Big dreams, small money (often loaned from family and friends), the ability to take risks and do something on their own mark the spirit of entrepreneurship. Of the 1.27 billion people in India, a sizable number of individuals keep this spirit close to their heart and plunge into entrepreneurship. While some are second or third generation entrepreneurs many are actually first-time entrepreneurs with only a vague idea of how to go about starting their businesses. As a result, a whopping 80% of them fail in the first 18 months. What these enterprises often need is guidance and multiple layers of support- precisely what business incubators try to provide; helping enterprises kick start and scale up over time.
In India, over a period of two decades, the number of technology business incubators has increased to 120 and all these incubators collectively help about 500 enterprises every year to graduate. The number of graduates can perhaps increase further, if incubators themselves are provided with a structured approach and support to begin with, right from building their vision to helping start-ups scale up.
With this in mind, an Initiative undertaken by CIIE in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH focuses on providing advisory support and network connections for existing or new incubators or incubator-like organisations through a series of workshops. The series of workshops (three on Capacity Building and one on Impact Measurement) will be conducted between November, 2014 and April, 2015. These workshops will address the commonly encountered incubation challenges and help new incubator managers learn the ropes and improve performance.
The first Capacity Building Workshop of the aforementioned series was hosted by CIIE at Ahmedabad between 26th and 28th November, 2014. The workshop aimed to help participant organisations create strategic and operational plan for their incubators. The active participation of the representatives of eleven organisations brought forward numerous thoughts on collaboration and practices that could lead to a vibrant ecosystem in different regions of the country. They went through the various sessions of identifying their capabilities, mapping their stakeholders to build their vision and thereafter created an operation plan.
About the Workshop
Day 01 (November 26th)
The workshop opened with Eileen Trenkmann emphasising GIZ’s focus on the importance of bringing together the various ecosystem stakeholders and Ashwin Joshi remarking about the concrete steps that can be taken to build the capabilities of the incubators.
The ensuing session saw the different participating organisations introducing themselves to the group followed by an interactive session by Nagaraja Prakasam on identifying the needs of social enterprises. Numerous perspectives emerged during the session as participants focussed on social enterprises as their customers and dived deep into figuring out their characteristics, problems and requirements that needed to be addressed by incubators. The participants underwent an exercise of putting themselves in the shoes of their customers (the social enterprises) to empathise with their needs.
Post lunch, Kannan Narayanaswamy focussed on critical success factors for an incubator and explained to the participants how to map them on a scale and track their progress over time. The discussions brought forward the various complications that arise in trying to identify and map one’s critical success factors and its link with capabilities of the incubators.
Prajakt Raut conducted the consequent session on potential stakeholders in the ecosystem with whom partnerships can be developed to build further capabilities. The session highlighted the need of engaging with stakeholders and finding various ways to constantly leverage for mutual benefit.
Post tea, the stakeholder engagements took a new direction with a panel discussion being moderated by Keerthi Laal (Innovation Consultant). The panelists represented different stakeholders from the ecosystem, Anisha Patnaik (service provider), Chandrakant Kumbhani (corporate), Chintan Soni (entrepreneur), Chirag Patel (investor), Eileen Trenkmann (funding agency), and Sunil Parekh (government). The conversations pondered on different issues such as current scenarios for entrepreneurs in the country, possible synergies and engagement terms for different stakeholders, expectations of the stakeholder from the incubator for the mutual benefit of the stakeholder, incubator as well as the incubatee. After the engrossing discussion, the day ended with participants assimilating their thoughts from all the sessions into structure through the problem defining canvas.
Day 02 (November 27th)
Kunal Upadhyay (CIIE) opened the second day with a much welcomed discussion reasoning the need for incubators and why they actually exist. It continued to include various operation models of some existing incubators in India, the space in which incubators operate, possible support services that can be provided by incubators, the objective of creating measurable metrics, sustainability as impact and focussing on core competencies of the incubator to attain its objectives.
The discussion flowed into the insights put forward by different mentors present. While Nagaraja Prakasam suggested that the incubator should define success parameters for them, they should work towards achieving those without focussing on financial return for the first few years and moreover, leverage their competencies. Kannan Narayanaswamy mentioned that incubators should align their vision, mission and strategies to bring out efficiency and effectiveness. Keerthi Laal highlighted that any successful enterprise is a combination of technology and people; therefore the incubators should create an environment of learning and should evolve in the process. He was also of the opinion that incubators need to change their offerings to suit the requirements of the incubatees over time.
In the similar vein, Prakjakt Raut remarked that mentors should be able to draw the fine line between interference and guidance. Mentors should guide mentees to make well informed and educated decisions instead of enforcing on them their own ideas. The discussion concluded with the group contemplating on the circumstances under which incubators should pull the plug on an entrepreneur.
Following a short break, Vishwanath (CIBI) talked about the Coimbatore Innovation and Business Incubator, his journey over the past six months and answered queries from participants. Ashwin (CIIE) then guided participants through an Incubator Operations Canvas that would help them get started.
Post lunch, participants conducted one on one meetings with senior members from CIIE and mentors to discuss their visions, methodology, line of action and opportunities to be scouted to reach their objectives and to bring clarity in their own planning. The day culminated with presentations from participants on their future plans.
Day 03 (November 28th)
The third day was unstructured and encouraged open discussion. It began on the note of collaborative efforts to create an Alliance that would harness the strength of its member incubators and facilitate knowledge and resource sharing. As participants discussed the possibilities, they came to a consensus that conversations needed more of a ‘deep dive’ format for something concrete to emerge out of them. The rest of the day saw intense discussions between participants and CIIE team members on an individual basis about their operational plan and the resultant activities for the next two months and the nature of support from the CIIE team.
The workshop was not just about helping incubators identify their strengths and weaknesses but also helping them connect with one another and understanding other stakeholders from the ecosystem. Besides providing clarity to the process of incubation, the workshop also acted as a stepping stone for the next workshops and a new collaborative effort to create a better entrepreneurial ecosystem.
List of Participants
- Amey Karmali (Centre for Incubation and Business Acceleration),
- Vanita Yadav, Baljeet Singh and Nirali Shukla (Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Enterprises)
- Karminder jit Singh (Venture Lab – Thapar)
- Nitul Jyoti Das and Sadique Mannan (Down Town Charity Trust)
- Deepak Menaria and Vikas Rajput (Lemon Ideas)
- Dilnawaz Khan (Startup Oasis)
- Vishwanath Sahasranamam (Coimbatore Innovation and Business Incubator)
- Srinivas (NAARM- Association for Innovation and Development of Entrepreneurship in Agriculture a-idea)
- Sivarajah Ramanathan and Stalin Kalidoss (Nativelead Foundation)
- Sanjeeb Kakoty (IIM Shillong )
- Soumya Harish (Nurture & Empower Entrepreneurial Ventures)
- Anisha Patnaik (Partner, Krishnamurthy & Co. (K Law)),
- Chandrakant Kumbhani (GM, Ambuja Cement Foundation)
- Chintan Soni (CEO, Ecolibrium Energy Pvt. Ltd.)
- Chirag Patel (Founder, CEO, Net4Nuts)
- Eileen Trenkmann (Advisor, GIZ)
- Sunil Parekh (Advisory Board Member- Vibrant Gujarat, Govt. of Gujarat)
–Written by Susmita Ghosh with contribution from Anu Singhal