Close on heels of its bold decision for prohibition, Kerala’s Congress-led UDF government has affirmed that plans are on the anvil to turn the state into an entrepreneur hub through industrial policy changes to spur growth of startups. “We need to make changes in our Industrial policy,” said P.K. Kunha- likutty, minister for industries & IT, during the recently held Young Entrepreneurs Summit (YES) in Kochi. “The draft is in the final stages and will come up before the cabinet soon”.
A first of its kind in the country, YES has attracted thousands of young entrepreneurs from across the state, seeking a platform to interact with government officials and to network among entrepreneurs. Addressing them, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy stated that the government would soon announce a start-up and innovation policy to encourage more youngsters to become entrepreneurs.
“At the time of Emerging Kerala (two years ago), we had set a target of starting 1,000 companies in 10
years,” said the CM. “After two years, 777 companies have started in the state, including 276 student enterprises. As of now, 4,897 applications are pending with various incubators in Kerala,” he added.
The policy will be based on the 27 recommendations made by a three-member committee comprising Aruna Sundararajan, managing director, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC); Shyam Srinivasan, managing director, Federal Bank; and Sanjay Vijaya- kumar, chairman, Start-up Village, appointed by the Planning Board. A unique ‘Live, Work and Play’ campus will be started in the state soon, in association with Start-up Village, in
- sq ft area, Chandy added.
Kerala being an aggressive two- tier IT hub, most of the start-ups in recent years have been in IT until now. But sectors like agriculture & food processing, electronics & digital media, tourism, business innovation & green technologies, healthcare & life sciences, manufacturing and allied sectors will also be the focus areas, Chandy said.
Industry experts felt that tourism, which already is a top revenue-earner for the state, holds huge potential for the young entrepreneurs. They dismissed the notions that startups and entrepreneurship in Kerala mean only IT, but underlined the possibilities in hospitality industry, since it offers space for micro, tiny, small and large enterprises and can also fit into any scale of the young entrepreneurs’ resources.
- Venu, former director, Kerala Tourism, who had played a lead role in marketing Kerala Tourism globally, pointed out that the sector was ideal for passionate and hard-working young people. “Hardly 5 per cent of Kerala has been put to use for tourism,” he said. So, there is immense scope for new tourism products as well as new destinations.
Jose Dominic of the Casino group (CGH Earth), a leading figure in Kerala’s hospitality industry, said that developing new products in accordance with the changing tastes and requirements of tourists was key. Each product and each tourism property should have a unique identity.
KSIDC incubators The KSIDC launched five incubation centres during the event, with an exclusive centre for women entrepreneurs. It has set aside 710 crore to provide financial assistance to early-stage ventures operating in the IT, bio-technology, agriculture, food processing, business innovation and green technology sectors. Select start-ups will receive a maximum of 725 lakh each.
The first incubator for women at Assumption College at Changa- nasserry at present has six companies in fashion technology, tourism, farming, hotel management and garment manufacturing, where 18 students are getting trained now. Sundararajan of KSIDC said that the government wants to promote women entrepreneurs as a specific brand in the state. “There are areas where women from Kerala can excel,” she said. “Our aim
Business Notes is to find out these areas and nurture enterprises in these sectors,” she added. The sectors which are in focus for women are retail, fashion, food processing, wellness and beauty.
The number of women in business is on the rise in the state. About 30 women are making big strides at the Start-up Village in Kochi. Over 60 per cent of the companies in the Start-up Village have women employees in sizable numbers.
“When the Technopark Business Incubator started functioning at Thiruvananthapuram, there were no women entrepreneurs. But in the Start-up Village, there are women who are also the co-founders of companies,” said Vijayakumar of the Startup Village.
Leading nri businessman M.A. Yousuf Ali has announced ?2 crore seed fund for startups in the state. Last year, Kochi-based IT business incubator Start-up Village had launched a $10 million VC fund latest Sarkari Naukri. A few businessmen in the state are also forming a separate angel network, called Mallu Angel Network. Spearheaded by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Mallu Angel Network’s model will be similar to that of Mumbai Angels.
After the ‘Emerging Kerala’ initiative of the state government in 2012, the state has witnessed big success in certain sectors which are driven by youth. The YES had seven sessions from agriculture and food processing, tourism, business Innovation and green technology, healthcare and life sciences and electronics and digital media. Over 2,500 aspiring entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, innovators and young prospective investors from various educational institutions attended the summit.
While the effort of the organisers and enthusiasm of the young aspirants should be commended, one should keep in mind that the Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) and Emerging Kerala, both organised with more flamboyance and pomp, have nearly flattered to deceive. The state is yet to see a significant outcome of these two major meeting to attract investment.