The move will give a push to young minds in the tier-II city which is a known educational hub. It will also help spread the startup culture to more areas and at the same time use technology innovatively to help address issues that have a larger impact.
Mangalore will soon be declared the country’s first startup district to give a push to the vibrant student community and turn them into startup entrepreneurs. As a first step, the Centre has decided to locate incubators at two reputed institutes in the region under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The incubators, under the Startup India programme flagged off last year, will be located at the National Institute of Technology, Surathkal, a premier engineering college in the coastal district and NMAM Institute of Technology, an engineering college under Nitte University.
The government wants to encourage startups to provide innovative solutions for challenges unique to India. This means they will be encouraged to do more than just develop apps. The students-turned-startup-entrepreneurs will get an opportunity to come up with innovative solutions in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure as these sectors will have a pan-India resonance.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has indicated that in the next few weeks, Mangalore will be officially declared India’s first startup district enabling students to take a step into entrepreneurship.
The incubator is set to encourage ideas that require technological intervention. Soon, these labs will become a source of inspiration for startups across the country as StartupIndia, a central government fund for startups, is set to fund more eligible companies the next financial year.
NITK was formerly known as Karnataka Regional Engineering College and is a state-run institute that has produced fine talent from its inception in 1960. NMAM is a private sector institution under the Nitte group of institutions, which is an autonomous university.
“With this, all startups in Mangalore can converge into one place. They can be incubated here and Startup India funds will also be available to those with out-of-the-box ideas that create maximum impact,” a ministry source told YourStory.
“The union minister, who is also a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, is keen to turn Mangalore, a cosmopolitan city with thousands of engineering students in the vicinity, a startup district. She has chosen two of the oldest institutions in the region to start these centres,” the source added.
These two institutes were selected as they boast of state-of-the-art facilities and the students and infrastructure required for the startup culture to thrive. NMAMIT is already running a New Age Incubation Centre as part of nine engineering colleges selected by the Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services, an organisation under the state Department of IT and BT. It runs a programme called Karnataka New Age Incubation Network.
The coastal city also boasts of excellent air, road, rail, and sea connectivity. It also has made a name for itself for having several well-known professional colleges which attract students from across the country and abroad.
The ministry has estimated that in three years’ time, it can increase the number of incubation centres along with the support of the state government and NASSCOM which have robustly supported such programmes with both policies and infrastructure in Bengaluru, which is also known for being India’s first startup city.
Bengaluru currently has a heavy concentration of incubators and accelerators with the Karnataka government, central government, NASSCOM, venture capital firms, as well as MNCs offering seats. The government has already indicated that it would like to spread out such activity to tier-II cities such as Mangalore and boost entrepreneurship.
The Karnataka government has also given entrepreneurial activity a boost with a startup fund, a first in the country again, which envisages support as well as funds up to Rs 50 lakh per startup. “It’s a no- questions-asked fund and these companies also do not have to sit in designated incubation centres to be eligible,” says Karnataka IT and BT minister Priyank Kharge.
In a first, eight startups in the tourism sector received anywhere between Rs 5-50 lakh, amounting to a total of Rs 1.9 crore, for coming up with products to help the tourism department showcase itself.
“There are some more companies in different sectors that have been chosen and their names will be announced soon,” Priyank said.
It is not just in sectors that are hot; there are a few startups in the process of being selected in the agricultural sector too, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda told YourStory. “We are looking at technological interventions in agriculture which can ease the stress on farmers. We are actively looking at the ideas and processing through the IT department.”
Earlier efforts to start IT centres in Mangalore were not very successful as there were several issues at the local level. Mangalore South MLA JR Lobo said there were issues with the urban development department and the city municipal corporation.
“Every time an IT company proposes a shift to the tier-II city or an NRI comes up with an idea of giving back to their home town, these projects are welcomed with great fanfare but are never sanctioned as per their original plans. As a result, they are stuck due to bureaucratic hurdles,” he said.
To address these problems specific to the industry, the lawmaker, who is keen to promote the district, has called all stakeholders on to a common platform next month.
Meanwhile, the Centre’s decision is set to provide a boost to the educated youth of the region and provide them with a chance to think big and come out with several ideas.
At a recent meeting in Chennai, representatives of both colleges met up with Sitharaman and NITI Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant. This initiative under Make in India and Startup India will go a long way. The thought is that these innovation centres will be on the lines of IIT, Madras, and will be started in May-June by when students are expected to graduate and grab a chance at starting their own businesses, a college representative said.
Lobo said designating Mangalore as a startup district was a good step as the region was the cradle for successful entrepreneurs who went on to make a name both in India and abroad in banking, hotel, health and other industry.
“With government support, we can turn Mangalore into a vibrant startup district which also help the tier II city grow,” Priyank added.