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'We Intent To Expand In Eastern And North-Eastern India As Innovation Hub' Manisha Acharya, CEO, CII

The success of an Incubator lies in the number of graduating Start Ups and the funding support received by them. Hence, our focus would be to incubate more and more number of quality innovative Start Ups.

How this incubator - CII is pivoting the growth of early age Start-ups?

As is well known, Incubators are the most important cog in the wheel of a Start-up eco-system. And the Centre for Innovation & Incubation (CII) at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha is no exception. Often young Start Up entrepreneurs and innovators struggle when it comes to executing their ideas and innovations in terms of making a business plan and commercializing the idea or innovation as most of them may not be having any business background. We at CII understand and appreciate this very well. In order to facilitate the Ideators and Innovators to leap frog to next stage, we have initiated two unique programs i.e. “Upakram” which is for the Start-ups in the ideation stage and “Udyam” which is for the Start-ups who are having their prototypes ready. The “Upakram” envisages one-month pre-incubation classroom coaching that shall be beneficial for the participants to validate their ideas. Few promising of them can be supported with a prototype grant as well. The “Udyam program” envisages providing Seed fund support to the selected Start-Ups besides giving them one to one mentoring support to enable them to go to market and fine tune their financial matters. They shall also be connected to equity investors as per interest match making.

There have been many incubation programs that have emerged lately. Amidst them, how does CII stand apart?

Indeed, with the Start-Up revolution taking over, several Incubation centres have been set up both within and outside educational and R&D institutions. Actually, this is a good development towards promoting a robust Start Up eco-system. However, it is important for the incubators do develop their own USP. We at CII very much believe that we need to support the Start-ups at the ideation stage itself to provide them a well mentored guided journey starting from very early stage. Another important aspect would be, amongst other things, we would also like to support grassroot level and tribal innovation. We wish to bring-forth those innovations to the proper market-front with our mentoring support. We discovered a space that exists in promoting Rural & Tribal innovation. So along with Technology Incubation, we shall also be keen on promoting these as well. Another aspect typical to Odisha is that most of the entrepreneurial activities are confined within the capital city of Bhubaneswar. As CII is supported by Utkal University and Utkal University has 381 affiliated colleges in Odisha, so we at CII are aiming to reach out to these colleges with an objective to tap good innovations from different parts of Odisha to create a truly vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation.

What are the factors contributing towards the rise of Agri-tech Start-ups in India?

Backed by increased digitization, government initiatives, and investors’ interest, the Agritech industry in India is growing at a rate of 25% per year. Despite weak economic conditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Agri-tech ecosystem received investments of around $300-350 million in 2020. Many industry experts now believe the number will soon reach $1 billion. The government acknowledges the need for technology intervention in the agriculture sector and is providing various supports to the sector through a variety of schemes and initiatives. Demand side drivers such as evolving consumer dynamics towards consuming healthier food due to urbanization, imperative to reduce food wastage in India, environmental factors such as climate change and water shortage are helping drive the adoption of Agri-tech in the country. Adoption of technology in agriculture (Agri-tech) is helping in solving several pain-points across the spectrum of traditional agriculture value chain. Both the central and state governments are proactively working towards promotingAgri-tech ecosystem in the country.

Elaborate on the present market scenario. What kind of business opportunities do you see in this segment?

Currently, the Healthcare, Agri and Food tech Industries, E-Commerce and Clean tech Industries are flourishing. Besides them, industries using upcoming and emerging technologies like AI/ML, Big Data analytics, AR, VR, 3D Printing, Robotics etc. are also expected to do well. More so, with roll out of the massive Production Linked Incentive [PLI] scheme by Govt of India to boost India’s manufacturing prowess across various sectors, the Start Ups offering tech led solutions to help those sectors are expected to do well.

How can Start-up incubators boost a Start-up’s growth in this highly competitive market?

The markets were and markets shall always remain competitive. Hence, the entity that is able to create a competitive advantage for itself shall emerge successful. In this context, it is very important for a Start Up to clearly define a problem statement and the solution that it may offer. And at the same time, it is important to also assess the willing paying customers for the solution that it provides. The Incubators play a huge role at this stage by providing necessary mentoring support to the Start Ups to understand and fine tune their product or service offerings. By providing prototype grants, Seed funding support and investor connect in different stages, the Incubators play a huge role in shaping a nascent idea at its different stages of evolution into a competitive business unit.

What are your expansion plans and goals?

The success of an Incubator lies in the number of graduating Start Ups and the funding support received by them. Hence, our focus would be to incubate more and more number of quality innovative Start Ups. We wish to grow organically as well by setting up of a few satellite centres of CII in few select colleges in Odisha in a hub and spoke model. Going forward, CII shall expand its work beyond Odisha and it shall be positioned as an Innovation Hub for Eastern and North Eastern India to support grassroot level of innovations.



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