The IIT-Madras incubator called Telecommunications and Networking Group (TeNeT) is the oldest and among the most well-known incubators, having grown 20 companies since 1996. One man’s passion and whim have been behind the operation: Ashok Jhunjhunwala.
“His desire to see India progress is almost unmatched,” says one entrepreneur who was part of TeNet.
Jhunjhunwala has evolved TeNet with India’s progression. In 2001, he joined hands with VenturEast, a $150 million fund, to provide funding to his entrepreneurs. And in the last two years, he changed the strategy of his outfit to be closer to the approach of an investor.
In the past the incubator was more informal with most start-ups chosen based on Jhunhunwala’s interest and time availability. Changing that, he brought in Vijay Anand, who started two companies in Canada while working other jobs to fund himself, to mentor his entrepreneurs.
And he carved out a separate group in 2006, called Rural Technology and Business Incubator. RTBI gathers primary research on the rural market and mentors start-ups that focus solely on employing or serving those in the villages. One start-up employs people in the villages to do business process outsourcing services (BPO) such as data entry. Another is developing a technology to help farmers predict the weather and yet another is creating a low-cost automatic teller machine or ATM for deployment in villages.