Anil Budur Lulla
"Plan B is Plan Bengaluru," Karnataka’s IT, BT and Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge, stressing his government’s commitment to startup entrepreneurship and leading India’s IT success story from the front. He was speaking to the audience at Techsparks 2016, the annual tech summit by YourStory, which he inaugurated on Friday .
Kharge noted the accessibility to the government’s startup cell, which is not only interested in fostering startup entrepreneurship but also provides the necessary funds to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
Peppering his speech with humour as well as a pitch to continue Karnataka’s onward march to becoming a global IT destination, he said the State, which had come up with an IT policy way back in 1999-2000, had led to successive governments grooming a conducive ecosystem, earning the city sobriquets of 'IT city' and 'Silicon Valley of India'.
He also assured investors that the latest tag of 'bandh city’ that Bengaluru has earned was a temporary situation and that the city had the resilience and capacity to bounce back.
This year, the government itself has a consolidated fund of Rs 400 crore to encourage the setting up of startups, and Kharge expected to raise over Rs 2,000 crore in the next two years, which, if raised, would be the country’s largest multi-sectoral fund.
Understanding the sector’s needs, Kharge said there were 4,000 active tech startups in Bengaluru and that nearly $1 billion was raised by Bengaluru-based startups in the last two years. This had even trickled down to Tier II cities such as Mangaluru, Mysuru and Udupi, where companies were able to raise $25-30 million.
Reacting to founder and CEO of YourStory Shradha Sharma’s opening remarks that startup entrepreneurship stresses people out, Kharge agreed that turning into a startup entrepreneur after abandoning a career was indeed a struggle. "The challenges are tough but rewarding,’’ he added.
To relive such stress, Kharge, who is also the State’s Tourism Minister, has offered an on-the-spot special 'startup’ package for all startsups that register with the Karnataka Startup Cell at the tourism department-run Jungle Lodges and Resorts, which has premier properties across 16 locations in Karnataka.
He said he plans to 'energise' 20,000 startups, with around 6,000 of them being product ones.
On the government’s efforts to catch people young, he said the startup cell had already started nine incubation centres in Tier II cities that had even led to two patents. "Due to this success, we are now planning to extend such student incubation centres to 20 centres,’’ Kharge noted.
He pointed out that the State government was also running tech business incubators and had partnerships with global and homegrown companies on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
The Karnataka government was committed to funding good ideas upto Rs 50 lakh each through the Idea2POC fund. As an example, Kharge told a delighted audience that in ten days flat, the startup cell, which had announced a Tourism Hackathon where any company working in the tourism sector could pitch ideas to the government, had successfully funded eight companies to the tune of Rs 1.80 crore. "This is how fast we work,’’ he said to applause.
"With this success, the Tourism Department, which was initially skeptical about working with startups has now set aside another Rs 2.5 crore, as we now know that good ideas come out of it,’’ Kharge added.
He reiterated that his government was very accessible, committed and ready to listen while being 'future-ready'. The focus in future would also be sectors, like urban development, health and others, where infusion of technology was needed in government. In a lighter vein, he even suggested to his officers present that they should set up a fund if anyone was interested in solving Bengaluru’s traffic problem!
Quoting Henry Ford, Kharge signed off asking startup entrepreneurs to take off against the wind, just like aeroplanes do.
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