to be the first one to be notified about this.

Sun, Sand and Startups

For years now Goa has been a tourist hub, but after recently covering a story on the booming startup ecosystem, we decided to take our TechSparks meetup to this former Portuguese colony.

Goa welcomed TechSparks with open arms as more than 50 entrepreneurs, financial consultants, and industry influencers congregated at the GCCI (Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry) located opposite the historic Azad Maidan at Panjim.

The conversations flowed from building tech for a billion, what investors want, how much funding to raise, challenges to the Goan entrepreneurship force, workforce challenges and talent stereotyping, and tourism too.

Prajyot Mainkar, the Director of Androcid, and Chairman of Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Young Entrepreneur Forum (YEF), moderated the panel consisting of entrepreneurs, angel investors, and educationists.

As per Luke Sequeira, Founder, DCCPER.com, “You don’t need to run after funding. Goan tech entrepreneurs are lucky that they are in an environment where your cost of living is low, leverage that, spend more time bootstrapped and drive up that evaluation!”

The panel discussion was followed by pitches from Sneha Kamat, Find my Donor, an app focusing on the problem of locating donors in critical situations, and Greg Acuna of Planet Earthlings, who is building a virtual world that drives value education in children in a fun-packed way.

Some of the key take aways:

  • It is important to create an ecosystem in Goa that encourages talent from across the globe to come and start up in Goa.
  • All the panelists echoed what Puranjaya Singh, an Angel investor, said - “We need a culture of inclusion that attracts the very best!”
  • Goa needs to leverage its brand recall as a beach and booze junction to catapult itself into the world of innovations and entrepreneurship.

Startups at the industrial hub

It's not there yet, or is it? Conviction is a necessary condition to build a company (though not sufficient one). It can definitely push a startup by leaps and bounds. When the shortlisted startups from Kanpur and Lucknow pitched at TechSparks 2015 Kanpur meetup organised at IIT Kanpur, one could not ignore their conviction and belief in the ideas.

Ajay Chaturvedi, an ex-investment banker-turned social entrepreneur-turned author, shared interesting tales of his journey from the pre-dot com bubble era to giving up on almost everything and return to his native place to harness value and impact.

Soum Paul, an IIT Kanpur alumnus and our speaker, wears multiple hats. Currently, heading special projects at Knowlarity, Soum is a filmmaker and a writer as well. While speaking on challenges faced by startups and how to scale up, he shared how the name Knowlarity was decided over a chat.

The pitching startups included Aquital, apart from Skool, Citydealz, SIGO, Suvidha, and Sworlite. While there was an unmatched enthusiasm for pitching by the startups, the presentations left the judges unimpressed. The team behind Suvidha, public urinal units with power generation and advertisement space, was adjudged the winner among the pitching companies.

It might be a while before Lucknow or Kanpur finds a spot in the top startup hubs of India, but there are efforts to build an ecosystem which can make it happen sooner.

Two of the strongest pillars of the Lucknow startup ecosystem, Vineet Kapoor and Jatin Srivastava were vocal about the reasons responsible for poor show of startups in this area. They pointed out a set of existing issues:

  • Lack of collaboration and co-working
  • Lack of proximity to the concerned industries and industry professionals
  • Lack of investment in innovations
  • Lack of support ecosystem

As everyone left the auditorium, a thought shared by Ajay lingered, "It's not easy to work hard and not expect the result. But when you're focusing on solving a problem, it's definitely what shows you the path."

A fledgling startup hub in India's cultural hub

Korbo, lorbo, jeetbo - that’s what Kolkata startups and entrepreneurs echoed equivocally in the TechSparks 2015 meetup held in Taxmantra’s office in the City of Joy. The meetup started with a keynote session delivered by Taxmantra’s Founder Alok Patnia and later expanded to a panel discussion with Alok, Abhishek Rungta, and Alkesh Agarwal.

So far Kolkata hasn’t made an improvement as far as technology startups are concerned, however, it appears things are changing gradually. The meetup had over 60 attendees and five technology startups presented their demos, including Fashionove, Propertyhubs, TradeDesk, DesiCourier, and EsyTest, followed by an animated quick display of art by Pikscape.

