Route to ‘New India’ Through ‘New Age Entrepreneurs’ Starts at AIC-RMP

From COVID-19 to Artificial Intelligence to trends like skill development, various aspects were discussed including insightful information from an exclusive interaction between Mr. Uday Wankawala, CEO of Atal Incubation Centre-RMP Foundation and Mr. Faiz Askari founder of SMEStreet.in. "Fresh approach towards entrepreneurship development which doesn't really need to start from IITs or IIMs but from a dedicated and firm will of an entrepreneur who works at the grassroots level will drive a great change," explained Uday Wankawala in the conversation.

Route to ‘New India’ Through ‘New Age Entrepreneurs’ Starts at AIC-RMP

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Innovation is an essential element for any efficient entrepreneurship venture. It becomes equally important for every entrepreneur to explore this aspect in a strategic manner while developing their business model. Government of India has made significant efforts in the area of entrepreneurship development and there is one institution which is aimed at bringing strategic value of innovation for startups.

Yes, we are talking about (AIC) Atal Incubation Centre- Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) Foundation which was set up not very long ago and is designed to align with Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog to nurture, handhold and support new-age entrepreneurs for new-age India. The focus is on job creation through entrepreneurship in the domains of Agriculture, Education, social enterprises & ICT. It also aims to create & support sustainable business models at a grassroots level including social enterprises.

With regards to entrepreneurship and contemporary trends and innovation, real insightful information have come from an exclusive interaction between Mr. Uday Wankawala, CEO of Atal Incubation Centre-RMP Foundation and Mr. Faiz Askari founder of SMEStreet.in. From COVID-19 to Artificial Intelligence to trends like skill development, various aspects were discussed and highlighted. Most importantly, the conversation also unleashed a fresh approach towards entrepreneurship development which doesn’t really need to start from IITs or IIMs but from a dedicated and firm will of an entrepreneur.

Here are edited excerpts:

Faiz Askari: Entrepreneurship development has become all the more important and critical especially after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please share your views on contemporary trends with respect to entrepreneurship development in today’s time.
Uday Wankawala: Necessity is the mother of invention and globally we have seen that ‘Innovation’ & ‘Entrepreneurship’ are the keywords during such challenging times. Japan and Israel are the best examples as countries to follow because of their belief & innovative measures to tackle any difficult situation/problems.
COVID-19 pandemic is like a disruption to the economy, jobs & lifestyle of a Nation which will enforce people & organizations to think differently and take ‘hard’ decisions. Hence, you would initially see a trend of ‘losing’ jobs to later on ‘creation’ of more opportunities & jobs with novel solutions. I see a great scope in Agriculture, Education, Healthcare & Skill-building domains & also faster turnaround to Industry 4.0 revolution with the use of AI, ML, VR/AR tools including major thrust on ‘DATA’. The Economy will demand ’Smart & Hard-working’ entrepreneurs with feet on the ground and focused on ’solving’ real problems than just raising funds. India may see the movement of people to ’state of Origin’ with the increased use of technology along with upgrading skillsets, knowledge to stay afloat.
Faiz Askari: Please share a brief outline on the priorities for next one year that are been set for AIC-RMP?
Uday Wankawala: Ensuring that our ‘Startups / Incubatees’ not only sustain but also grow is always the core of our Centre. We are looking at the ‘Capacity Building’ of our Incubatees through the right selection of training, workshops, Peer Learning sessions & few experiential programs. For next one year, we are also looking at strengthening our offerings viz. extending mentoring pool with customised / personalised sessions, access to more experts / professional services, adding Angel Investors & Corporate etc.. as partners. We are also planning to strategically reach out to the right stakeholders in order to build a strong pipeline of Incubatees which will eventually help us to select the ‘right’ startups in Cohort-2, aic-rmp.org/application-form.php (planning to launch in July 2020). We will continue with our Community building efforts through flagship programs like New India Startup Conclave, Meet The Minister & Krushi Samvedana. We will be launching ‘Entrepreneurship Development’ programs for students & Faculty members too in 2020-21.

“The Economy will demand ’Smart & Hard-working’ entrepreneurs with feet on the ground and focused on ’solving’ real problems than just raising funds. India may see the movement of people to ’state of Origin’ with the increased use of technology along with upgrading skillsets, knowledge to stay afloat.”      

