By Saurabh Saxena
I have been a part of the start-up ecosystem in India since 2006 – as an entrepreneur as well as an angel investor. Having been on both sides, I have had an opportunity to see this space evolve over the years. Since then, there have been many changes that have propelled this sector ahead. Thanks to the internet and connectivity, things move a lot faster today than they used to. In fact, so many start-ups, including Holachef, are possible because of the way things have shaped up in the IT sector.
Today, the Indian start-up sector is thriving and has a lot of brilliant minds as part of its ecosystem. What I have always appreciated about this space is that help is always at hand when you need it. The entrepreneurs in our country are always willing to share their knowledge or extend their wisdom to others who might be taking their first steps into the sector. Also, it’s a close knit community in India and hence connecting the dots is almost always possible. Start-ups and entrepreneurs reach out to each other to open up win-win avenues which is always a positive step forward. I have experienced such generosity of many entrepreneurs along the way and I continue to seek their guidance when needed.
However, the biggest strength of this sector is that in terms of technology and innovation the Indian start-up ecosystem has only just begun. So far we could not have imagined an Uber or a Facebook coming out of India but I see that changing in the coming years. Technology and innovation will be at the crux of the Indian start-up sector. Needless to say, we need more innovative minds to lend themselves to this space. Not just in technology, but on the whole, finding a suitable team is a big problem that all start-ups face. Perhaps working for a start-up does not seem very lucrative to many and that needs to change. In fact, a host of new start-ups are in the business of finding suitable hires for other start-ups, which I think is great.
That is not the only challenge for this space. Starting a business in India has so many barriers and the processes are far from being simple. While this may not deter businesses from starting, it definitely slows down the process. Finding the first few customers is also one of the biggest challenges faced by every start-up.
I believe there is a lot the government can do to channelize the resources in the unorganized sector towards a more startup-like structure. Even in smaller Indian towns, so much innovation is left to be done in terms of raising money, marketing, use of technology and internet for business. India has a long way to go and support from government will play a key role in nurturing and expanding the sector. If they could build more incubators, accelerators and even give directives to B-schools about pumping up their entrepreneurial-cells, things would move a lot faster. There should be a provision for seed money to newer start-ups, especially in sectors that it wants to encourage such as healthcare, environment, farming, travel, etc. By investing in more startup-focused events, the government can provide a great platform to connect new ventures to their first set of customers.
Year 2015 has been full of ups and downs for the Indian start-up sector, but 2016 is going to be all about consolidation. There will be mergers and acquisitions, focus will be more on building products and less on burning cash towards large scale marketing. We can expect more money from foreign investors coming into India this year. Another important trend to watch out for will be trickling down of many urban start-ups into smaller Indian cities. That will be a big game changer. There’s so much growth potential out there, it’s amazing.
The start-up community is eagerly waiting to see how the PM's Start Up India, Stand Up India program will unfurl. It’s a great step forward and we are hoping it will bring about some change for the better. I am confident that existing entrepreneurs will pitch in and take this campaign forward in the right direction. Having a young start-up of my own, I see this as a very encouraging step forward because I understand the struggles a new venture faces. Any help is extremely valuable.
On the whole, we have a lot to watch out for and I believe the stage is set for an exciting play of events in this space.
(The writer is Founder & CEO, Holachef - a Mumbai-based online curated food delivery service)