As part of the National Startup Day, The Founders Club sought insights from an enlightened panel from the startup space which discussed ‘Role of Startups in Nation Building’ where they deliberated on the success of startups and their impact on the nation’s socio-economic canvas. Moreover, it also put the spotlight on development and support for startups in Goa. Appalla Saikiran, Founder and CEO of Scope App; Sachin Karnik of The Great Unicorn Hunt; Dr Anil Wali of BITS BioCyTiH Foundation; Swati Salgaocar of CII Goa; Sriram Natarajan of Molbio Diagnostics Pvt Ltd; Samarth Kholkar of B-Live; and Gautami Raikar of Attort Legal Consultancy, participated in the panel discussion, which was moderated by Harshvardhan Bhatkuly
“Goa will be the next preferred startup destination”– HARSHVARDHAN BHATKULY, Founder-CEO, Bhatkuly Ventures
“Startups and Nation building, socio-economic development and self-reliance (atma-nirbhar) are not mere buzzwords – they are vision statements from a nation gallopping ahead in the startup space. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji in 2022 declared 16th January as ‘National Startup Day’. 16th January 2024 marks the completion of 8 eventful years of the launch of the ‘Startup India’ programme. From about 400 registered startups in 2016, the rocket has zoomed to 1.20 lakh recognised startups today. The Indian start-up ecosystem has grown from strength to strength and we all hear about it in various forums. Today, ‘startup’ is an extremely common and ubiquitous word in our lexicon, whether in media or business circles. To commemorate National Startup Day, the Startup and IT Promotion Cell of Goa has taken a great step to discuss the various trends in the startup space as also to begin a conversation to make Goa a preferred startup destination”
“CII’s Corporate Startup Connect is a game-changer” – SWATI SALGAOCAR, Vice-Chairperson, CII Western Region
“In terms of what the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is doing for startups with regards to its involvement, the impact is at multiple levels. We have startup councils and task forces at state levels and regional levels as well, as the national level. We look at two focus areas. One in terms of policy advocacy, CII is very strong in this for an established industry as well, but even on the startup front in terms of the policy changes that are required. The other part is that we drive conversations between the government and startups and traditional industry. Secondly, we also run a program called the ‘Corporate Startup Connect’ to facilitate connect between established industry and startups. For a startup, there could be various needs beyond funding − like domain knowledge, access to supply chains and a whole host of other aspects. These are the areas that CII can assist right across from the state level through the national level”
“Good ideas will never have a dearth of funding”– SACHIN KARNIK, The Great Unicorn Hunt
“Startups create wealth for India in different ways − the most obvious one being, job creation. The exports of products and services and contribution to GDP which is going largely unnoticed today. As a contributor to the GDP startups don’t receive the recognition or respect that they deserve. The time is not far when literally in a pie chart the
slice that is accorded to startups in terms of contributing to the GDP is going to increase substantially. There will come a time where, as they say “disrupters are going to get disrupted.” The startup story in India is about unicorns and I believe that there is a formula to become a unicorn! The good news about this belief is that there is a formula; the bad news is nobody knows what it is! But I must share an example of an experience we had when we founded The Great Unicorn Hunt, we were looking at exactly this formula and we are trying to see if there could be a predictive model where you could just sniff a pitch deck and figure out whether this is going to become a multi-bagger or a
unicorn. We started compiling a list of parameters that we could look at everything; right up from founder’s pedigree to the space they are in, the amount of funds they have raised, the burn rate, revenue, et al. As far as the ‘formula’ is
concerned, there are two things that I must mention here as to what is also likely to prevent us from producing unicorns. If you look at the landscape you will realise that if you look at the SEBI website there are some 1100 funds there, so even if you were to remove the 20% that are exotic, the hedge funds, the remaining are very much in the VC space which is like perhaps 700 to 900 funds. If you take a closer look, you will also realise that a lot of those funds are in trouble, which again is of two kinds. One, is they have not been able to get their funds subscribed and two; they have got their fund subscribed, but are not able to return money to the investors. Now it might look like normal business as usual, but what is missed even by the mainstream media is that while the funding winter applies, it applies not so much to the startups, it applies to a lot of VCs who are unable to give money back to their investors. So unless investments are made in more meaningful places, this trend will continue. On the Indian side of things, everybody’s busy doing their stuff, including venture capitalists, there are pockets of hand-holding and all of that, but I think that is a trend of being able to return money to the investors that’s going to contribute heavily to India being able to produce more unicorns now. The other thing is that I feel, talking of the formula, wherever you have seen large ecosystems grow, it has been because of exits and that is kind of triggered largely when either a strategic investor is buying you out or you take the IPO route. Sooner or later startups which are keen to take their business north will have to figure out how they’re going to play the game of raising public money. I am not saying everybody has to raise public money, but unless that discipline of being able to deliver, unless that discipline
of being able to be compliant seeps in, it’s not going to be easy and to use a cliché “whatever got us here is not going to get us there”
“The deep-tech space needs scaling-up”– DR ANIL WALI, BITS BioCyTiH Foundation
“While India has done very well when it comes to service-based startups, in fact with a few exceptions like Molbio; I think in the area of deep tech we don’t have many unicorns. If at all there is something that makes an impact it is usually in the area of deep tech. Many deep tech startups have origins direct or indirect, from the university system in India. We need to scale up in the deep tech space, and fortunately, there are many organisations offering government schemes and programs which are nurturing deep tech startups. It is primarily the government which is trying to encourage more tech startups to take shape. It is too early for me to say what has made a big impact but we as Indians would like to see many more Molbios come up. Whether this happens this year or in 5 years, there is no stopping and looking back. With strong encouragement provided by the government from the very top, I think we should be seeing a lot of deep tech startups in the country. As a matter of fact, in academia also, we have been trying to create or customise programs which can help startups with deep tech roots”
