[Startup Bharat] How Karekeba Ventures is enabling access to mentorship, network, and capital to entrepreneurs in Bihar

Started in 2020, the Patna-based startup is an incubator-cum-angel investment platform that aims to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in smaller towns.
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Entrepreneurship has always been considered a big city phenomenon. While India has a vibrant startup ecosystem, it is often confined to select developed geographies. States like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Odisha, and some Tier II, Tier III towns, as well as rural India, lack an entrepreneurial ecosystem, which inhibits their opportunities.

Empowering such startups in Bihar is Karekeba Ventures (Kare-ke-ba: ‘We must do it’ in Bhojpuri). The startup was founded by Anubha prasad, Divyanshu Verma, Kshitiz Anand, Avantika Sahay, and Kushagra Aniket in October 2020 to nurture, incubate, seed-fund, and accelerate early-stage startups in ‘bharat’.

The Patna-based venture focuses on grass-root level startups that have scalable product and service ideas to create investment-ready and employment-generating enterprises. It works as an enabler across three verticals -- incubation, acceleration, and investment -- to empower home-grown enterprises in smaller towns, and also applies the lens of impact while curating them. Karekeba has also developed a platform where investors and startups can ‘match’ with each other.

“We are trying to solve the twin problems of lack of entrepreneurial ecosystem, handholding mechanism, and investment platforms in ‘bharat’ for startups; and lack of impact investment opportunities on the part of the investors,” says 52-year-old Anubha, who moved to Bihar from Delhi to give back to her home state.

Homecoming

The genesis of Karekeba interestingly lies in the reverse migration crisis during COVID-induced nationwide lockdown in 2020.

“The COVID times propelled many of us in the reboot mode when we were made to re-calibrate our priorities. During the nation-wide lockdown in 2020, we all witnessed a massive humanitarian crisis unfolding. People living on their daily wages, those who had migrated to metros and other affluent pockets for a better livelihood, started migrating back to their hometowns,” recalls Anubha.

This is when Anubha and her friends -- Kshitiz Anand, Divyanshu Verma, Ram N Kumar -- all from Bihar, got together to work with the migrant workers to support them with food and other essential items and then facilitating their livelihood, thus helping about 25,000 of them. 

Eventually, they realised that small towns and states like Bihar need an ecosystem, accelerator, innovation, and capital.

Driven by the core vision to be the change-makers of Bihar and ‘Bharat’ through what Anubha knew best - fostering entrepreneurship, she quit her job at UNEP in October 2020 and relocated to Patna to launch Karekeba Ventures.

A BIT Sindri and MDI Gurgaon graduate, Anubha worked at SIDBI for 23 years, mentoring, appraising, and funding thousands of businesses. She transitioned to UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and worked for a couple of years before starting her entrepreneurial journey last year.

Divyanshu is an innovation leader with IITD and IIMB background, and ex-Intel, ex-Dell, ex-Ericsson credentials with two US patents to his name; Kshitiz, a design leader from IIT Guwahati and Indiana University and an AVP-Paytm; Avantika Sahay, ex-Senior Director at T-Hub, Hyderabad; and Kushagra, a Summa-cum-laude Cornell undergrad and Columbia Masters (Tata Fellow and Columbia Fellow). Ram N Kumar, the founder of NirogStreet, is a key advisor and galvaniser. The founders claim that Karekeba is a first-of-its-kind incubator-cum-angel investment platform in Bihar.

“We are fast emerging as a full-stack service provider for startups and investors from bharat, where impact meets returns; and our mentoring process is valued by startups,” says Anubha.

Speaking about the competition, Anubha says that Karekeba has the first-mover advantage in Bihar and does not have competition in the same geography. But there are plenty of accelerators across India.

“Karekeba’s edge lies in its grass-root level footprints and to identify and onboard quality startups and help them scale,” adds Anubha.

Karekeba is also working on devising a collaboration model with the Government of Bihar to take the startup ecosystem in the state to the next level, and has a knowledge partnership with E-Cell, IIT Patna, and several other institutions, she adds.

Cherry-picking startups

The team at Karekeba selects startups through its five-level curation process, evaluates their scale-up potential, mentors them to enhance their performance and investment readiness, connects them with potential angel investors for seed-funding, and facilitates the entire process, thus helping them in their entrepreneurial journey. 

The accelerator has already built a cohort of about 30 startup mentors who are industry experts; experts from universities including IITs, MIT, Columbia, IIMs; and successful startup founders. Besides this, Karekeba has also curated about 20 startups across sectors, including edtech, healthcare, upskilling, and agritech.

Funding, investment, and revenue

Karekeba is a bootstrapped incubator-cum-angel investment platform and has raised founders’ equity of around Rs 46 lakh so far. It recently closed its first seed-round in Patna-based startup called Hanuman, a last-mile delivery service provider offering immediate healthcare solutions. Its startup cohort includes Repair my mobile, Cymatic, Doot Cabs, Lyfd, StylePure, Robo Bionics, and E-Panipuri Kartz, to name a few.

Karekeba’s revenue model comprises 1-3 percent of funding transactions from startups and investors, which is concessional vis-à-vis the industry norms. It claims to have registered Rs 3 lakh revenue in less than a year.

Future plans

Anubha says Karekeba is now looking to add more startups from Bharat in its cohort and is engaging with the premium institutes of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh to get high potential and innovative startups to build its pipeline.

“We plan to curate 30 high-potential startups and make them investment ready and bring 12-15 startups to raise funds through our platform during the current FY,” says Anubha. She adds the startup is also developing its full-stack dashboard to provide an extensive online solution for a transparent investment process and on-going monitoring.

“We plan to make all these processes completely online by the second quarter of 2021,” adds Anubha.

Edited by Megha Reddy