It has been nearly three years since the establishment of the country’s first StartUp Village in Ernakulam district. Today, over 800 companies have registered themselves with the institution. What had once begun as a mere initiative of innovative technology driven college students, the StartUp Village has become the most sought after venture by several aspiring businessmen and ‘techies.’
So what is the StartUp Village?
This is an initiative supported by the Government of Kerala as well as the Department of Science and Technology, Central Government to not only promote new innovations and development in the area of science and technology.
At present, this institution supports several ideas and innovations in the area of Information Technology (IT) and Telecom. The team at the StartUp Village strive towards providing ample opportunities, guidance and even provide initial capital to those who wish start their own enterprise.
This non-profit organisation is built on the concept called 'incubation.' The participants, who are referred to as incubatees, enter the arena or the incubator with a concept, idea or a product that they wish to convert into a business. These thoughts are then altered, worked upon, discussed and are finally molded into a state that could yield fruitful results. In order to be part of the process, the participants send in applications to the StartUp Village which have to be filled as per the conditions set by the institution. While in the initial stages the programme had received over 500 applications, today are over 8000 applications to the StartUp Village.
The applicants vary between the ages of 16 and above. In short, there are enterprises that are run by both students and those who have had their stint at being an employee in reputed firms.
What does the StartUp Village provide its incubatees?
"We help introduce upcoming entrepreneurs to the right people at the right time," said Dinnu Nijo, Manager of the StartUp Village. At present, selected applicants can avail the basic facilities of the organization such as the internet and the air-conditioned work spaces at a nominal rate of Rs 1000 – Rs. 2000 per year.
These facilities are available in a building of an approximate area of 10,000 sq. ft which was provided by the Government of Kerala. Dinnu also added that an additional area of 5000 sq. ft has also been provided so as to help the organization's expansion. The StartUp village hopes to provide more space to their candidates in the days to come. Apart from the facilities, the organisation also offers mentoring services to upcoming entrepreneurs too. These mentors include the biggest names in the Indian business arena including Ravi Pillai, founder of Bahrain based RP Group and Infosys Co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan.
Business risks at the StartUp Village
According the Dinnu, only three per cent of business enterprises flourish from the initial stages. The others go through several failures. “Then again, nobody packs their bags and leave at the StartUp Village,” she added. The organization provides the incubatee s an opportunity explore the business world from a whole new perspective.
They not only interact with their business partners but are also encouraged to meet other entrepreneurs and learn more about business strategies. They are also given a chance to be part of enterprises as well.
The growth of business enterprises
With SEBI having approved the organisations Angel Fund, the StartUp village will be able to help upcoming enterprises in terms of their capital requirements in an indirect manner. The Angel Fund, as the name suggests, is the fund provided by a private company or an individual. As the fund has been approved the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the companies of the StartUp Village could also soon become 'listed' companies. Thus, the companies are able to acquire a group of investors as well.
At present the fund amounts to a sum of 10 million dollars. It has been said that the fund would also have an over-allotment option (also called Green Shoe option) if they are able to raise funds worth 20 million dollars.
What do the entrepreneurs have to say?
"The experience has been great. I have no regrets in being part of the StartUp Village. Having worked at reputed firms for 5 years, I believe this is more enjoyable and makes me happier," said Sunil Vallath, Co-founder of the company Exploride.
Sabarish and Nibu of SectorQube, a firm that provides the technology behind 'smart' ovens said, "I would encourage students to consider the option of starting their own enterprise. Today, even parents encourage their children to do so."