Startups will play an important role in helping India become the third largest economy in the world. Last decade has seen an exceptional transformation in the startup landscape in India, which has emerged as the third largest eco-system globally ,with over 1.12 lakh startups presently recognised by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) across 763 districts. Among them, more than 110 are unicorns with a total valuation of around $350 billion. It is interesting to note that 49% of the startups are from tier 11 & 111 cities.
Along with rest of India, the entrepreneurial ecosystem In North East India has also evolved. The North East India, known for its many challenges and opportunities have joined this movement, though not at the same pace with other start-ups hubs of the country. Although the region does not have a very rich history of entrepreneurship, through policy intervention of the government in terms of improved rail, road, air and telecom connectivity, industry incentives and North East specific central sector schemes, it is witnessing an accelerated growth towards a better economy. Each state has come up with their own startup policy and with a clear mandate for promoting startups. Assam and Manipur are the leading states in terms of start-up ecosystem in NER
However, the past few years have witnessed the onset of a paradigm shift in the mindset of the people in the region. Youths have come up with innovative solutions for local problems. While N.E may not have many tech innovators, but the uniqueness lies in the challenges and the unique society centric innovations to deal with the challenges. Majority of the startups in N.E India are in the Agri &Allied sector, followed by ITES, Handloom & Textiles, Retail & Logistics and Education. There is a small percentage of startups in the waste management and renewables and Media & Entertainment
In NER,owing to the still evolving and growing eco-system, the challenges faced by the startups are much bigger compared to the startups in more mature eco-systems of the metros. Some of the common challenges are listed below
Access to funds
Access to new markets
Lack of skilled manpower
Continued mentorship support
Access to professional support services like regulatory compliances, liasoning, patent filing etc.
The possible way ahead
In North East, it is seen that despite their calibre, majority of the startups face a common set of challenges to sustain and scale. There is a need to empower startups by integrating design thinking, creative capacity building and collaborative problem solving. Structured support is needed in terms of raising funds, documentation (often startups have a lot of ideas and bottlenecks in their mind and are not able to structure it in a document) and creating a vibrant and inclusive community of entrepreneurs from the region
What is needed
1) Build a wide pipeline of innovative, entrepreneurially skilled young people with inspiration ,ideas, application and confidence to start-up with the right opportunity
2) Evolve outcome oriented sustainable incubation modes that support competitive businesses that may not be venture funded .This will be the key for health of local economies
• Leaders of incubators and accelerators
• Expert mentors, consultants
• Lawyers, accountants and other technical experts and vendors
4) Integrate information, infrastructure, funding and other efforts across the stakeholder groups that include government agencies, private incubators and funding institutions,
Start-ups and entrepreneurs need to capitalise on the government of India’s thrust on building a ‘Atmanirbharta’. Today ‘Atmanirbharta’ has been a recurring theme across sectors and categories, as a new wave of innovators and entrepreneurs are leveraging this spirit in their startups. Moreover, India’s ascent to superpower status, driven by its remarkable economic growth, technological advancements and youthful workforce, will provide Indian startups with a robust ecosystem, making them more competitive on the global stage. India’s commitment to sustainability and its active involvement in global discussions on issues such as climate change, renewable energy and responsible business practices align with the evolving global SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) priorities. Indian startups with a focus on sustainability can leverage this commitment to shape their business models and engage in international partnerships that emphasise responsible practices. The global landscape is ripe with opportunities for Indian startups, with a potential to drive innovation, growth and sustainability through international collaboration. This path aligns with North East India’s journey to be the gateway to Southeast Asia through the Act East Policy and offers startups a remarkable platform for success.