Incubation to Drive Invest Bhubaneswar’ Arindam Dutta Expert, Innovation & Incubation

Incubation is surely not an industry. Today we are looking at Innovation, Incubation and Growth. One follows the other in perfect harmony. We need this engine to Drive -Invest Bhubaneswar’.

We all know what -Incubation’ means. What is not so obvious is its application in Building Enterprise. Let us look at the present scenario here in the state of Odisha, and the resources that are available here in Bhubaneswar.

The capital of Odisha – Bhubaneswar – famous across the country for the divine Lingaraj Temple is today a planned city with excellent academic, R&D and Health care Institutions. It is conveniently connected by rail, road and air to all state capitals.

Bhubaneswar traditionally has been a national and international tourist transit point, for travel to Puri, Konark, Chilka and other historical and natural tourist spots. Historically the empire Kalinga and emperor Ashoka are known to every Indian. Odisha is endowed with natural mineral resources and fantastic bio-diversity.

With such resources in our disposal why are the educated youth shying away from Building their own Enterprises. There is certain apathy of the educated youth in not getting involved in traditional farming[1]. They would prefer jobs. As James D. Wolfensohn[2] said —.They said to me what I’ve heard in so many places : we need jobs, we need opportunity—‘ and he goes on to say in the same talk that the youth told him -Mr. President, we want you to know that we are not the future, we are the now.’

The question that stares us today right here, what can we, and should we do for the youth here today at Bhubaneswar?

Let us not get into the clich of job creation through major investments. Such investments are a continuous process and such job creations would continue and grow. But does it answer the questions posed above?

Our youth especially those that have gone through a structured higher education program are intelligent and pretty savvy about the world and markets that are evolving elsewhere. As a corollary they are pretty updated on technology. Look at the growth of mobile telephony, computers and its popularity in the youth.

The last decade and a half have brought to the fore a class of youth who are entrepreneurial. They do not hesitate in taking risks. They are not looking for safe, cushy jobs.

Unfortunately they lack two major inputs – MONEY & MENTORS. There are huge opportunities[3] in Bhubaneswar and its hinterland – Agri-biotech, hospitality, health-care, IT, Tourism and others.

Money – These start ups are not looking for hand outs. I have over the past 12 years interacted with multiple start ups. All need some one to hand hold for at least a couple of years. But they have never asked for money as loan to tide over a crisis. And start ups needlessly to say go from one crisis to another in the first few years.

These guys have a strong sense of pride. Yet like all of us when they see and read as to how people have got away with large loans from banks, they feel let down that in spite of government schemes and priority sector lending etc they are stymied. It’s frustrating.

The ones I have personally interacted with have pooled a reasonable amount of their own resources. They find it extremely difficult to convince commercial banks for funds. They are not so adapt in creating the right sounding project documents that banks desire, those that established companies produce at the drop of their hat.

They are business wise nave. Either they ask for funds that look large which they cannot justify, or are so conservative that they indicate needs that seem paltry compared to their project.

As a consequence, the concerned authorities[4] remain unconvinced. How can one surmount this problem?

Incubator – the answer lies in having an incubation facility. We shall discuss later in this article about its structure. What will such a facility provide to these knowledge entrepreneurs?

1.A physical space to kick start his operation
2.The space so given will be for a limited time for a nominal rent.
3.It ought to provide all back office (Tel, Xerox, Meeting rooms, cafeteria etc) facilities for a nominal fee.
4.A mentor. We shall deal with this subsequently.
5.A formal network with most R&D and academic institutions in the state and also in the country

The facilities mentioned are standard across the globe. What is the key to a successful Incubator?

1.A advisory board comprising of Academia, established Entrepreneurs, state government representatives, leading bank’s representatives and CEO of the Incubator.
2.This board ought to form groups to screen probable incubates.
3.A few members from the board can become Mentors
4.As a thumb rule the mentor can handle up to 3 start ups.

Mentor -who can be a mentor?

1.The person must be one who is acceptable to a young team of start ups. This is very important.[5]
2.He must ideally be a first generation entrepreneur[6]. He should be able to relate easily to their needs. Ms. Sudha Murthy[7] gave Rs.10000 as initial capital to Infosys, at a time the sum was pretty handsome. We want the mentor to help support another Infosys in Odisha.
3.He needs to be compensated for his efforts in such a company. The board needs to evolve structures towards such appointments that are transparent and acceptable to the start ups.
4.Finally, the mentor has to be a person of impeccable integrity.

In conclusion, what is it that the Incubator helps in providing to the city of Bhubaneswar and Odisha? Innovation, Entrepreneurship leads to Growth and creates Wealth. We are looking at an eco-system where every year numbers of qualified youth of the city and the state, shall start enterprises. These enterprises in turn will employ other qualified youth. These start ups shall become the engines of employment in the city and state in years to come. Since the entire initiatives will be lead by persons outside the government – by the people and for the people , the probability of long term success is high. Such initiatives will not change owing to change of political structure.

This entire article is not about -how to do business’. Business has been a part of civilization over the millennia. We are trying to focus on our youth in the Knowledge environment, where his mind is the capital that he brings to the table.

It’s a Win-Win situation. All that is needed is a Hand to hold the Toddler till he is ready to walk!!!!

[1] Punjab has given the lead in gentlemen farmers. These are educated people who have brought in scientific techniques in farming which amongst others help conserve soil, water and increase yield. [2] James D. Wolfensohn President The World Bank Group Teen Murti, New Delhi, India, November 17, 2004 [3] During my assignment at Bhubaneswar (07-08) I had come across quite a number of start ups in these areas. I have met talented scientists specially in areas of plant biotechnology who with some support would surely expand their ventures. [4] The dealing career officer, nowhere in the country (with exceptions) has a clue on such knowledge enterprises. [5] I have noticed in my various assignments in academic incubators, the institute tries to impose these people. One has to remember that these guys are not looking at a First Class degree. They are concerned about their livelihood towards which they have invested precious time and their last penny. [6] Many successful young business men who claim that the business idea was his and that he struggled to make it profitable, actually was a part of a family business. It is very common in business families to provide cash, services and support to the youngsters in the family. There is nothing wrong with the process. On the contrary, one sees some women from these families in the forefront. But my point is they are not the majority start ups we intend to support. I am not saying that the start ups from such families should not be supported. If the board decides on a case to case basis so be it. But the majority of start ups do not have these support structures available from their families. [7] Excerpts from an interview given to CNBC-TV18

This initiative by Invest Bhubaneswar is supported by SEO service provider – AuroIN LLC