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Indian startups are growing during the Covid-19 pandemic

NASSCOM CoE-IoT & AI, a Public Private Partnership program between MeitY, state governments and the industry, is incubating and accelerating startups in a physical lab with test and measurement equipment in centres located in Bangalore, Gurugram, IIT Gandhinagar and Vizag, says Navratan Katariya, Director - Startup Engagement, Innovation Partnership & Cleantech, NASSCOM Center of Excellence

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By Navratan Katariya

“Please help me get some good innovative solutions in next five days for these four use cases, I need to work with them and seek a budget to quickly implement it within next three weeks.” – never heard of such urgencies from corporates!

Needless to say, many health providers, government manufacturing companies etc. are looking at the adverse impact of the Covid-19 situation, as a major transformation trigger. For them to survive, they need to think different. They also realise that post Covid-19, this new “normal” will be accepted as the norm for remaining in competitive business.

NASSCOM CoE-IoT & AI, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) program between MeitY, state governments and the industry, is incubating and accelerating startups in a physical lab with test and measurement equipment in centres located in Bangalore, Gurugram, IIT Gandhinagar and Vizag. We accelerate growth of not only our (usually early stage) startups but also of PAN India startups, working in areas like healthcare, manufacturing, agri-tech, mobility, etc.

Whether it is distance maintenance, remote monitoring of people for health vitals or equipment; or predictive maintenance, all of these require innovative solutions. Existing startups have either had matching solutions; or some of them have moved from their current solutions to the ones which have immediate market demand. At our centre, we are busy with increased number of enquiries, our Discover and Matching exercise under co-create program has increased multi-fold since we all went into lockdowns.

Not that many of these solutions did not have value before this situation arose, the operation people, be it doctors, factory managers or farmers, have got some time to think differently and are actually spending time to evaluate various options and allocating some budgets. CxOs and operations heads of factories, have realized that digital solutions are written on the wall and they are spending more time than ever talking to startups and other SMEs with innovations. As a CxO of a large multinational manufacturing company said, “We will not be able to keep our market leadership if we don’t innovate with startups, and in a worst case scenario, we may have survival issues. Fortunately, myself and our operation heads are not bogged down by the routine operational tasks now and we have time and need to think and act.”

There is a management push in most of these entities, including the state and central Governments, to imbibe. They have been working on understanding the new solutions, procurement relaxations (commercial and references/financials as eligibility criteria), and increased their risk appetite – all very important for startups! They have also realized quite soon that the time and money required by these nimble startups against their internal R&D/engineering team is far conducive to the market requirements. CoE creates the much-needed awareness amongst these adopters, that startups offer high speed, customisation, new ideas, and lower cost for development (one can try more methods of solving a problem in the same budget of time and money).

Collaboration is the name of the game today, many innovation adopters do not risk dealing directly with startups, thus providing a very valid reason for corporates or large system integrators to jointly develop and offer solutions with startups. These corporates have the financial, brand and resources which startups don’t usually have. They add their solutions on the top of startups’, who usually have a smaller piece of solution, while an adopter wants an end-to-end solution. Complementary strengths of large corporates and rather smaller startups thus are very valuable to the complete eco-system: from the supplier to an end user. And this is where we spend a high percentage of time, successfully marrying them.

Innovations need to cross boundaries. Not only for market access, but also for collaborations between startups. Apart from having current travel restrictions, startups also need a partner startup, usually with complementary technologies/solutions, manufacturing capability, market access, and/or local deployment and after sales advantages. Afterall, it’s not an easy task for Indian startups to open offices, get visas etc. unless the market potential is proven. Again, we have through our foreign innovation ecosystem partnerships, tried to provide such opportunities to startups across almost every continent now. Our CoE spends time hosting International delegations of bureaucrats, ministers, and industries, giving them a meaningful story about Indian innovation eco-system for them to take investment and innovation sourcing decisions for India.

There are perhaps hundreds of examples in manufacturing sector, from reduction of wastage, downtimes of equipment and factory, quality control of incoming and outgoing produce, touchless operations, social distancing at office spaces and shop-floor, operational intelligence, access control / attendance based on facial recognition, paperless operations/work orders, use of AR / VR for sales, procurement, training, maintenance;, inventory control, Supply Chain Management (SCM), product and process optimization, labour availability and optimized application. The list is almost endless. Startups come up with ideas which corporates have not even thought of, and thus, in many cases, use cases appear and evolve by simply listening to these innovators! We can address such use cases/problems, and in almost all impacted sectors like health, agri mobility and many others. Startup founders, have a tough time handling such enquiries with limited, working-from-home co-founders and engineers, – “but this has been a good problem to have. Please keep connecting us….” – says a founder, sort of representing many more like his breed!
And what someone said: there is perhaps no other entity in India, like your CoE, which has such a vast reach and knowledge of startups in India and which are available to adopting companies, most importantly without a bias (referring to the fact that CoE does not take any equity or interest/commercial gain from any startup). You provide us with the most optimum solution, your Discovery and Matching, matches more than some of the famous matrimonial sites!

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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