Bengaluru: Software products thinktank iSPIRT is betting that growing Internet adoption and expansion in mobile payments will create strong demand for both consumer and business-to-business products and services that will require an India-specific approach by tech start-ups looking to tap this demand.
At a time when the government is pushing its Make in India initiative, iSPIRT will host the third edition of a day-long technology entrepreneurship event called InnoNation on 26 August, inviting hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the country to showcase their products and gain the attention of influential investors.
Over the last three years, iSPIRT has been attempting to drive the “maker movement" in India and create the Indian equivalent of the popular Maker Faire in the US, which encourages creative do-it-yourself projects from innovators.
The event also comes at a time when India’s global reputation for encouraging local entrepreneurship and innovation is steadily improving. According to the latest Global Innovation Index survey, which is jointly published every year by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization, India is currently ranked 60 in the list of global innovation hubs—an improvement from last year when it was ranked 66.
“We believe that India will witness a Cambrian explosion of innovation in the coming years driven by the democratization of hardware technology and availability of national platforms like IndiaStack. As a result, our innovators will fill out hundreds and thousands of solutions for very India-specific problems," said Prathibha Sastry, head of InnoNation at iSPIRT.
According to iSPIRT, a majority of the current consumer Internet platforms aren’t made for the larger Indian market. These products and services cater mostly to well-off Indians in the large cities, iSPIRT said. The next set of Internet platforms will have to be built for the tens of millions of Indians in smaller cities and towns who demand things like local content and products that suit their tastes, iSPIRT said.
This is the third edition of the event, which was previously called Innofest but was renamed ahead of this year’s edition. The event is expected to showcase products from more than a thousand entrepreneurs and innovators.
Last year, projects that were showcased ranged from high-tech blood transfusion machines to bionic arms from entrepreneurs and product-makers across the country.
“InnoNation caters to innovators looking to build for Bharat. The idea of InnoNation (Innovate for Bharat) is to distil the best ideas in problem-solving, enterprise, inspire individuals, corporates and government organizations to take innovation to the common man," said Sastry.
For years, India has been better known as the “back office of the world" and has struggled to shed its image of being the premier destination for low-cost, outsourced software projects. With its latest push towards showcasing affordable, locally-made hardware and technology products, iSPIRT is hoping to change that perception. To be sure, the odds are still stacked against these local entrepreneurs and ventures that are yet to scale up in a big way.
Leading VC firms typically back startups that fulfil two main criteria—firstly, target an addressable market of at least Rs1,000-5,000 crore and then, display strong customer traction and demonstrate the potential to capture at least a fifth of the market in about five years. In India, that has been a tough sell, given that only a handful of home-grown ventures have been able to do that and attract multiple rounds of funding from top investors.