“Startups thrive on the power of networks”- SAMARTH KHOLKAR, Co-Founder, B-Live
“For us, the startup journey started in Goa and there couldn’t have been a better place. One, because you are clear of a lot of noise which typically the entire startup ecosystem attracts and a lot of times what happens is your goal or your vision gets blurred because of the noise. Initially, it took us some time to find the right direction and vision; and the support system which at that point of time had just started in Goa; helped us nurture our thought process. We took a very brave leap and I think we are still the only Goan start-up in the electric vehicle space. We are currently present in more than 35 locations across India and have sold more than 6000-7000 vehicles on our platform and it has been a great journey. The most important thing that a startup thrives on is the power of the network. The network could be partners, investors, or other co-founders, who are also trying to build their journey and it is a learning process on an everyday basis. That is what has been extremely helpful for us in this entire period of the last four years”
“Goa could be a global hub for gaming”– APPALLA SAIKIRAN, Founder and CEO, Scope App
“I would like to speak about the gaming perspective in India. I started this company at the age of 16-17, now I am around 19 and I run a team of 60 people. We have helped more than 500 startups in fundraising processes. We run a network of around 20,000 angel investors and High Net-Worth Individuals (HNIs), more than 7,000 VC firms across the globe work with us and during the last quarter we have helped around $70 million of fundraisers. We also became the biggest investment banking firm with revenue of around 390 crores and recently launched our own Venture Capital (VC) fund of 45 million dollars focused into gaming and fin-tech. Now why gaming in India? Being one of the youngest entrepreneurs on the panel, and understanding how the gaming potential works I can give you my opinion on the same. India has the biggest mobile consumer games base and Goa specifically because it is the hub for digital creative nomads to come and develop further. By leveraging that talent, leveraging the ease of access of Goa for all the digital creative heads in the gaming sector; I guess Goa holds the potential to become a gaming hub and a startup gaming hub of India. I am excited to speak on the scope of a VC fund as well as the IB arm which can add value in terms of capital, in terms of network, and forming such an ecosystem over here so that we can achieve the greatest heights in the gaming sector in India”
“Startups should strive to be impactful” – SRIRAM NATARAJAN, Molbio Diagnostics Pvt Ltd
“Entrepreneurship is just a burning desire to do something impactful. Even when I was in my school days and later in college, I thought I should do something that would impact people in general. I never had healthcare in mind but to do something that will help people do in a better way.
I thought of becoming a scientist as my uncle was also one, and he invented some great drugs that had a profound impact on people. When I was doing my Ph.D., I went to attend a course on radio immunology at Bhaba Atomic Research Center, which was basically about diagnostics and how diagnostics is going to help beyond many conditions. That sort of opened my eyes to an entirely new area and I thought this is probably the best that I can do to get into the healthcare space. I came back, without completing my PhD, and joined a company which is now called Sanofi. They have a diagnostics commission and I worked with them for a while and another company after which I wanted to venture out on my own.
Along with two other partners, I founded Tulip. We believed we could do a much better job and we developed and manufactured products for the Indian and other market requirements. We started Tulip in 1990 and we came up with innovative products, some of which were the first in the world. We did quite well and about 7 years back we were acquired by a US company.
Meanwhile, I knew that there was a gap again in the molecular diagnostic area because that was something that everybody knew was going to be the final solution for infectious diseases.
This was something we never did in Tulip, and I found a company called BTH Laboratories in Bangalore. Here, they were in the early stages of developing a point-of-care molecular diagnostics, real-time PCR. We wanted to try out a concept where these tests could be done anywhere, at any time. So I tied up with them and we worked together to develop a platform that we today call as Trunat. Molbio is scaling up that and Trunat is making a huge impact not only in India but globally. During Covid, we initially were the only company that had a test centre and the entire country depended on our technology for almost 9 to 10 months of Covid before other companies came into the picture. We worked 24×7 non-stop for 9 months as we had this technology at our disposal and we could deliver to combat the crisis”
“Opportunities don’t have gender bias”- GAUTAMI RAIKAR, Attort Legal Consultancy
“I think from the beginning my journey has begun from a scratch, right from zero to where we are today, I think gender has never played a role for me to even step out and ask for help. I always feel there are more opportunities for women so the starting point for me was when I received a lot of support from the government. The incubator where I was at which is CIBA, right up from getting the right networking to participating in plenty of events from Google to Microsoft, I have received the best exposure that is available. This is what it has been for the last five years where we see a thriving ecosystem across India. I think that’s where we all play an important role and we actually need to reach out to this opportunity that is available to us. I stepped out and took that leap of faith without actually thinking that I am from Goa or that I am a woman. You just need to start somewhere and look out for opportunities, there are ample. That’s how the journey started for me from the Google program to Microsoft. Then with Woman Global − a lot of investors came in the company and that is where we are today, so I do not think it is not about gender; the opportunities are available for all”