How IIM Bangalore’s startup hub, NSRCEL, imparts strategic mentorship to tech entrepreneurs

NSRCEL, the startup hub at IIM Bangalore, has incubated over 279 ventures in the past 15 months. Anand Sri Ganesh, Chief Operating Officer, NSRCEL shares that most ventures at NSRCEL today have a tech-enabled proposition, often using a combination of digital, cloud and AI/ ML technologies as a route to differentiate and scale

What is the vision and mission strategy of NSRCEL? Please share a few key milestones and achievements.

Anand Sri Ganesh, Chief Operating Officer, NSRCEL

At NSRCEL, we provide a safe environment for founding teams to validate and crystalise their venture ideas and reach a stage of sustenance and growth. We work with entrepreneurs in areas that are underserved by the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country that have a potential to significantly impact economic growth and societal benefits.

Over the past 20 years since our inception, we have engaged with over 115,000 entrepreneurs through a range of programs. In the past 15 months 279 ventures have been incubated at NSRCEL.

What is the USP of your incubation program, particularly for tech startups?
Most ventures at NSRCEL today have a tech-enabled proposition, often using a combination of digital, cloud and AI/ ML technologies as a route to differentiate and scale. The biggest challenge that such tech startups face is in evolving their revenue models and go-to-market strategy. NSRCEL’s incubation programs focus on sharpening their value proposition, gaining a deep understanding of customer needs, and therefore executing a sales and marketing strategy to acquire customers, sustain and grow revenue quickly.

This is driven by the intellectual capital of IIM Bangalore’s faculty and our pool of industry experts and mentors – all of whom are entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who have driven innovation and built business at scale.

Do you have a stringent selection process? What kind of mentoring do you provide to early-stage startups?
NSRCEL attracts the most tenacious of entrepreneurs to its cohorts. Ventures go through a screening process comprising a combination of venture pitches, founding team due-diligence and interactions with NSRCEL mentors and industry experts.

NSRCEL mentorship programs combine strategic inputs along with deep contextual guidance. Subject matter experts engage with founding teams to help them understand nuances of their product-markets and specific priority areas like fund raising, cash-flow planning, and sales & marketing. Strategic mentorship serves as a mirror to the founding team to help them prioritise key decisions during the lifecycle of their incubation.

Which are the emerging and innovative technologies some of these tech startups are working on, do you believe any of them will make a significant impact in times to come? Are you witnessing any interesting tech trends in the startup ecosystem, since the onset of the pandemic?
Our ongoing programs focus the spotlight on emerging business sectors and emerging business models where ventures are reimagining product-markets in disruptive ways to create highly scalable ventures. Programs focusing on the demographic dividend of the country to serve the interests of a growing consumer base through personalised products and services, mobility and sustainability, affordable healthcare and financial inclusion are attracting a lot of entrepreneurial energy. Direct-to-consumer business models, especially with ventures having an Indic perspective to their products is an exciting emerging space. Venture ideas capitalising on digital transformation journeys of global enterprises is a hot favourite – enterprise saas business models driven by product innovation and global sales execution.

How is NSRCEL effectively bridging the gap between industry and academia through its various initiatives?
One of the critical dimensions of our incubation interventions is in bringing together the right ecosystem of partners to enable the journeys of our incubated startups. This includes supply-side partners that help in prototyping, testing, and certifications; demand side partners enable product-market validation and go-to-market access. We partner with a range of corporates to open sand-box environments for ventures to test and validate their proposition in real-world settings. Our academic partnerships – especially with the IITs and with premier medical institutions – enable our ventures to access sophisticated lab facilities and technical mentors.

What are your plans for the future in terms of growth strategy?
NSRCEL aims to be the go-to platform for any aspirant in the country looking to entrepreneurship as a career choice. We will deeply invest in areas that are currently underserved by the entrepreneurship and funding ecosystem in the country to catalyse economic growth and societal progress.

Under-pinning all our programs is our fundamental research in areas of entrepreneurship. We continuously track and study entrepreneurial motivations and success factors. This helps us design high-impact programs, as well as contribute back to the global body of knowledge in entrepreneurship through case studies, research, and policy analysis.

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