Eyeing the next milestone: A year on, National Startup Award winners of 2020 are ready to aim higher

By Team YS|27th Jan 2021
Strap: Buoyed by the success of the first edition, the National Startup Awards are back this year to honour yet another group of startups that are efficiently balancing profitability with social impact. DPIIT is inviting applications from startups across 49 sub-sectors
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It was a challenging, but fulfilling journey for the 36 startups that were conferred the first National Startup Awards (NSA) last year by the Indian government. A year on, there are a lot of lessons learnt and experiences gained that have helped these entrepreneurs to scale new heights.


Established in 2020, the National Startup Awards reward startups and ecosystem enablers for coming up with innovative products and solutions that, apart from contributing to wealth creation and generating jobs, also demonstrate measurable social impact.


DPIIT is getting ready to honour yet another league of startups whose solutions are driving social good along wealth creation and employment generation in the second edition of the awards. The last date to apply for the National Startup Awards 2021 is January 31. Apply now


The first edition of the NSA invited applications from startups, accelerators and incubators across 12 sectors in 36 categories and three special categories — women-led, rural impact and campus startups. After three gruelling rounds of evaluations, 192 startups were declared as finalists and were judged by a panel of experts from the industry, government and investor community.


The panellists based their decision on six parameters: innovation, inclusiveness and, social, economic and environmental impact. The winners — 36 startups, one accelerator and one incubator — were conferred with the awards in a virtual ceremony on October 6, 2020 by Union minister Piyush Goyal.

Preparing for the future

After recognising their potential, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) embarked on a journey with the 192 finalists where it guided them to explore more opportunities for growth. In a survey that documented the progress of 130 of the startups who made it to the final round, the department found that the majority of the entities were clocking profits, contributing to employment generation and were strengthening India's position as a favoured destination for investment worldwide.


The government has been supporting these enterprises in eight key track areas — investor, government and corporate connect, mentorship, international market access, regulatory support and, benefits under Startup India initiative and Startup India Showcase. These tracks were tailored in accordance to the startups’ ‘wishlists’ and DPIIT is working on introducing opportunities for these startups with its partner organisations.


Under the Startup India initiative, the participants have been able to avail various benefits like tax incentives, intellectual property rights support, relaxation in public procurement norms, self-certification for environment and labour laws, access to Fund of Funds for Startups (FFS), and a faster exit. They have also been part of six workshops under NSA to apprise them about the various benefits available to them under the Startup India initiative.


These startups will also be getting chances to pitch their plans before various national and international investor groups. As part of its investor connect programme, the DPIIT has commitment from enterprises like SIDBI, Sequoia Capital, Indian Venture Capital Association (IVCA) and Mumbai Angels for facilitating opportunities for NSA finalists.


These efforts have reaped rich rewards in a short time as 23 startups have been shortlisted by IVCA's portfolio investors. The finalists from food processing and financial services categories recently participated in the first round of pitching before 70 Alternative Investment Funds associated with SIDBI. SIDBI will be organising similar investor connect programmes for other sectors over the next two to three months. Venture Capital firm Mumbai Angels has also been evaluating those startups that have expressed interest in raising funds with them.

New lessons to learn

Realising how crucial mentorship can be in nurturing future leaders, DPIIT will bring several organisations and industry experts on board to guide these startups. Organisations like NASSCOM, FICCI, IAN, Sequoia Capital and TiE Global are working on mentoring programmes that have been customised to meet the requirements of each startup. The participants will undergo both one-on-one and group mentorship programmes.


The NSA awardees will get access to various global platforms and events to network and explore opportunities with corporate programmes. They would get an exhibit opportunity for free of cost at FICCI's flagship event ‘FICCI’s Annual Business Summit’. The participating startups also received complimentary access to TiE’s Global Summit.


The DPIIT is helping these startups explore international opportunities in collaboration with the Union Ministry of External Affairs and under Startup India's international bridge programme. Many of them have already bagged opportunities in various programmes launched by nations like Japan, USA, Sweden, Croatia and the Netherlands. Seven of these startups pitched their ideas before investors during an event on the Sweden Innovation Day, while 10 of the finalists are in an advanced stage of discussions with Japanese conglomerates for B2B connect.

Help from the government

Efforts are being made by the government to ensure that regulatory concerns of the finalists are addressed so as to boost the ease of doing business in the startup ecosystem. DPIIT has been working on a unique buyer-seller connect programme that is expected to revamp government procurement processes for startups, and will assist these entrepreneurs in connecting with government stakeholders.


The department is helping NSA finalists in their onboarding on the Government E-marketplace and help them reach out to government buyers across India. DPIIT is planning to organise roundtable discussions that will enable startups to share insights and inputs on government procurement regulations before the concerned ministries. It is also urging state governments to explore possibilities of procurement from NSA winners.


In an attempt to boost their visibility, DPIIT has shared the finalists’ profiles on the Startup India Showcase — an online discovery platform for promising startups as selected by the department and Startup India through various programmes.