Seaside 'village' in India to nurture software start-ups

Dec 04 2012, 11:02 IST
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A gardener plants seedlings at the entrance of Start-up Village in Kinfra High Tech Park in the southern Indian city of Kochi.  (Reuters) A gardener plants seedlings at the entrance of Start-up Village in Kinfra High Tech Park in the southern Indian city of Kochi. (Reuters)
SummaryA caption at Infosys reads: "We started Infosys in a room about this size, it's your turn now."

now one of the entrepreneurs at Startup Village, and is working on a product that could help the government detect illegal abortions in a country plagued by female foeticide.

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The seven-month-old Startup Village provides would-be entrepreneurs with workspace at rents about a tenth of anywhere else in Kochi, computers, a high-speed Internet connection, legal and intellectual property services and access to high-profile investors.

The village is still to be completed, but 68 people, would-be entrepreneurs and their teams, have already taken up two buildings at the site.

Spread over 100,000 sq ft (9,250 sq m) - equivalent to 20 basketball courts - Startup Village will be completed in 2014. India has 120 other incubators, but they are mostly housed in academic institutions and have not drawn a strong network of advisers from the private sector.

Startup Village, the first such institution to be jointly funded by the government and private sector, has Gopalakrishnan as its chief promoter and has collaborations with companies such as BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and IBM.

"One, the goal of this initiative is to create new companies and create jobs. Second, this will create new solutions and products," Gopalakrishnan said in an e-mail interview.

He is excited about creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs in his home-state, Kerala, which is famous for its tropical coastline and backwaters. The Village team says it chose Kerala because costs are lower than New Delhi or Mumbai and it has 150 engineering colleges that can provide start-up enthusiasts.

But for some, Startup Village will not work because it does not provide the right environment for a budding tech start-up.

"What does an entrepreneur need besides money? They need strong support in terms of advice," said Mukund Mohan, who has founded and sold three Silicon Valley start-ups and is CEO-in-residence at the Microsoft Accelerator. The institution helps start-ups in Bangalore, the city most associated with India's software industry that is about 550 km (340 miles) north of Kochi.

"There are not that many entrepreneurs in India, and there are hardly any in Kerala who have the expertise to be able to build, scale and sell strong software companies," said Mohan.

"If you have not been there and done that before, what advice will you give?"

But Bangalore has not been able to nurture a start-up culture of any significance either. It has many aspiring CEOs and optimistic financiers, but they are also struggling with a maze

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