As the third largest startup destination globally and with one of the fastest-growing base of software developers in the world, India is a hotbed for some of the most innovative startups the world has ever seen, offering truly inspiring solutions that are redefining how we spend our day to day lives. Facebook, over the last few years, has been playing a significant part in supporting the Indian startup ecosystem through a number of programs and initiatives.
The first-ever India Startup Day was celebrated on October 9, 2018 at The Oberoi, New Delhi. The event aimed to recognise and celebrate Indian startups that are game-changers in their field through their impactful innovations.
Programs, places and partnerships
Facebook inaugurated the event by sharing their vision for the startup community and emphasising their plans for 2019. “At Facebook, we are committed to paving the way for the success of the new generation of startups in India and understand that access to resources, people and networks can be a powerful catalyst for their growth. That's why we are creating programs that can fuel startups to build businesses of tomorrow through mentoring, regular trainings, workshops and meetups,” said Satyajeet Singh, Head of Platform Partnerships - India & South Asia.
Facebook has significantly invested in three areas, namely programs, places and partnerships. Their programs are aimed at startups working in different domains including startups building for the bottom of the pyramid users and those building with emerging technologies like AR/VR/AI etc. They ensure that these programs are designed to support and mentor the startups. Facebook has set up a Design Studio in Bangalore in partnership with NASSCOM, and a VR Innovation Lab in Hyderabad to mentor startups on topics like design thinking. Here, startups and developers can find mentors, get expert advice and network with like-minded peers. Facebook also uses the support of ecosystem players to build partnerships that will ultimately benefit the startup ecosystem.
Facebook programs to support startups
1) India Innovation Hub
The program supports startups building products using emerging technology like AR and VR. The accelerator program selects nine startups from different domains like healthcare to consumer internet to recruitment who will get access to a dedicated mentor to advise them on the technology and product side of business. At the end of the cohort, the startups get go-to-market support and graduates become part of the global alumni network where they can exchange ideas with each other.
2) Code for the Next Billion
In partnership with NASSCOM, Facebook supports startups who are building technology for those who need it the most. Ten startups solving a wide variety of social problems are chosen to attend workshops, product bootcamps, design thinking and fundraising sessions, investor meets, and finally get go-to-market support.
There is an immense imbalance in the startup ecosystem, with only nine per cent women founders, of which only two per cent go on to get funded. This program encourages women entrepreneurs to come forward and build successful tech businesses in India. The SLT community gets access to mentorship sessions, online AMAs, regular meetups where they can network with peers facing similar challenges and get advice on how to solve them. With over 13 business verticals and 14 mentors, the community now has more than 170 members and startups from 24 small and big towns across the country.
4) Developer Circles
This initiative is aimed at developers across cities looking to build startups for tomorrow. The program is run by local community leads who are passionate about tech and giving back to the community. Regular meetups, workshops and engagements (online and offline) are hosted to collaborate and learn with peers. What started with 30 members in one city has now grown to a community of 50K+ members spread across 15 cities.
5) School of Innovation
The objective is to inspire students to build on top of emerging technology through the awareness and incubation track. The program conducts workshops on VR for around 30 universities and aims to train over 5,000 students on solutions they can build using VR. The incubation track selects 10 student teams and handholds them to go through the actual experience of building a VR product.
With a ‘learn and grow’ approach, Facebook began these programs in 2016 by hosting developer meetups in Bangalore and Delhi. In two years, these have grown steadily with various SheLeadsTech meetups, 15 developer circles and two physical spaces being set up across the country.
Panel: Changing face of India's startup ecosystem
The India Startup Day event also witnessed a panel discussion from renowned names from the industry, moderated by Emeka Afigbo, Head of Developer Programs, Facebook. The panel comprised K S Viswanathan, Vice President, Industry Initiatives of NASSCOM; Meenakshi Jain, Founder of Helper4U; Srinivas Kollipara, CEO of T-Hub Hyderabad; and Pranay Gupta, Co-founder of 91springboard.
