Ranjit Baruah, David Gogoi, Mousum Talukdar and Rupam Choudhury are a new breed of entrepreneurs who think and even act differently. They travel the road less travelled and defy odds. And today they are the cynosure of all eyes. They are among a handful who are rewriting the Assam Start-Up story, a tale of hope and opportunities in the State.
No wonder, Assam has been recognized as a Leader (Category A) in the States’ Startup Ranking 2021 in developing a strong startup ecosystem in the State by Government of India.
A lot of the credit also goes to Assam Startup: The Nest, an initiative by the State Government to create a start-up ecosystem in the State. The vision of this initiative is to create a culture of entrepreneurship in Assam by promoting and empowering the youth to become job creators and pursue their entrepreneurial dream thereby transforming Assam into a leading Start-up hub in the country.
The Nest is an end-to-end ecosystem and facilities like conference rooms, video conferencing facilities, 50 MBPS dedicated high speed internet connectivity, plug, and play workspaces, design, and testing labs. Apart from these facilities, Startups receive various services such as business assistance, financial counselling, accounting assistance, legal and regulatory guidance, and access to mentors and investors.
It is here that the mettle of the likes of Baruah was harnessed. His start-up is centred around tea. It began with the realisation that small tea growers of Assam were unable to fetch the right value for their quality products due to inadequate knowledge of market demand and lack of market connections. “I am grateful to Assam Startup. I have learnt ethics and the fundamentals important to start my business venture. Interaction with mentors here would surely help us in taking challenges,” said Baruah.
IIM Calcutta Innovation Park as operating partner anchors all entrepreneurship-related efforts with Nest acting as the hub and other existing incubators across the State as its spokes. Most of the facilities available in Nest are free of cost.
Pranjal Konwar, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Assam Startup, said that theirs is a much-needed initiative to catalyse the economic growth of the State.
“Here we explain to trainees the importance of entrepreneurship and the challenges involved in setting up an enterprise. The very first idea we have been trying to impart to everyone here is that they should be a job provider and not a job seeker,” said Konwar.
Assam Startup has prepared a multi-stage intervention blueprint. The four different stages of this blueprint are i) Inspire (Ideation), ii) Ignite (Idea to prototype), iii) Incubate (Commercialisation) and iv) Invest (Scale-up).
“I collect teas from small tea growers. I have been trying to add value to our teas. Most of my teas are organic. We have produced Bhoot Jolokia tea, Blue Tea (Aparajita tea), Insulin tea and many more. We have learned the importance of value addition of products during our incubation period at the Assam Startup,” said Ranjit Baruah.
He added that good branding of products is very important. “I had learnt all these basics of how to grow your business in my tenure at the Assam Startup”, said Baruah.
Konwar said that for helping the Startups with financial aid, Government of Assam has introduced My Assam Startup ID (MASI). “Startups found eligible for MASI can apply for grants up to ₹ 50 lakhs for scaling up their business. So far, 292 applications have been evaluated out of the 368 applications received and 125 startups have been granted assistance,” said Konwar. Zerund Manufacturing Private Limited, being one such beneficiary.
It has mastered a non-polluting process to manufacture bricks made from plastic waste, organic chemicals, and fly ash. These are weatherproof, light weight and cost 15- 20 % lower than the regular bricks.
The trio of David, Mousum and Rupam graduated from Assam Engineering College and joined Assam Startup in its very first year. “We are grateful to Assam Startup for imparting us all the basics on how to start a new entrepreneurial venture. Lectures by faculties from IIM, Kolkata helped us a lot,”, said Gogoi, one of the founders of Zerund.
All these success stories have prompted the Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma to comment that India’s start-up ecosystem is creating waves in the world. The nation’s start-ups are constantly improving and growing, adapting to new situations with changing times.
“This has been a steep progression from its previous recognition of being an Emerging Startup Ecosystem. The State has been acknowledged as a Mentorship Champion for building a large mentorship network for Startups. It is indeed an encouraging achievement for the youths of Assam to take up entrepreneurship on a much larger scale,” said the Chief Minister.
Nest has, so far, carried out 74 outreach events, reaching out to over 15,000 students, young innovators, and aspiring Startups across every district of Assam. Initiating the Hub and Spoke model, it has, so far, signed 43 collaboration memoranda with top universities and colleges.