Mumbai: The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, seeing success after setting up and running a business incubator, plans to help other engineering schools follow suit through a partnership that will encourage entrepreneurship on their campuses as well.
“India has more than 2,000 engineering colleges with millions of students. I’m sure that there is significant entrepreneurial potential in these institutes which can be tapped,” says Deepak Phatak, the Subrao Nilekani chair professor at IIT Bombay’s Kanwal Rekhi School of Information Technology. “IIT Bombay is very keen to facilitate the creation of incubators at colleges across the country.”
IIT Bombay will work with the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), a not-for-profit initiative that supports young entrepreneurs, to take this project forward.
Helping hand: The Sine business incubator at IIT Bombay provides support for technology-based entrepreneurship.
“We have worked on developing our incubator for more than three years, so we now have some experience in how one can go about building a successful incubator,” says C. Amarnath, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at IIT Bombay.
Towards the latter half of this year, IIT Bombay intends to work with faculty from other engineering colleges in a series of workshops which will focus on procedures, methodology, accessing funding, mentoring, among other activities that are vital to setting up and sustaining a business incubator.
“IIT Bombay is one of the most successful on-campus incubators in the country. They have effectively managed to engage all the stakeholders that are important to entrepreneurship and have also leveraged them very well,” says Shalini Singh, head, consulting at NEN.
Statistics substantiate this. The incubator at IIT Bombay, called the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has so far nurtured about 25 companies. Out of these, 15 have received funding, a couple have been acquired, five or six have graduated from the incubator, and a handful have folded.
IIT Delhi’s incubator, for example, has eight companies and five have graduated from it.
Most companies at incubators attached to engineering schools often find it difficult to attract investments. Many founders, particularly those fresh out of college, have no prior business experience.
“Building a product or technology is different from building a business. So, incubated companies have to be mentored by the university in all aspects,” says Manik Arora, managing director, IDG Ventures India. The Bangalore-based venture capital firm recently invested in 3D Solid Compression Pvt. Ltd (3DSoC), a spin-off from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Stanford University which was incubated on the IISc campus. The founders of 3DSoC, well-versed in mechanical engineering, were smart enough to bring on board a CEO with considerable business experience, says Arora. This helped convince investors it was a viable business proposition.
According to NEN’s Singh, less than 20 academic institutions have incubators, though there are many more that want to start one and promote entrepreneurship on their campuses. However, she says, most efforts at institutions have focused on entrepreneurship in a very academic way.
“Setting up a sustainable incubator requires huge commitment and a huge set of resources. It is important that institutes understand if they have the right ecosystem and we hope that the interactions with the team at IIT Bombay will give them insight into what it takes,” she says.
IIT Bombay is one of the founding members of NEN, which is currently working with more than 285 top-tier academic institutes reaching more than 300,000 young people across 30 cities of India.