Recently, the Rajasthan government unveiled a policy to boost the emerging start-up ecosystem in the state. While the government launched the policy at a national-level show – Rajasthan Start-up Festival, the state had already applied its entrepreneurial thought process into action two years ago by setting up an incubation centre called Start-up Oasis, an initiative by Rajasthan Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) and CIIE IIM Ahmedabad. With three other partners, I co-founded ‘SRJNA’, an education start-up on experiential learning, in August 2014 operating in Jaipur and Delhi NCR. We faced a dilemma: where should we be based out of? Other start-ups from IIT-Delhi (belonging to Rajasthan) face the same difficulty. The reason: Delhi is a metro city and provides easy access to investors, employees and resources. In contrast, Jaipur is my home town, and running costs are low. Besides the leading automotive marketplace Cardekho.com, other Jaipur-based start-ups including Culteralley, which raised $6.5 million; Logic Roots, which raised $400,000; and Razorpay, the only start-up from India that was selected for US-based Y Combinator, were all motivated and triggered by the decision. Though at that time the situation demanded good mentors, affordable co-working space and pitching to the seed round investors. Fantastically, in the meantime, SRJNA won a competition called ‘Tech4Raj’ organised by TiE Rajasthan and Start-up Oasis, providing free co-working space for a year at the incubation centre. SRJNA has also seen significant interest from the Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN), an investment arm of TiE Rajasthan. The ecosystem was in its emerging stage, and hence the number of start-ups increased from 10 to over 100 in just twelve months. Initially, with Start-up Oasis being the only incubation centre in Jaipur and Rajasthan, it was difficult to find volunteers for its events.
Today, hundreds of start-ups from local colleges like MNIT, LNMIIT and IIT Jodhpur are competing for incubation and investments.At this high time, more support was required by the government. To facilitate this, RIICO organised the very first version of Rajasthan Start-up Festival in association with Start-up Oasis, RVCF, TiE Rajasthan, RAIN with participation from 20 angel investors, 20 venture capital firms, 30 mentors, start-up coaches and over 50 speakers. Rajasthan became the fourth state to launch its own start-up policy (after Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat). The five-year policy has set a target to create an ecosystem of 50 incubators and 500 start-ups, and mobilise an angel capital of Rs 500 crore. During the launch event, chief minister Vasundhara Raje herself met over 30 start-ups which showcased their products, and assured them of a longer support from the administration. Few days ago, in an interview with this newspaper, Veenu Gupta, managing director of RIICO, has confirmed that this policy had been drafted with everything pre-planned. Two months ahead of this, Girish Gupta, chief executive officer of Rajasthan Venture Capital Fund (RVCF), had already announced a corpus of $7.6 million (Rs 50 crore) to be invested in about 100 start-ups with an average size of Rs 50 lakh each in the next three to four years. RAIN has also invested $200,000 in over six start-ups, including SRJNA ($65,000), Organic Shop, 11techsquare and Chalogekya. Though the policy drafted seem to be very ambitious, an already rising trend—in terms of new start-ups coming from other parts of the state like Udaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner and new incubation centres like Think-space, 100cofounders lab and MNIT Jaipur—have taken their steps towards making this happen. With a shift from traditional businesses to new-age innovation-driven start-ups, Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Marwaris’ is all set to become the ‘Land of Entrepreneurs’ in the coming years. At SRJNA, we work towards saving our kids at middle school level from the current education system which kills their creativity. I aspire that this army of innovators will be provided sufficient resources to come up with new-age technology start-ups in their own land. Being an entrepreneur myself, I have been a bit optimistic in this article about the start-up ecosystem in Rajasthan, particularly this start-up policy. I really hope that this is sincerely followed and such national-level start-up fests should be organised on a regular basis to attract more and more investments into Rajasthan.
Sharad Bansal is co-founder and CEO of SRJNA, a Jaipur-based education start-up