The panel discussed the considerable pace at which India is growing in the startup ecosystem since the last five years. India has a list of unique problems to solve that other countries do not face. Deep tech is an area with huge potential, and there are a lot of opportunities to nurture and scale ideas in this field. There is also a rise in the number of technology startups and women entrepreneurs, owing to the availability of funds and increased incubators and accelerators in the country.
When asked about the role and impact of women entrepreneurs in today's day and age, they all agreed that balancing work and family was a huge challenge for women, but they could prove to be the best, if given an opportunity. Pranay believed that women had an amazing balance of IQ and EQ which helped them create products that customers really wanted. Srinivas emphasised on the fact that every woman had a different problem. "India is a very complex market. What women in rural India face is not the same as what those urban India face.”
Meenakshi said, "The percentage has grown but the environment is very conducive since most people are focusing on B2C problems. My strong belief is when you empower women in the house, you are helping the whole family. It's the best time for women to plunge in. Don't treat us any different, give us equal opportunities and we will perform well."
The panel concluded that if India needs to stay in the lead in the tech world, certain changes had to be made. Technology had to be multi-lingual, continuous learning had to be inculcated, emerging technologies needed to be used to tackle new challenges. Educational systems in India don’t create a mindset among students to solve problems. They fail to realise that solutions created in India have the potential to become useful globally.
Conversation: Make for India, make in India for the world
Shivnath Thukral from Facebook caught up with Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog for a quick fireside chat to discuss common goals startups and ecosystem players could work towards.
According to the NITI Aayog head, startups are spurring a radical transformation. The movement is spreading, and the government wants to help the ecosystem grow. “Earlier, you had no alternative but to join the government. Today, there are so many opportunities for young people, they are trying to disrupt India in a way never done before by joining startups." Indian startups are also doing a lot of work in social innovation and exploring unexplored domains.
On facilitating global markets and startups, he said that global companies bring in a lot of innovation in terms of better ideas, cutting-edge technologies, improved HR practices and so on. You need the innovation mindset to interact with global innovators, and constantly change so that India can grow. "Don’t ever think domestic market is the end. No country has grown without penetrating global markets. Think big, scale big."
His key message to startups as they continue to innovate for India is, "India's innovative spirit must fly, and young startups must drive innovation. Make for India, make in India for the world. I want Indian families to contribute resources and invest in startups, so that they eventually draw dividends from them."
Amitabh Kant also launched Facebook’s publication 'The Limitless' during the event. The book celebrates the stories of entrepreneurs across India who are pushing limits and building products to transform millions of lives, entrepreneurs working with emerging technologies, women entrepreneurs and community builders who are doing inspirational work.
Felicitating the winners of Startup Day Awards
With over 500 entries, the five award winners were chosen by eminent leaders from the ecosystem – Amitabh Kant; Naganand Doraswami, Co-Founder and CEO of IdeaSpring Capital; Radhika Aggarwal, Co-founder and Chief Business Officer of Shopclues; Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman & MD of CII; Satyajeet Singh Head – Platform Partnerships - India & South Asia of Facebook; and Padmaja Ruparel, Co-founder of the Indian Angel Network.
The award winners across categories are as follows:
- She Leads Tech - Greenway Grameen, a startup that designs & distributes products that improve the lives of people in low-income markets.
- Building for Tomorrow - Scapic, a platform that lets people create, share and explore immersive experiences.
- Building for the Next Billion - Aye Finance, a startup built around the mission of transforming the micro and small enterprise lending in India by providing inclusive finance at an affordable price to this ‘missing middle’.
- Building for the World - Nanoclean Global Pvt. Ltd., the only company on the globe that produces the most affordable bio-safe nanofibers with its proprietary polymer technology.
- Community Builder – Hasura, a platform that helps developers build, develop and scale their apps.
The journey ahead
Facebooks aims to inspire more developers and startups to build, and will continue to work and support them. They are planning to launch SheLeadsTech Roadshows in Tier-2 cities of India to inspire more women interested in entrepreneurship, open more innovation hubs, and expand Developer Circles to 100,000 developers by launching the program in 20 more cities by 2019.
This journey is just 1 percent finished. We are excited, optimistic and committed to working together with this community to help build for tomorrow," said Satyajeet Singh.