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Defence sector scope will be explained to startups: Expert

Though Karnataka has made strides in creating a startup ecosystem, a lot more needs to be done.

Published: 21st November 2021 06:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2021 06:24 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Though Karnataka has made strides in creating a startup ecosystem, a lot more needs to be done. Karnataka’s Startup Vision Group chairman Prashanth Prakash details the opportunities that lie ahead and the government’s plans for the startup capital:

Excerpts:

What is the one thing nagging you that you want to reach out to start-ups with?
Although we made a lot of progress as a sought-after ecosystem, we have not  made a big difference when it comes to women entrepreneurship. We want to make tangible progress there, maybe by having a dedicated ELEVATE (grant-in aid scheme for start-ups). We can at least make tangible movement from 15% now to 30% of entrepreneurs or co-founders having some senior team participation from women.

There is an understanding that venture capitalists are looking to invest in India and Jio is looking to convert feature phone users into smartphone users. Where do the opportunities lie for start-ups?
There is a lot to be done for non-English-speaking tier-3 and below customer bases — that’s a dimension for investments. Just transplanting the urban model won’t work for those regions. Entrepreneurs need to understand the local contexts to build value. Another area capital will go into is Indian entrepreneurs building for the rest of the world — here your TAM (total addressable market) just becomes 10 times. Blockchain and areas of crypto and NFT will continue to get a lot of investor interest. There is a lot of capital coming from global sources, but the vision group is also trying to enure broad-based participation in the venture ecosystem from Indian investors — high net worth individuals, family offices and people building wealth here in India. A couple of programmes are in the pipeline. We cannot be dependent on global pools of capital.

There is a focus on fintech, agritech, and space tech to an extent. Can we leverage crafts/handicrafts potential from rural areas?
There needs to be local to local commerce and such start-ups are being supported as part of ELEVATE. Another solution is to ensure visibility for artisans on established e-commerce platforms and not build a new platform. The government can facilitate on-boarding of craftsmen.

How is Vision Group ensuring that start-ups participate in critical sectors like defence and space?
There are enough activities coming up in space, but there is a push for Aatmanirbhar in defence. The defence sector requires deep tech. Karnataka and Bengaluru can take the lead to ensure visibility for more start-ups in terms of opportunities in defence. We are working on a separate knowledge portal where these opportunities and use cases will be made more visible.When it comes to deep tech, you will see more money go into space technology. But we don’t yet have funds that support deep tech in our ecosystem. The government could play a role as deep tech -- long gestation-type of projects -- needs a combination of long-term capital coming from the government, complimented by private funds.

What is preventing women entrepreneurs from making it big? Even the ‘Impact Awards’ this year was entirely a male crowd.
The ‘Impact Awards’ recognised unicorns. Participation at a university/college level, early stage seed and ELEVATE level is an important measure of participation, not how many unicorns there are. If we increase participation at the entry level, five years from now, we can say the Impact award has at least one or two of these women. The average time it takes for firms to be a unicorn is 3-6 years.

Your thoughts on the IPO boom and bust
The IPO is not all boom and bust. You will have companies that will just make it, and those with handsome returns to investors and there are companies where investors will lose money. We will have a healthy mix of these categories which  are also found in the pre-startup non-tech IPO world. I believe there will also be more scrutiny moving forward in some areas of  valuation and profitability and so on.

What is the task force’s future roadmap?
We want to focus on the input side. In 90 days, we want to get a dedicated ELEVATE off the ground for deep tech and women. In 3-6 months, we plan to focus around defence opportunities. Over a year, we will bring research organisations and start-ups together within the city — find models for research, academia and start-ups to work together, plan initiatives. There is also a glaring shortage of talent and it will get more difficult for younger start-ups. The NEP implementation has to ensure start-up ready or digital-ready students, not just from engineering colleges, but also degree colleges.



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