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NASSCOM’s Enterprise Connect sees matchmaking between corporate entities and startups

Libza Mannan
12th Feb 2018
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NASSCOM 10000 Startups’ Enterprise Connect initiative aims to bring together large enterprises and early stage startups. With one2one speed dating session, the platform facilitated over 40+ enterprise connects comprising of entrepreneurs, industry leaders and investors. 

Like all speed dating events go, even this one had a huge number of people gathering under a single roof to take significant decisions based on first impressions and some interaction. The difference was that this sizing up was being done by large enterprises and early stage startups looking to enter into mutually beneficial partnerships.

This event was part of an initiative organised by NASSCOM 10000 Startups along with the Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (HARTRON) to provide a unique platform for early-stage tech ventures to engage and showcase their innovative ideas to large corporate entities, investors and industry leaders.

The day-long event on February 9 was held at HARTRON’s startup warehouse in Gurgaon. The first half brought together investors, industry leaders, corporate enterprises and entrepreneurs for a speed-dating session, where the industry leaders were given 30 minutes to interact with each startup that garnered their interest. The session was followed by a workshop on 'Software License Compliance: Issues and Challenges' in the second half.

Meeting the right people at the right time

“Since I have been in those shoes, I realise that startups spend a lot of time and effort to reach out to the right folks in the industry in order to sell their product. This whole initiative is to support startups in reaching out to the right set of people who can buy their product. So we’ve created a platform where startups can meet the people who have decision-making powers. It’s a kind of matchmaking between corporate enterprises and startups,” said Dr Sunil K Shekhawat, Regional Lead (North) – Startup ecosystem, NASSCOM.

Since the launch of the Haryana startup policy in 2017, the region has been taking essential steps to boost its startup ecosystem. This event, organised by the state IT department in collaboration with NASSCOM is one such step in this direction.

Rajiv Gulati, Assistant General Manager, HARTRON, highlights that Haryana’s IT department collaborated with NASSCOM to nurture the region’s startup ecosystem. “The government wanted to collaborate with the industry to provide mentoring to new-age businesses and budding entrepreneurs in the state. But approaching each and every industry was a big challenge. So we thought of connecting with a reputed industry association that is into IT, electronics and other sectors. Then we matched the overall government policy for startups and we brought on board NASSCOM as mentors,” he added.

Startups disrupting the edtech space

Around 12 startups, investments firms and over 22 industry leaders from 11 enterprises, including PwC, Fidelity and Samsung, were present. Among the participating startups, Gradufund, MyEdge and Intraview are new-age edtech companies that aim to disrupt the education sector. GraduFund offers fintech solutions and mentoring to students who find it difficult to fund their studies. MyEdge is looking to disrupt the physical and online tutoring space using technology while Intraview is a platform for conducting mock interviews with industry experts.

“I personally believe that the role of an ecosystem is to be more like an operating system where you have to be invisible in the background while enabling things to happen in a smooth manner. We look forward to more initiatives like these and investor connects as well because there are a lot of cool things that we are doing. But these would be scalable only after we have the backing of the industry and investors,” said Abhijit Onkar, Founder of GraduFund.

Dual need for collaboration

When asked about the must-have credentials that an early-stage startup seeking funds from them should have, Sandro Stephen, Regional Head, North India Operations, at the Indian Angel Network (IAN) said that pedigree matters. “If the team is right and worth mentoring, if the team is open to listening to or understanding what the investors are saying, we go ahead and invest in them. There are some entrepreneurs who are not interested in listening to the investors, and they just want the money. We are not interested in funding them,” he said.

Subinder Khurana, a startup mentor and member of NASSCOM’s Product Council leading deep tech, highlights that startups have always needed to collaborate with corporates. Having working on both sides of the ecosystem, as an entrepreneur and also a mentor, Subinder believes that it’s usually difficult for corporates to accept a solution pitched by startups. However, he feels that the scenario has changed in the last couple of years.

“In the last year or two, the interest from the corporate side in startups has gone up dramatically because the corporate world realises that collaborating with startups will actually create the kind of differentiation they need.  So now there is a big push and we are seeing the need coming from both sides -- the need to learn how to work with each other.”

Sustained engagement between ecosystem players

Enterprise Connect is a part of the NASSCOM Industry Partner Program (NIPP), an initiative aimed at enhancing sustained engagement between large corporate enterprises and early stage tech companies across India.

In 2013, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) started its ‘10,000 Startups’ initiative, to aid the growth of 10,000 startups in the country over the next 10 years. The objective is to foster the ecosystem, build entrepreneurial capabilities, and drive significant value and change in the tech startup ecosystem.

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