‘Until only few years back ‘whatsapp’ used to be a typo and ‘cloud’ was found in the sky.” This statement by Adaire Fox-Martin, SAP’s APJ President, seemed to capture the pace of technology diffusion in recent years and the essence of the discussion on ‘Hyperconnectivity and its role in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship’. Ms. Fox – Martin was visiting CIIE and IIM Ahmedabad to officially announce SAP’s partnership with CIIE. Ahmedabad’s scorching temperature of 45 degrees seemed to have no effect on the 80+ attendees who made a beeline to CIIE at 2 PM to attend the launch event. While the streets of the city were sparsely populated in the afternoon, CIIE was buzzing with action. In a first, CIIE was about to launch a Gujarat focused accelerator program with SAP – probably the first regional accelerator program in India. SAP has been actively supporting entrepreneurship globally and is focusing on developing regional entrepreneurial ecosystems in India through its CSR division. “Through the SAP-CIIE Accelerator, Gujarat based entrepreneurs can access best-in-class expertise and technology mentoring in design thinking, HANA, IoT and Cloud and get a chance to really build world class competence in technology entrepreneurship”, Gunjan Patel, India head of SAP CSR added.
There is nothing new in the fact that technology has progressed at an incredible pace over the past few decades. How we, as users, adapt to a more connected world is something that needs pondering into. Hyperconnectivity – a world where we no longer “go online” but “are online” – therefore presents us with multiple opportunities for new business models. Add connected devices and smart appliances to that; and we are looking at ample opportunities for disruptive innovations. What if you could buy consumables like soap, or milk pouches, at the press of a button and get them exactly when you need them? Amazon seems to be right on track to answer that. What if you enter a shopping mall and the shops feed you with information that you want to know? Undoubtedly this seems to be very close to a scene from Minority Report, but technologies like iBeacon enable technologists to build applications to do just that. Coming back to the present moment, the context seems realistic enough with SAP and CIIE making an effort to harness this opportunity and enable Gujarat based tech entrepreneurs to build hi-tech and scalable businesses.
Why Gujarat though? Ahmedabad, and Gujarat as a whole, is one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the country. Ahmedabad, perhaps, can boast of a very high quality of cross-disciplinary student pool – some of the top students from the country flock to Ahmedabad each year to study in institutions like NID (Design), MICA (Communication), IIT Gandhinagar and DAIICT (Technology), IIM Ahmedabad (Management), CEPT (Urban Planning and Architecture) and GNLU (Law). Further, in recent years Gujarat based tech companies such as Infibeam, VMukti and Ecolibrium have and continue to raise the bar higher for new tech entrepreneurs. That being said, the percentage of hi-tech entrepreneurship in Gujarat is abyssal and therefore venture investing activity too remains far from desirable. As indicated in GEM, hi-tech entrepreneurship is directly responsible for creation of a disproportionately higher numbers of jobs and profits for the economy – not to mention creation of radical market disruptions – as compared to traditional businesses. Hi-tech entrepreneurship therefore is a critical area that needs immediate attention.
Over the past few years, the startup ecosystem in Gujarat has received a fillip with 6 incubators having set shop in Ahmedabad alone. These include iCreate, MICA Incubator, Venture Studio, IIT Gandhinagar, NDBI and CIIE. In addition to these incubators, several community organizations, networks and platforms including eChai, The Indus Entrepreneur Network (TiE), Google Business Groups (GBG), et al have been instrumental in weaving a strong collaborative fabric for the local entrepreneurs. CIIE “strongly feel(s) that entrepreneurs here are poised to take the next step and up their game to a national level.”
The SAP-CIIE Accelerator Program is being designed to give access to some of the top domain experts and technologists from SAP that would help support the local tech entrepreneurs in areas including internet, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), sports, food and agribusiness, healthcare, hyperconnectivity and social entrepreneurship among others – in addition to access to seed funding to the top few entrepreneurs. Slated for a launch in Q3 of 2015, the SAP-CIIE accelerator is a 3-month non-residential accelerator exclusively for Gujarat based tech entrepreneurs.
The launch event for the accelerator itself was a testimony of the enthusiasm of the 50+ local entrepreneurs who braved the heat on May 27th, 2015.
 The Hyperconnected World: An Era of Opportunity: http://www.akamai.com/dl/akamai/hyperconnected_world.pdf