V Manjula, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, firmly believes that society can change with the services that startups provide. In her current tenure as IT-BT Secretary to the government of Karnataka, she has worked with Industries Minister R V Deshpande to draft the the state’s recently announced startup policy. In a free-ranging discussion with YourStory, Manjula stated that startups need an ecosystem of mentors and incubators to make them commercially viable. The officer also believes that only a policy that is measured can be deemed successful.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
YS: Karnataka has always been a pioneer with startups; should the government create a policy again?
Yes, we are pioneers. But we cannot take credit (for that now), because today the challenges are different from 1998. There are more than 2,000 startups in Bangalore alone, and many are opening every day. The new policy looks at new challenges in healthcare, biotechnology, social impact and financial inclusion. Of course, technological innovation has been the main play of startups in the state. But this time there will be a lot more thrust on multiple sectors.
YS: Do you think our education system is catching up with the pace of entrepreneurship?
Our education system should support entrepreneurship. We in Karnataka have already supported nine colleges in the state. This programme will be introduced in several district-level colleges, which will become feeders to entrepreneurship in their vicinity. Our education system is a prominent job creator; no wonder a lot of talent from here flows in to large IT companies.
YS: What does the policy aim to achieve?
The policy proposes a new concept where institutions can be incubators as part of the New Age Incubation Network. This will include partnerships with R&D institutions and other institutions of higher learning. The objective is to get ideas to be commercialised for social impact.
YS: How will this policy be implemented?
A startup council shall be set up under the Chief Minister and other ministers. There will be 10 other senior industry members who will participate as experts. We will focus on domains like animation, agri-biotechnology, healthcare and manufacturing. The council will meet once a year and look at the policy’s impact.
YS: This policy has a lot of great things for startups, what is your favourite part of the policy?
The new age incubation network is what I am really looking forward to building. It is a network that will be focused on the whole of Karnataka. It is from the smaller towns that we will get entrepreneurs in the future. If this is going to be successful, then Karnataka will be ahead (of other states) in promoting entrepreneurship.