According to the panelist and entrepreneurs present at the event:

  • Access to talent and manpower are the biggest roadblocks for startups in the city.
  • Unlike in other hubs, startups in Kolkata stress on profitability as they have less access to capital. Panelists concurred this to be a unique differentiator of the city-based entrepreneurs.

A growing innovation base in Pink City

Over 75 attendees gathered in the ThinkSpace co-working hub of Jaipur for the Rajasthan edition of Techparks. Startup buzz is picking up in the state – earlier in the morning of Oct 9, the first-ever Startup Rajasthan Festival was launched with two days of expo, conference, and workshops. The government announced a Startup Policy, becoming the fourth state in India to have such a policy (after Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat).

The evening TechSparks meetup featured three speakers, four panelists, and six pitches. Pitching startups were: Seva Services, Gurupdate, AlphaFront, FaidaOnline, LinkYou, and WoodenStreet, from which the jury winner was AlphaFront (online financial planning tool).

A wide-ranging discussion covered market research techniques, customer acquisition strategies and idea management processes. Investors and academics also contributed valuable insights.

According to the local entrepreneur community, the strengths of Jaipur as a startup hub are:

  • Its engineering and artistic talent, low cost of living, less traffic/pollution
  • A sufficiently large base of early adopters. Its most famous startup is CarDekho, and the company is now rolling out a car services spinoff called Car Buddy. “We have acquired other companies to stay ahead. We take customer feedback VERY seriously,” explained Dhruv Saxena.
  • “There are huge opportunities if Indian startups go beyond the low-hanging fruit and over-crowded categories,” advised Mahavir Pratap Sharma, Director and Co-founder of Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN).
  • Success factors for entrepreneurs are tenacity, traction, and team, he said.
  • “Money, energy, and talent are not evenly distributed, only time is – manage it well,” advised Prof. GS Dangayach, MNIT, in his concluding remarks.

Startup activity in the 'Manchester of India'

Arguably one of the most enterprising cities in India, Coimbatore's startup community demonstrated what that ‘extra’ is needed to become an innovation and talent hub. A meet-up held at PSG Tech - Science & Technology Entrepreneur Park, saw over 100 attendees who came together to have an entrepreneurs' party.

As Dhruv Kumar, Founder of Icliniq, said, "Entrepreneurship is celebrated in Coimbatore." What was heartwarming was 50 per cent of the attendees were students, and 100 per cent raised their hands when asked how many of them wished to work with startups.

The most popular startup turned out to be RainbowAgri, which is creating an Internet for farmers - giving them tools to increase their productivity and income. Asked what he would advise to the many aspiring entrepreneurs, RainbowAgri's Co-founder said, "Pick one big thing and then make it your life."

Key take aways from the Coimbatore Meetup:

  • While Coimbatore may not have the advantages of Bengaluru, Delhi, or Mumbai, it nevertheless is able to inspire many because of its stress on quality. As Anil of Mypromovideos shares: "When you are doing quality work place doesn't matter, that's how we build startups in Coimbatore."
  • Entrepreneurs are admired and respected in this city.
  • Selva Kumar of RainbowAgri team felt the next wave of business would be agri-inspired

The growing startup collaborations along Sabarmati River

In Ahmedabad, IIM-A’s CIIE played host with the auditorium filled to the brim. With over 175 registrations and over 55 companies wanting to pitch, the event was a great success.

CIIE has a new campaign lined up which will incubate more than 30 technology companies and the momentum is building up. At the meetup in Ahmedabad, Gridle.io (enterprise tech) and PlexusMD (healthcare) were declared winners and they move a step closer to becoming a TechSpark. Gridle is a cloud-based visual collaboration tool while PlexusMD is a platform for doctors in India.

Other companies presenting at the event included El Vittoro, a fashion label venturing into affordable luxury footwear, SocialPilot started out as a competitor to the likes of Buffer and WittyBee, which is also in the enterprise space and is trying to make collaboration hassle free.

