Rajat Tandon: Focus now is on mentoring

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Interview | Rajat Tandon, Director 10,000 Startups, Nasscom

Can you describe the present startup scenario in India?

Last two years have seen emergence of a new wave of startups. Entrepreneurs are leveraging technology and creating innovative solutions to address global and Indian opportunities. The primary reason for this rapid growth is the massive opportunity presented by the local and global markets.

Indian startups and entrepreneurs are becoming the growth engines of the industry with focus on localised solutions for India and the world. Driven by entrepreneurs, India's technology landscape is poised for the next wave of growth with more startups bringing in innovation.

Do you see any hurdles that come in the path of more and more Indians adopting to the spirit of entrepreneurship?

The startup ecosystem in the country is picking up at a fascinating pace. However, certain factors that act as hurdles to entrepreneurship in India are fear of failure, lack of proper support in terms of funding, resource support, absence of funding avenues, lack of family support, and the absence of right kind of talent (post scale-up) etc. Lack of mentorship at an early stage and absence of supportive policy framework also results in many of these startup 'dying' at an early stage.

Nasscom had recently launched the 10,000 startups initiative in the country. What has been the response and how far do you think the initiative will go ahead in achieving the targeted milestones?

Nasscom started its “10,000 Startups” programme in April 2013, with an aim to nurture new technology companies across the country. Nasscom believes that startups will be the next growth driver for India's economy and the model for the industry will shift from hiring to entrepreneurships, with more startups bringing in innovation to the IT landscape in India. The program has significantly scaled up the startup ecosystem in the country through multi-fold activities aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and providing robust early stage support. Through his initiative, Nasscom has organised over 150 events in more than 15 cities and over 10,000 participants have attended these events. Some of these events include fireside chats, idea to prototype workshops, pitch sessions, mentoring sessions, whitespace discussions, skill building workshops, recruitment events, and co-founder hunts. Some of the important updates post the second phase of the 10,000 Startups programme:

l·The 10,000 Startups programme has impacted about 100+ companies in the following ways: 36 ventures accelerated | 34 Ventures funded | 30 Ventures mentored.

l·The programme has received 7,000+ applications in two cycles(4,000 in first and 3,000 in second). In the first phase 332 companies were shortlisted and in the second phase, over 200 companies have been shortlisted.

l·The YouTube learning centre has 5,000 + subscribers and 2 lakh minutes of content has already been consumed.

l·The programme so far has engaged with over 20,000+ entrepreneurs/ wannapreneurs and have built a social community of 75,000+.

Nasscom is an industry body that represents mostly the IT/ITeS industry. But, when we talk of startups, they come from across the sectors and verticals. Do you see the need for creation of a larger platform that would include the key stakeholders of the startup scenario - angel investors, venture capitalists, accelerators and mentors — to drive this further in India?

Looking at the current scenario, the unprecedented rise of startups in India needs continuous collaboration between the government and industry to scale-up the ecosystem. Nasscom is supporting startups to help them achieve their maximum potential.

As a first step we are focusing our efforts on technology startups, while there are other major entities who are evangelising their peers across sectors. Bringing all stakeholders under a single umbrella is a journey which the industry has already embarked upon.

Recently Facebook acquired an Indian startup. Is this the beginning or the dawn of a new age, where Indian startups are bound to attract global attention? Or are there grey areas to overcome to reach that level?

Since the last few months, the startup scene in India has been infused with enthusiasm with the recent acquisitions rolling eye-balls the world over. This and many other startup acquisitions in the past are a testimony of the fact that Indian startups have caught global attention. This also showcases the technological advancements, technical expertise and innovative thinking of the startups coming out of India.

While we understand that the Indian startups landscape is young and at a nascent stage and there are challenges, however, the recent megasuccess of companies like Fusion Charts and Little Eye Labs definitely points to the fact that India has arrived at a global startup stage and will reign the world, like it did in the IT/IT-enabled services arena.

How far away or how near are the Indian startups and the ecosystem in the country from delivering a global brand like a Google or a Facebook or any of those large power horses?

Google and Facebook have been pioneers in their respective fields, opening-up a spree of opportunities for other startups. However, focus now should be on mentoring startups focused on creating solutions for every vertical and micro-vertical. This will result in the emergence of horizontal solutions for all the verticals while enabling these startups to remain focused while creating product / solutions excellence.

By virtue of its sheer population and the economic growth opportunities, India as a country is also fast emerging as a large consumer with huge domestic demand. Will it suffice for Indian startups to fine tune their offerings to just focus on the Indian market for growth?

The potential of technology to transform business by increasing competitiveness and transform India by fostering inclusive growth is immense. Led by the diversity of the local user and consumer base, opportunities in the domestic market are growing rapidly.

This is being further pushed with the government thrust on public services and increasing demand from emerging verticals. Startups today are designing and creating niche solutions around areas like healthcare, public service, utilities and education, in order to provide tailor-made vertical-specific solutions.

Further, rapidly growing economy, rapid adoption of IT across consumer segments, emergence of digital technology, consumer-centric services, new business and pricing models tailored to meet specific needs of customers are also aiding these startups to drive greater adoption of technology solutions in India. This is a great time to be for entrepreneurs in India with the increasing buzz in domestic markets, rising interest in Indian startups by overseas investors and improvement in the overall available infrastructure.



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