From ‘Sea, Sand and Sun’ to ‘Software, Silicon and Startups’ – the rise of Goa as an entrepreneurship hub
Learning from the successes and challenges of the startup boom in larger Indian cities, Goa is leveraging its unique strengths to become the next startup hotspot.
The inaugural Goa Startup and Innovation Day wrapped up this weekend with a high-level conference on entrepreneurship, pitches by startups, and the unveiling of authoritative documents on the Goa Startup Policy, Goa Startup Schemes, and State of the Goa Startup Ecosystem. (Download the full report, policy, and schemes documents at the end of the article)
Momentum has accelerated to make Goa one of the most preferred startup destinations of India and one of the Top 25 startup destinations of Asia by 2025. Targets include at least 100 successful startups from Goa in the next five years.
Speaking at the Goa Startups and Innovation Day, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation of India Suresh Prabhu said, "I'm sure Goa will be the next destination for becoming the hub of global ideas. Startups will be the 'new engine' for the growth of Goa." He added,
"There are crazy people and then there are lazy people. The crazy ones are those who will succeed. They're the ones who take the unconventional path and succeed."
Stating that there are 20, 000 startups in India, Suresh Prabhu said, "I've gone across the country seeing many startups being created. I've seen 17-year-old's come up with phenomenal ideas. I'm confident women will be at the forefront of the startup ecosystem and will be leading more startups."
The man of the hour Rohan Khaunte, Minister of Revenue, IT, Labour and Employment, Government of Goa, who made the Goa Startups and Innovation Day possible, said,
“Goa now stands for Golden Opportunity Available."
Joked Anil Chikkara, Chairman, Startup India Foundation, "Goa’s unfair advantage is Goa.” These sentiments were echoed by a range of keynotes and panels over two days.
Goa has become the holiday hub for India and millions of international tourists – but the next wave of jobs and creativity will come from the IT sector, electronics, and entrepreneurship (‘software, silicon, startups’). This shift, started by entrepreneurs and industry associations in Goa, has received a significant boost now by the government of Goa.
Supportive measures for startups in Goa now include schemes for IPR reimbursement, matching grants, R&D reimbursement, skill development, trademark reimbursement, incubation centres, seed capital, co-working space subsidy, and technology fellowship. A Startup Promotion Cell will also be formed as a nodal agency, along with infrastructure for incubators and accelerators.
The conference featured an expert panel on how Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, UK and France have developed innovation capacity and bilateral links for startups in their respective countries. These include fund of funds, startup challenges and competitions, tours to innovation hotspots, and the creation of testbeds for emerging technologies in sectors such as Industry 4.0.
The IT and startup sectors have the right desired profiles for the next wave of Goa’s transformation, according to Praveen Volvotkar, Deputy Director, Dept. of IT, Goa. A knowledge-based vision should be part of Goa’s growth, he said.
Entrepreneurs succeed through a unique perspective, sustainable business model, and tenacity, explained Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation, Government of India.
The government will promote an annual global startup event in Goa, along with a range of infrastructure initiatives including a new high-capacity airport. Partnerships have also been formed with the government of Telangana and T-Hub; this will include, for example, collocation of a leading global blockchain conference in Hyderabad as well as in Goa in August this year.
Speakers from CIBA, Startup India Foundation, Goa Technology Association, T-Hub, iSPIRT, Prototyze and 91Springboard shared insights on how the broader ecosystem for startups now includes industry associations, incubators, accelerators, makerspaces and co-working spaces.
A significant role will also be played by successful startups in India who can set up a development or design centre in Goa. Such strategies have helped Chennai become the SaaS startup hub of India, for example. Successful Goan investors and entrepreneurs abroad can also give back to their homeland and build ‘silicon bridges’ between Goa and the rest of the world.
Given the risky nature of many startup ideas, funding will play a major role in entrepreneurship to increase the run rate and success rate. Investor insights were offered by Mumbai Angels, Unicorn India Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, LetsVenture and Dr Reddy’s Garage 5B.
Investors should be attracted to place bets on startups in Goa and set up regional offices in the city, but investment funds out of Goa can also be created. “Invest in Goa” can dovetail with “Invest from Goa,” according to the panel. The formation of Goa Angels is a welcome development in this regard.
The best time for startups to raise funds is during the early stages of a tech boom, or after proof of concept has been solidly demonstrated. Effective story pitches to investors should have passion, clarity and unique differentiators, the speakers recommended.
With broad ecosystem and policy support, the opportunity for startups in Goa is to rise to the global level and develop a wave of market-leading businesses. Tips on product-market fit and unit economics were offered by veteran entrepreneurs from HouseJoy, Grofers, Umang, and Nucleus Vision.
Attitudes towards failure also need to change, so that it is embraced as an important source of learning. The sharing of more such ‘failure stories’ will increase the overall resilience of Goan startups, according to the panellists.
Many tech founders also don’t have a clear grasp of unit economics, which can ultimately lead to costly errors or even failure. There should always be a clear line of sight between product, performance, value and profit.
A number of surveys and reports cited by speakers reveal that Indian entrepreneurs have confidence, but need more ambition; they are great at ideation stage but need to plough on to scale stage; they are good in technology but need to improve in design and business growth.
The road ahead
In addition to the above measures, a lot of drive can come from students in schools as well, and not just colleges. One of the youngest developers at the Goa event was all of ten years old, and he had his own business cards as well – reflecting the rise of a new tech entrepreneurial spirit in Goa.
Other speakers also stressed the importance of a more inclusive innovation ecosystem, with adequate representation and support for women entrepreneurs. Along with a profit motive, social responsibility and environmental conservation should be key considerations.
In sum, Goa has a lot going for it when it comes to augmenting its quality of life with quality of innovation ecosystem. As larger Indian cities choke up with infrastructure and lifestyle problems, Goa will soon craft its own unique startup story.
Download the full report here.
Download the Goa Startup Policy here.
Download the Goa Startup Schemes here.