Gaurang Shetty, Chief Innovation Catalyst / CEO, RiiDL - Somaiya Vidyavihar

Gaurang Shetty is currently the Chief Innovation Catalyst / CEO at RiiDL (Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory). He also leads the Developer Circles community for Facebook in Mumbai. RiiDL is the Innovation centre and the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) of the Somaiya campus. It was created in 2010 to facilitate 38000 students and 1800 faculty of the Somaiya campus and Shetty was working to accelerate RiiDL since inception. RiiDL raised a $0.8mn grant to setup the TBI. Shetty has also established a FABLAB affiliated with Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT USA and Do it yourself Biology Lab. He has conceptualized and initiated India’s biggest maker movement, Maker Mela (www.makermela.com), which has attracted over 10000+ innovators and every year the event hosts 100 teams from across Asia. He was also shortlisted by YCombinator for the start-up school program in Silicon Valley, California, 2016.

 

The startup ecosystem in India gained good visibility in January 2016, when the Startup India Program was launched. The government saw it as an avenue to resolve India’s rising unemployment issue and build a culture of Innovation in the country.

Startups take a lot from the founders, so it’s important for the founders to be in a good frame of mind. It must be a good time for them personally to start. Also, founders must be able to identify the timing of the market. For student founders, it becomes challenging because they have to juggle between school and work. On the flip side, students have nothing to lose, so even if the startup does not work, they are still in college.

To facilitate the startup ecosystem Government bodies, the Department of Promotion for Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), NITI Ayog, Department of Science & Technology, DBT BIRAC, MSINS, etc along with private players have created grants which enable educational institutions to set up Technology Business Incubators / Bio incubators.

The Technology Business Incubator / incubation center will charge minimal or not charge any kind of fee from startups and shall provide free facilities like rapid prototyping tools, office space, angel funds, prototyping grants, mentor hours, etc. The time for software startups to stay back is 12 months; for a hardware startup it can go up to 24 months and 36 months for bio tech startups.

Many institutions have started conducting audit courses on entrepreneurship, design thinking and they have created specialized programs to support aspiring entrepreneurs. For instance, Startup School India is one of the best programs for early stage entrepreneurs to build prototypes, launch their idea and get feedback from gurus in the program. It is a hands-on program to accelerate early stage startups. Many Incubation centers supported by government schemes run programs to support early stage startups. Some incubators also, provide tech support to startups and their programs usually support a cohort which is supported by industry.

In fact, many institutions offer, top-class mentors, experts across industries on a full-time basis, exposure to other startups in similar domains, and assistance in raising investments, all without any charges or a stake in the startups. They also have labs to foster creativity and imagination among entrepreneurs and startup employees and to help them inculcate self-reliant skills such as Machine Learning AI, computational thinking, adaptive learning and so on.

Some of the incubators in institutions are accessible to the selected startups round the clock and through the week, and they also provide operational advice, banking support, and guidance for IPR laws and applications.

Major responsibilities of the startup hubs usually revolve around the following points listed:

  • Facilitate and extend government schemes / grants to startups.
  • Provide prototyping and office facilities to entrepreneurs.
  • Work with industries and an extensive network of institutional partners to help entrepreneurs launch and scale.
  • Attract the best entrepreneurs from across the globe
  • Help startups to get equipped with entrepreneurship skills required to succeed, using methodologies that transcend traditional learning
  • Operating as a node to lead or support entrepreneurship efforts of the government.

The success ratio of startups is very low and not many people talk about the hardships of the journey. Starting a startup in college may not be the best thing to do, unless you have support from both families, your maker space / incubator / community, friends and many more.

Students can connect with various competitions based projects such as robocon, Formula students teams, etc. This will help them build technical skills and enable them to work in a team for a focused activity. Peer to peer learning is another important activity which helps students to learn quickly. Joining such active groups will help students shape their overall persona.

The best way to start your entrepreneurial journey is to experience it, by directly jumping into it. Another way would be to join a startup as an intern / employee and help them grow. Focused programs like startup school India can be a good kickstart for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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