Faiz Askari: What are the key strengths of AIC-RMP that becomes an attraction for startups and entrepreneurs? What level of hand-holding and support is provided to budding entrepreneur here in the centre?
Uday Wankawala: AIC-RMP is strategically positioned as an Incubator for ’New Age Entrepreneurs’ to build ’New India’. It has been set up in alignment with Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog to nurture, handhold and support ’New Age’ Entrepreneurs. The focus is on job creation through entrepreneurship in the domain of Agriculture, Education & ICT. It also aims to create & support sustainable business models at grassroots level including social enterprises. There are four pillars to AIC-RMP’s strong proposition 1. Milestone based Mentoring 2. Peer Learning 3. Building Sustainable business & 4. Guidance & support from its parent Institution, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) which was established in 1982.
AIC-RMP works on two-pronged approach i.e. identifying challenges of a Start-up & how it can provide specific support / add more value as per their entrepreneurial journey, thus, focusing more on personalised & customised support to each Incubatee. Access to Govt., Start-up eco-system & ‘showcase’ platforms/flagship programs are also proving beneficial to the start-ups.
FA: Some believe that the quality of entrepreneurship ideas comes from leading business schools and engineering colleges like IIMs and IITs. Please share your opinion on this understanding. And if you believe that entrepreneurship can be developed and nurtured in any hardworking and smart individual, then what is the mantra for this?
UW: I strongly believe that ideas can come from anywhere but due to better ‘analytical’ & ‘reasoning’ skills along with access to reputed ‘alumni’ network, these ideas from IIMs, IITs may look ‘quality’ ideas but it could lack ‘execution’ swiftness or ’street smart’ attitude. I have mixed experience whilst dealing with both spectrums as it all depends on Founder / Team whether they have the right attitude, mindset to work as an ‘Entrepreneur’. They should not work to prove others wrong or to satisfy their egos but to bring that change or challenge the status quo.
The mantras for developing ‘entrepreneurship’ in any hardworking and smart individual (not necessarily only from IITs or IIMs and metro cities) is 1. working with a vision/purpose (Clarity) 2. ‘Problem solving’ attitude with self-confidence 3. Persistence 4. People & Resource Management 5. Adaptability to change & flexibility to handle change
FA: You have a great experience and insights on the level of entrepreneurship from India’s tier -2 and tier 3 cities. How can we bring them together to make a world-class example of India as a nation of qualified and potential entrepreneurs?
UW: We need to build more confidence & develop ‘professional’ attitude along with access to right platforms to the tier 2 & 3 cities youth if we have to make ‘World’ class examples. One more way to encourage them is to create & promote ‘Role Models’ like Hanmant Gaikwad who hail from smaller towns but have made it ‘big’ with simple sustainable business ideas (needless to say this requires a lot of guts, determination, persistence with self-belief & conviction of giving back to the Society). Our academia should focus on REAL examples, heroes & experiential learning than just theoretical inputs or promoting ‘Global’ icons which students can’t relate to.
FA. There are several schemes and programs that the Government has created for entrepreneurship motivation and MSME development, but as far as the connection is concerned we have a great scope of improvement. How far do you agree with this statement, please share your views?
UW: I agree to an extent but we should also not forget that we are evolving as an Economy & Eco-system with lot of on-ground challenges & last-mile connectivity issues due to wide-spread geography & culture. We have to take inputs from the ‘practitioners’ & involve them too in policy-making, such schemes to improve in ‘delivery’ & ‘execution’. Certain Entrepreneurship Development initiatives should be headed by Industrialists, Corporate Houses & C-level executives to ensure that they can pass on their resources, experience to small-medium enterprises. The Govt. should also need to come out with a periodical review, ‘impact’ reports & ’success’ stories from such programs / schemes and dismantle the ones which have not shown results or improvements so that these can be transferred / moved to more effective places. There should be a central repository with Global benchmarks in order to stay grounded with the right aspirations as we take help from such programs & schemes.
FA: Where would you like to see AIC-RMP in next two to three years from now?
UW: We would certainly like to be considered or positioned as a ‘World-Class’ Incubator in few years time which AIM, NITI Aayog has also envisioned. In next two-three years from now, we would like to be the ‘most preferred’ choice for startups that want to build a sustainable business & contribute to ’New India’ through Innovation & technology-led solutions. We would also be working in the space of ‘Capacity building’ helping upcoming Incubators (sharing our best practices) & strengthening our Community so that we contribute by building a robust start-up eco-system in our region & country.
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