This article is part of The Chhattisgarh Story series.
When it comes to digital initiatives, Chhattisgarh is ranked fourth among all Indian states, according to a 2017 report by Coeus Age Consulting. After years of being victims of Left Wing Extremism, the people of Chhattisgarh want to put their past behind them and look ahead to a future of progress and development. The state government has been actively working to enable this with a number of initiatives. Key among these is a channelised effort to boost the Indian startup ecosystem.
The government’s initiatives include formulating the Chhattisgarh Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Policy which aims at establishing at least 100 incubators and accelerators funded by VCs/ Financial Institutions and Angel Investors, implementing the Atal Innovation Mission or starting the MSME –Startup Facilitation Cell. Helping the government in its mission to boost the local startup ecosystem are some interesting digital initiatives:
Rural Digipreneur Summit
The summit hosted in January 2018 saw participation from over 7,000 village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs). The event organised by the state government in collaboration with Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion Society (CHiPS) focussed on showcasing these entrepreneurs and the heads of the Common Service Centres (CSCs). The CSCs are a pan-India initiative to drive e-governance in rural and remote areas of the country. These are centres where people can avail essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, among others.
The event also saw the launch of several initiatives aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship at the grassroots level. This included training VLEs in digital financial services, setting up edutainment centres, and Wi-Fi chaupals to further create and enable smart villages.
This initiative was launched in 2016 by the state government to nurture and encourage entrepreneurs and startups within the state. The initiative aims to support smart or digital solutions in sectors such as healthcare, animal husbandry, and bring about value-addition of core sector products. In 2017, the initiative received over 3000 submissions. As part of the programme, 18 camps were set up across Chhattisgarh, where participants could present and submit their ideas. Participants with outstanding ideas received opportunities to work with state of the art incubators, win prizes and work with the government. With this initiative, 36 startups have been identified and established at 361Inc, Chhattisgarh’s startup incubator. These first 36 startups will also get a tax holiday for the first three years, among other benefits.
Frugal Innovation Summit
Chhattisgarh recently hosted a Frugal Innovation Summit in April this year. The event focussed on bringing together decision makers in the union and international governments alongside private sector stalwarts and key members of the startup ecosystem including top investors, innovative startups from India and abroad.At the event, various partnerships, roadmaps and projects were announced, to pitch Chhattisgarh as a key investment and frugal innovation destination.
The state government is working to attract large incubators and accelerators to nurture the startup ecosystem in the state.
In April this year, Chhattisgarh inaugurated 36Inc, the country’s second largest startup incubators. 36Inc, the first government-supported startup incubation centre in the state, is spread over 30,000 square ft. and has 200 workstations. Startups will have access to mentorship and guidance from a team that comes with extensive experience both in India and abroad.
A total of 43 startups are part of the first two-year-long cohort and are working on a variety of sectors including edtech, drone technology, e-commerce and others. The incubator has several specialised labs for the startups, including the Fabled, which is part of the MIT Fablab network. It will be equipped with 3D printers, a CNC (computer numerical control) machine, laser cutter and other tools to enable rapid prototyping. The centre also houses a multimedia lab, an electronics testing lab and an Internet of Things (IoT) lab.
In 2015, as part of the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Programme, the apex industry body also set up its warehouse in Chhattisgarh where startups can get access to mentorship and support to grow their business.
Chattisgarh is currently focusing on sectors such as food processing, logistics and distribution, equipment manufacturing, textiles and apparel. These sectors have great potential that has not yet been tapped. The government is trying to attract investors by offering sector focussed plug and play infrastructure, and developing food parks, electronic manufacturing clusters, engineering parks, metal parks, solar SEZs. So far, investment-related MoUs worth Rs. 23,000 crore have been signed in these focus sectors.