Punjab can be the next startup hub: IMPunjab Chairman Pramod Bhasin

Leveraging their talent, the Mission can effect Punjab’s transition from an agricultural state to a startup hub.

Punjab can be the next startup hub: IMPunjab Chairman Pramod Bhasin
Punjab possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and its businesses have a strong footprint in India and the rest of the world.

As a foundation, IMPunjab aims to build and empower startup communities in Punjab. It will be setting up a Rs 150-crore venture fund to support early- to growth-stage startups, for which the state government will provide 10% of the corpus and guarantees of up to Rs 10 crore cumulatively, says IMPunjab’s chairman Pramod Bhasin, who built Genpact from the start and was its president and CEO till 2011. In an interview with Sudhir Chowdhary, Bhasin explains how the IMPunjab platform is helping budding startups to scale up and realise their potential. Excerpts:

Tell us about the idea behind IMPunjab.

Innovation Mission Punjab was conceptualised as an organisation with a mission to boost economic activity in Punjab. It is a unique private-public partnership that aims to bolster the startup ecosystem, help startups create high-value jobs, and drive investment into the state. In my opinion, Punjab hasn’t hopped onto the startup bus yet. Also, despite Punjabis being risk-takers and entrepreneurial, the  state hasn’t seen creation of jobs and investments. We are actively working with several stakeholders, including the Punjabi diaspora, investors, entrepreneurs, incubators, schools and colleges, business leaders and artists to set the state on a growth path.

Do you think Punjab has the potential to become the next startup hub?

Punjab possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and its businesses have a strong footprint in India and the rest of the world. Entrepreneurs from Punjab have built Indian companies with a worth of over $50 bn and foreign companies with a worth of more than $100 bn. The state is home to some of the best educational and research institutions, training the country’s best minds. Leveraging their talent, the Mission can effect Punjab’s transition from an agricultural state to a startup hub. We are trying to make use of the state’s immense resources to make it the best place to work and build businesses at scale.

How is IMPunjab helping startups to scale their businesses and try and reach unicorn status?

The Mission is helping startups and SMEs by creating networks through which different stakeholders are brought together, which includes interaction with best-in-class global investors and advisors. We are creating excitement and churn in the community by hosting multiple startup-focussed events such as Startup Day, ideathons, and business plan competitions, enabling a drive across cities in Punjab to build a vibrant ecosystem. We are an open-source platform and ready to help anyone by sharing expertise through our solid mentor and board network, which includes names like Saurabh Srivastava, DS Brar, Naina Lal Kidwai, Manoj Kohli, Rajan Anandan, Ajay Shah, and Pramod Bhasin.

Is there any funding assistance that the platform would be offering startups?

A Rs 150-crore venture capital fund is being set up for early-to growth-stage entrepreneurs experimenting with innovative ideas and rethinking traditional businesses. Besides, with the support of the government, we would be providing cash awards, prototyping awards, etc. at various competitions to encourage entrepreneurship and ideation. We plan to start angel and seed-stage funding in parallel to encourage the engaged startups and help them scale their business ideas. This will be over and above the Rs 150-crore fund.

Last year, the Indian startup ecosystem got a big boost when the number of unicorns breached the 100 mark. Do you think this growth is likely to continue amid fears of an economic slowdown?

I believe that as long as the value proposition and fundamentals are strong, the Indian startup ecosystem will continue to grow, whether or not there is a slowdown. Seed-stage funding has continued to increase, though late-stage funding is seeing a slowdown and a correction in high valuations. We’re also seeing blue-chip funds such as Sequoia and Accel raise new funds dedicated to India/SE Asia. Accel India, Matrix Partners, and Elevation Capital have also stepped up their India play. This clearly shows that investors from across the globe continue to be interested in Indian startups.

“We are actively working with several stakeholders, including the Punjabi diaspora, investors, entrepreneurs, incubators, schools and colleges, business leaders, and artists to set the state on a growth path.

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