Mumbai: The Tata NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) Hottest Startups awards has an ambitious charter. In the coming weeks, it plans to not only bring to light 800-1,000 start-ups, but profile and give each of them a fair chance to get expert reviews and public votes. No showcase has been conducted on this scale in India before. NEN executive director Laura Parkin speaks to Mint on its plans and objectives behind the awards and initial findings. Edited excerpts:
What is the objective of the start-up awards?
An incredible number of start-ups have come up in the last couple of years and it is important to recognize and showcase their efforts. Today, it is hard for a start-up to be found by the right people—investors, customers, business partnerships. We want to provide a national platform and visibility for every nominated company, not just the winners.
NEN’s Parkin wants to uncover innovation countrywide.
Secondly, entrepreneurship is still perceived as an individual sport, but the best start-ups don’t succeed alone. They need suppliers, professional services, most importantly customers willing to take the chance. If we can make such people more aware of specific start-ups working to improve our lives in various ways, then it improves the overall ecosystem for start-ups.
How is it different from other start-up showcases?
Ours is structured to engage the public—it is the first ever people’s choice awards. The platform is open and comprehensive. So the community can see all information about the nominations. We have also tied up with a number of start-up support organizations to ensure very concrete help for the start-ups. For example, incubation at IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and tailor-made courses on running a business for the winners.
Have there been other similar events elsewhere?
Not on this scale, that we know of. Lists such as the Inc. 500 (in the US) have created a huge amount of credibility for start-ups in the US.
How will you ensure no vested interest and a neutral bias of the experts reviewing a start-up?
That’s why we have experts working in pairs, which could be a venture capitalist and an industry expert. So in the eventuality of one judge having a bias, there will be another to balance it out. Also, the judges cannot simply give a high, or low rating, they have to justify it with comments and feedback. Their reviews will also be public, and in the end, the public has to choose.
What is the sector break-up of the initial entries?
The entries are still predominantly information technology, mobile and Web-based. We have also seen a few in hospitality, retail, auto and clean technology. But we have not yet tapped into other sectors successfully. We will work on that in the coming weeks.
What parts of the country have you received entries from?
Right now, it is hugely skewed towards the metros—Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. We don’t know if this is representative of the true geographical spread of good start-ups, but we would like to uncover innovation across the country, not just the metros. However, we are looking for young companies with the potential to change the industry, not small and medium enterprises that will not grow beyond a certain point.