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Looking for a startup launchpad? Check out these non-profit accelerators which are fostering startups in tier-2/tier-3 cities


After unfurling the flags of the highly ambitious and pioneering initiatives ‘Startup India’ and ‘Make In India’, India has witnessed a quantum leap in its startup ecosystem. The figures for startups registered have burgeoned to over 5,200 till the year 2017. This growth strikes a clear indication towards the conducive environment forged through these schemes. A Nasscom- Zinnov joint report titled ‘Indian Startup Ecosystem- Edition 2017’ ranked India as the third largest entrepreneurial emergent and the country is also soaring its prowess to give the maverick peers namely the US, UK and Israel a new competitor. Undoubtedly, India is heading on its way to emerge as a big daddy on global entrepreneurial front.

There is a preconceived notion that successful startups are natives of Mumbai (M), Bengaluru (B) and Delhi (D). Think of it, is it not so?

The term ‘STARTUP’ instantly flashes the three business allies M-B-D in our minds. However, there has been a massive overhaul where professionals have quit their high-paying jobs or urban-life to bring change and hopes at grassroots which still don’t have far-reaching ties with developed ones.

Tier-2 / tier-3 cities are not far behind the leading ones. As per the Nasscom report, nearly 20% of the startups have sprung up from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal Jaipur, Kochi, Manipur, Coimbatore, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Patna are emerging hubs which are setting the bars high due to their immense resources. Majorly low manpower cost, prime connectivity, less operational overheads and affordable amenities are the tractions for people to start their operational activities in these cities. In addition to this, regional bootcamps and co-working areas such as S.Pace (Bhopal), Nasscom Warehouse (multiple cities) which are affiliated with investment and funding platforms have aided the growth of early-stage startups from these cities. Not only offices or headquarters of ventures have mushroomed but also these perks have impelled bootcamps, startup pitching sessions, incubators, accelerators and startup networking ecosystems to flourish.

Thus startups in tier-2 and tier-3 cities are making their footprints count in the run along with the metropolitan peers. They are the ones solving the very basic and local problems be it in sectors of energy, agri-tech, financial, healthcare, education etc. With more than 2/3rd of the population dwelling in tier-2/tier-3, rural and semi-urban geographies, ventures and startups booming out of these areas are promising enough to turn into Unicorns. All they require is a pinch of innovation quotient, a dash of a robust startup ecosystem and a sprinkle of tutelage to mark their winnings on the wall.

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others, while unsuccessful people always ask “ What’s in it for me ?” - Brian Tracy

Let’s look at some of the foundations and initiatives working across the country in the form of gateways to help startups make their sails.

Headstart Network - One of India’s largest startup ecosystem development organization with its inception laid in 2007. It is a non-profit organization, run entirely by passionate volunteers. Moreover, majorly it has facilitated thousands of connections to potential co-founders, customers, mentors, investors, vendors and employees. Currently, Headstart is operating in 23 cities and helps in building a community of perfect startup ecosystem.

'SAP  Startup Studio' organized by Headstart Foundation

S.Pace, co-working and incubation centre in Bhopal and Raipur (Tier-2) cities, is a significant platform associated with MSME (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises) department, Headstart network and NEN Foundation has incubated and accelerated many city startups. In addition to this, it hosts B-Plan pitching competitions, venture funding rounds and adding a bonus, it also facilitates DIPP registration in the office itself.

National Entrepreneur Network (NEN) - Started in 2003, NEN is Asia's largest startup community with more than 80,000 young members spread across countries like India, Malaysia, East Africa and Latin America. They facilitate various student entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship support programs to foster the aspiring entrepreneurs. Non-profit by nature, this foundation has partnered with 500+ educational institutions and till date is serving as a high potential launchpad for 6500+ startups and entrepreneurs.

A mentorship session by NEN at S.Pace co-working  (Bhopal)

36 Inc - It is an incubation centre which is now transformed into an Atal Innovation Centre. It was launched under the ‘Startup Chhattisgarh Action Plan 2016’ by Chhattisgarh government for incubation of startups in the state. The program increased its outreach by opening bootcamps to cover 27 districts across the state. Access to mentors, networking, technology, prototyping, training sessions along with the exclusive MIT’s international network of fab-labs comes under the radar of 36 Inc.

Digital Rajasthan - Rajasthan is listed on spot number 6, in India, on World Bank’s Ease Of Doing Business index. The entrepreneurial spark has lit up in tier-2 and tier-3 cities such as Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota. The Rajasthan government launched the project of Digital Rajasthan to establish an industrial, entrepreneurial and economic hub in the state as an aegis to the nascent and emergent stage startups. This project also aims to expand technological and business adoptions in cities like Tonk, Ajmer and Bhilwara of Rajasthan.