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Last Updated Sunday May 19 2019 11:05 PM IST
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Why hype is good for Kerala startups

Vivek Raghavan
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Startup Village We’ve evolved from having NO ecosystem at all to ‘seed’ and then this current ‘hype’ phase. Maybe by 2018–20, we could reach where Bangalore is today. Photo: Manorama Online

I've been hearing people talking about the 'unnecessary hype' about startups in Kerala. Even startup entrepreneurs are saying that the hype is killing entrepreneurship in the state.

This write up, as a matter-of-fact, is a reply to an article written by a fellow entrepreneur who strongly stands by such perceptions.

To understand things better, let’s go back 5 years. In 2010, how many people in Kerala might have heard the term “startup?”. Hardly anyone other than entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts and people exposed to startup ecosystems outside the state/country.

Fast forward to 2015, everyone in Kerala knows what a startup is. The media, government, students, parents, colleges- everybody is talking about startups and entrepreneurship! Now there is a “startup ecosystem” and hype around it.

Basically, every startup ecosystem will evolve through 6 phases: seed, hype, independence, integration, expansion and contraction.

Kerala is now where Bangalore was 3–4 years ago.

We’ve evolved from having NO ecosystem at all to ‘seed’ and then this current ‘hype’ phase. Maybe by 2018–20, we could reach where Bangalore is today.

The credit for this change mainly goes to Startup Village and similar initiatives from the government and other agencies. As the co-founder of the first startup to be incubated and as someone who worked closely with the people behind Startup Village, I know how hard it was to pull off something like this in Kerala which is often criticised for its attitude towards entrepreneurship.

There is a hype. I am not denying it. But the people behind these highly ambitious initiatives were aware that this is all part of the evolution. This hype was expected.

But if you ask me whether everything is going well and fine- certainly NOT! Just like anything else in India/Kerala, startups/incubators were given commitments. Big announcements were made. Several crores were allocated under various schemes for encouraging startups.

Just like anything else here, these crores never reached any of us. They remain as promises. On Startup Village’s 2nd anniversary on April 15th, 2014 Hon. Kerala's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had promised 1 lakh sq ft of office space for Startup Village inside the Kinfra premises within 1 year. This is was what he promised:

A year on, as we celebrate the thrid 3rd anniversary the building is still under construction.

But I don't want to blame the state's Chief Minister. He genuinely wanted to deliver on his promise and help startups. Many ministers and politicians tried to help us. In fact we have received support from all parties and officials. I don't think situations would have been better if Kerala was ruled by some other government. They will also get stuck in the same system.

I don't want to blame anyone at all. I want to know what is so wrong with our state that even a promise made by the Chief Minister himself is so difficult to materialize.

What happened to the 500 crores? What happened to the 1 lakh sq ft building? We don’t know. Nobody knows!

Technopark was the first of its kind IT/technology business park (founded in 1990) in India. Yet we are still stuck with one Technopark and one Infopark. Look what happened in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad in this time period. Why do these states leave us far behind when it comes to development and technology? Even the newly formed Andhra Pradesh government built a bigger Startup Village in Vizag.

SmartCity, Vizhinjam Port, Keltron we already have a burden of such promises. It is time for change. Our elders wasted decades playing blame game. Blaming is counter productive. Its just adding more fuel to the fire. Our generation should not follow this attitude.

Has my fellow entrepreneur's article made the situation of the startup ecosystem in Kerala any better? No. Did it bring down the positive atmosphere a bit? Yes.

It is not adding any value.

Everybody is talking about problems. We know there are problems. The startup ecosystem has problems.

But, rather than crib about it, why are we not trying to find a solution to this issue? All of us in the startup arena should think and find a collective solution. How can we move our startups to the next phase? I am writing this article hoping to bring everyone together and move an inch closer to the solution.

You want to change this. I want to change this. Ministers, government, officials, politicians and parties want to change this situation. We all want to change this. But how?

I would like to invite everyone and have an open discussion together. Let’s figure out some solutions. Instead of the CM coming to Startup Village, this year, let’s go to Cliff House, cut a cake together and discuss the solutions we need. Let’s criticize by bringing new solutions so that we are part of the solution and not the problem.

Also, I think its better not to worry too much about the quality of the startups or students jumping in to entrepreneurship. Only 1 or 2 companies out of 100 startups could survive to celebrate their 3rd anniversary. They will be the ones with enough perseverance and passion to grow big and become a proper business. Time fill filter out the rest. We should work towards creating an environment for the good ones to grow and flourish.

Let’s criticize by creating.

(This is article has been written by the Co-founder of WowMakers. These views are personal and the Malayala Manorama does not endorse these views)

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