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Chennai, the conservative capital of Tamil Nadu and traditionally considered to be a manufacturing hub, is scripting India’s second “tech revolution”, with at least a hundred startups — even by conservative estimates — setting up shop every year. Although it may be too early to start drawing a parallel with Bangalore, the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, the metropolis is fast emerging as a preferred destination for startups that are making a mark in the global IT space, owing mainly to an ecosystem built around investors and some young players.
Some of the big names that are already making waves in the market are Zoho Corp, OrangeScape, Interviewstreet, Extragram, Freshdesk, Tenmiles Corporation, Unmetric, and XLabz Technologies.
V Chandrasekaran, vice-president of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), Chennai, and co-founder and COO, Secova, says locations like Bangalore that have been serving the demands of cutting-edge technology and innovation are reaching a saturation point. “Chennai is a natural preference for the next generation of companies in software products and innovation,” he adds. TiE is a non-profit trade group dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship.
Nasscom, the IT industry body, is also helping these small companies grow. “Chennai has been identified as an important startup hub with almost 8% of the total startup applications coming in from this region. The Nasscom ‘10,000 Startups’ programme will aim at scaling up the existing startup hub to the next level of growth,” says a Nasscom spokesperson.
There are other players which have helped build the ecosystem. The Startup Centre is one of them. Vijay Anand, founder and CEO of The Startup Centre, says metros like Chennai are rather old and the beauty of such ecosystems is that they are well balanced.
“We are not in the Silicon Valley, yet we see a lot of startups imagining they are, and trying to imitate them and subsequently failing. The luxuries of some of these older hubs have been the support system in terms of businesses and capital to make things succeed in India.”
Anand has worked with over 1,000 startups through his initiative. According to him, SaaS, Cloud and BigData are potential billion-dollar opportunities globally that are being serviced by Chennai’s startups.
Shailesh Davey, co-founder and vice-president, Zoho Corp, says most of its founders were from Chennai. “When we started in 1996, there were hardly any product startup in Chennai. Now, there are a number of them. Ecosystems can happen only when the