Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared his intention to make India the start-up capital of the world, the country has seen a new wave of entrepreneurship as it emerges as the third largest start-up base after the US and the UK. According to a report by Nasscom-ZINNOV, India will be home to over 10,500 startups by 2020. Apart from the government offering a helping hand via tax exemptions and a ‘fund of funds’ of Rs 10,000 crore for start-ups, global enterprises have come up with various accelerator programmes for smaller tech firms. India currently has 140 incubators/ accelerators and recently surpassed Israel which has 130 such institutions. The country added 40 new incubators/ accelerators in 2016 and is third behind China and the US.
“Over the last couple of years India has seen an increase in the number of deep-tech start-ups,” says Mohammed Anzy S, chief evangelist, SAP Startup Studio. SAP’s association with start-ups began in 2015 in collaboration with the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM-Ahmedabad which aims to create a pipeline of investable start-ups from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Pune.
In June 2016, SAP Labs India launched its own start-up accelerator programme called SAP Start-up Studio. For the first batch in 2016, a select group of seven start-ups joined the programme. In 2017, it increased its intake to 16 start-ups. By the end of 2017, the company plans to increase its initial 75-seater incubator to a 100-seater facility.
As part of this programme, the German software company offers financial, infrastructure, and technology guidance to entrepreneurs whose products complement SAP offerings. “The current batch of 16 start-ups is working on technologies such as artificial intelligence; cloud, machine learning and IoT across various business functions,” explains Anzy. “We have also started short-term fellowships for our employees to work in the Start-up Studio with a few selected start-ups. This interaction will help our employees develop and nurture an entrepreneurial mindset.”
It also plans to engage with the academia and explore possibilities of translating early-stage ideas to products.”
Similarly, Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator programme was launched in April 2016 in Bengaluru and is looking to expand to Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. The start-up accelerator initiative aims to help speed up a start-up’s development through a combination of technical and business mentoring, free access to resources, etc., without seeking any equity.
“In Bengaluru, we’ve successfully mentored two batches of start-ups and have called for applications for the third batch,” says Sanket Atal, group vice president of development, Oracle India.
The California headquartered tech MNC has also announced a global expansion of the programme earlier this year, where it will provide mentorship, cloud services and support to start-ups in seven new hubs across Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
Sharing his views on the most talked about technologies when it comes to start-ups, Atal says, “I believe cloud is a great equaliser for start-ups to quickly transform an idea into a viable business proposition. There is a general inclination towards analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), though AI is used very broadly. In my view, the hot topics this year revolve around machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), language recognition, etc. NLP is currently being used to power bots. Oracle has also received several inquiries from start-ups regarding chatbots.”
Another California based global IT and networking company Cisco started an accelerator programme last year called Cisco LaunchPad. It aims to bring together Cisco technologies, start-ups, and the partner/ developer community to deliver business relevant end-to-end digital solutions.
“IoT, analytics, security remain really important for us. Along with this, even fintech and other developments happening on the financial services front are some of the areas we would like to consider,” says Alok Bardiya, director, Cisco Investments, Cisco India & SAARC.
The programme is open to mid-to-late stage technology and technology-enabled start-ups. It also focuses on Cisco’s core technology areas like networking and infrastructure, collaboration, and video.In total, the company has 10-12 active portfolios of start-ups in India. In one cohort which runs for about four months, it generally has 6-8 start-ups.
“Start-ups should have an innovative and scalable idea coupled with a great team known for execution excellence. The more the idea is relevant to the programme focus areas, the better will be their chances,” says Bardiya. “The graduating start-ups are enrolled in the Cisco Startup Programme’s Alumni Network, and will continue to have access to relevant Cisco technologies, platforms as well as business mentors.”
Global technology firm Pitney Bowes has mentored 18 start-ups and is currently reviewing applications for its fourth batch of accelerator programme which was launched in 2014. As part of the programme, start-ups have access to Pitney Bowes’ software Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and data for the duration of the programme. It provides training, technical and business guidance, and mentoring by Pitney Bowes’ engineering and innovation leaders and software industry experts.
“Along with this, we have partnerships with Microsoft and DigitalOcean and other leading players for cloud credits,” says Manish Choudhary, senior vice president, global innovation and managing director, India operations, Pitney Bowes Inc.
The US based digital commerce company’s solution architects and engineers interview 500-700 start-ups for each batch and have certain filters which they use to narrow down the list.
On the most sought-after technology in the start-up space, Choudhary says, “Currently, we see that artificial intelligence is the technology that is buzzing in the space. However, with Big Data entering the tech universe in a big way, the role of technologies like analytics seems to be more lasting as it utiliSes such trending technologies. Cloud and IoT come in the same league as analytics where the aspiration to create a completely connected world will help these technologies continue to thrive.”