During the discussions, three strong features came out in favour of Ahmedabad which can make it a good place to startup:

  • Talent: In Ahmedabad, talent can be discovered. For technology, there are a bunch of colleges under Gujarat Technological University, Nirma Univeristy, and Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Technology. For design, Ahmedabad has NID and NIFT. And for management, IIM-A of course leads the way. “We’ve managed to get people from IIM working with us during their summer projects and it has majorly been possible since we’re in Ahmedabad,” said Rohan Desai, the Founder of PlexusMD.
  • Cost Effective: Ahmedabad can give great value for money. With office spaces in premier locations in the range of Rs 15,000, and Internet connectivity, the city offers great options.
  • Community and initiatives: There is a healthy support system that is evolving in the state as well. The likes of eChai and HeadStart have been conducting regular events and meetups for the entrepreneurial community and a lot of idea exchange seems to be happening.

CIIE has been a key propagator with a bunch of initiatives and all major colleges have their own incubators via which they are promoting entrepreneurship. Naresh Jadeja, the Deputy Director of GTU shared the new startup policy that has been drafted for students and it’ll enable more students to get into entrepreneurship at an early stage with support.

A constant flurry of questions kept the energy up and the event was a sure shot pointer to the fact that the startup ecosystem in Ahmedabad is ready to move on to the next level where it starts producing top notch technology companies.

The Oxford of the East opens her arms to startups

With close to 170 registrations, the Techsparks Pune Meetup saw the highest turnout of entrepreneurs. Abinash Tripathy, Founder of CRM startup, HelpShift, set the tone by saying that their CRM software reaches almost three billion devices across the globe, proving that a Pune-grown company could build tech for a billion.

The panelists spoke about the challenges in the Indian startup ecosystem and the mistakes that entrepreneurs must not make. After this, five companies -- a mix of real estate, food tech, carpooling and other interesting new ideas --pitched to the crowd. The highlight was the fireside chat with Advitiya Sharma, Co-founder Housing, who spoke candidly about the company and the mistakes they made in the last six to nine months.

Key learnings from Pune:

  • Pune has an eclectic mix of both B2B and B2C startups started by almost all age groups
  • While the startup community in Pune is very cohesive and vibrant, their events and meet ups are lost among their community and doesn't reach the eye of the general public
  • There also seems to be limited attention and focus by investors in the region

Startups mushrooming in the planned city of Chandigarh

Over the past few years, Chandigarh is fast catching up to be one of the startup hubs of the country. This year when we took Techsparks to Chandigarh we were overwhelmed by the sheer passion and positivity seen in the city.

"Techsparks 2014 motivated and inspired me to quit my job and become an entrepreneur, so here I am presenting in Techsparks 2015’’ said Manish Kumar from Viytimobi Systems.

The key takeaways from the meetup were :

1. Don't build products for evaluation, look at building them for value

2. There needs to be a strong collaboration with other more established ecosystems

3. Need for investor attention

Key takeaways from TechSparks Meetups 2015

The one big takeaway for us after having covered 11 cities in a day is that the Indian startup ecosystem is much more diverse than we believe it to be. While the bigger metros like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi-NCR are close to reaching the brim, Tier II and Tier III cities are fast picking up as startup hubs.

With the increasing penetration of Internet and smartphones in these regions, the game is fast changing. According to IAMAI, close to 210 million people will use the Internet in Tier II and Tier III cities by 2018.

The Tier II and Tier III cities also show great potential with a market size that's over 742 million. According to PWC, the number of rural Internet users is growing at 58 per cent annually.

However, the ecosystems of these regions can further grow with

  • Better collaboration with bigger cities
  • Better support and infrastructure
  • More investor attention

Register for TechSparks 2 for 1 Ticket sale

We will be running a very limited number of TechSparks 2 for 1 tickets on sale. Tickets are currently priced at Rs 7950. This sale will allow you to buy 2 tickets for the price of 1. Tickets are limited to the first 150 people to redeem only and we'll run this offer just this one last time. Register now to be the first one to be notified about this.



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