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Chintan Bakshi

The author is CEO, Startup Oasis

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Impact Of Holistic Incubation On Livelihood-Based Social Sector Startups In India

Incubators and accelerators play a key role in creating the required ecosystem to empower a sizeable chunk of enterprises that would otherwise not be able to contribute to the Indian and global economies.

While India is the world’s second-largest start-up hub, a majority of these ventures are operating across urban parts of the country, especially the metros. A large chunk of the ongoing digital and technological transformation, then, is also taking place solely in urban areas. This points towards a major need-gap as far as rural/ peri-urban/ semi-urban/ Tier 2 & 3 cities development is concerned, even though rural India is home to two-third of the country’s population.

The fact that the rural population is not being catered to with the same levels of digital and technological disruption begs the question – does rural India not have entrepreneurial potential?

Considering that one-fifth of the rural population is already self-employed in various agricultural and non-agricultural livelihood practices, the answer is a resounding no. While entrepreneurial potential does exist in rural parts of India, several factors are hindering its growth and development. Those entrepreneurs do not have access to the required growth ecosystem, this is one of the leading reasons why rural India has not reached its potential as a hotbed of business success. Even if businesses are set up, they are not able to scale up due to a lack of resources such as funding, mentorship, and go-to-market strategies.

Fortunately, this scenario is set to change with the establishment of incubators that are aimed at harnessing the full potential of rural and Tier 2 and 3 enterprises. One such incubator- Start-Up Oasis – is already making massive strides incubating scalable business models in the livelihood sector. Majorly operating across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Start-Up Oasis is fostering innovation-driven entrepreneurship through its holistic incubator support.

Incubation, according to the brand, is not just limited to financial aid. It includes business and technical advice, mentoring support, access to expert and market networks along with seed and early-stage funding. By joining hands with numerous investment partners such as Villgro, Technology Development Board, Bharat Fund, Rajasthan Venture Capital Fund, etc., Start-Up Oasis is creating a favourable ecosystem for social impact start-ups focused on generating rural livelihoods, to flourish.

The role of forward-looking incubators in start-up success

It is said that incubation is the bedrock for disruptive innovation. It is with this knowledge that Start-Up Oasis is supporting promising ventures by guiding them from the early stages of conception to their successful commercialisation. For instance, Camel Charisma, a Rajasthan based start-up has received incubation support and funding to the tune of Rs 18,00,000. The start-up is focused on uplifting the incomes of traditional Rajasthani cattle herders (the Raika Community) by developing, promoting and marketing camel milk and camel milk-based products. In doing so, it provides an ongoing source of income for nomadic camel herders while preserving and promoting the biodiversity of the Thar Desert. 

Start-ups such as Camel Charisma deserve honourable mentions for the work to uplift livelihoods in rural areas. Through their value propositions, such brands are creating a market and commercialising the activities of individuals who otherwise would not have access to such opportunities. It is through high-quality incubator support by Start-Up Oasis that the brand is now making consistent revenues per month and is set to reach new heights.          

Start Up Oasis also has a focus on supporting startups that work with talented craftsmen residing in rural India. In its areas of operation, the incubator has identified high-potential craft ventures that can make an impact on a national or even global level. A stellar example is that of Khadigi, a start-up that reinforces ‘hand spun, hand woven’ (can we use the name – check) fabric with Soya fabric which can then be used to create high-end garments. Created by rural craftspeople especially women, this fabric is promoted and sold to designers and big brands like Raymond (are they doing it?), giving them the recognition and compensation that they deserve. Khadigi has already received Rs 3,690,000 from Start Up Oasis.

Another start-up, Fabric Monde, has received financial support for catalogue development, quality control, technology integration and marketing strategies for its portfolio of sustainable and traditional fabrics. The start-up received Rs 50 lacs from Startup Oasis, besides intensive mentoring and strategy support.

A special mention of an innovative start-up with a deep impact on the tribals is M&R Pvt Ltd Company with the brand name as Golden Feathers. The start-up has patented the technique of making fine fabric out of chicken feather waste, which leads them to invent the sixth kind of natural fibre. The process includes over 22 sanitisation processes and the fibre has exceptional quality and life. The start-up is now reaching international markets, especially the cold countries. Startup Oasis supported the start-up with Rs 50 lakh as funds besides other incubation support.

On the back of its commitment towards the upliftment of Indian crafts, that the incubator has initiated India’s first craft-focused accelerator program, called ‘The Craft Catapult’, to search, seed, support, and scale craft start-ups. As part of the program, Startups would be supported in reaching markets, introducing them to global designers, offering critical strategic insights, enabling access to the latest technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning etc. 

The incubator has a finger on the pulse of the Indian livelihoods sector start-up ecosystem. Its impact extends across numerous start-ups about enhancing rural and peri-urban livelihood opportunities. With an extensive portfolio of dairy farmers, animal herders, rural artisans, and farmers, Start Up Oasis is making its mark in the rural enterprise landscape.  

India is eyeing large-scale digitisation and multifold growth of its economy. Incubators and accelerators play a key role in creating the required ecosystem to empower a sizeable chunk of enterprises that would otherwise not be able to contribute to the Indian and global economies. For sustained growth, we must ensure that entrepreneurial empowerment is inclusive and not just limited to urban India. For the country to emerge as a tech-led superpower, there is simply no other option. Startup Oasis paves its way to ‘creating new start-up capitals’ by catalysing the untouched territories of Tier 2 & 3 cities and rural India, that has a promise to impact the whole start-up ecosystem a big way.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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