13 Jan 2020 17:15 IST

IIM Bangalore’s incubator NSRCEL looks to enhance its footprint

First in Mumbai and then in New Delhi; focus would be on women entrepreneurs and social ventures

NSRCEL, the innovation and entrepreneurial centre at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, launched its 20-year celebration of nurturing entrepreneurs across industries, with The Dialogue, a panel discussion on ‘Bootstrapped vs Funding: what’s best for your startup?’, in Mumbai, on January 13.

According to Prof Venkatesh Panchapagesan, Chair, NSRCEL at IIM-B, “The idea is to bring together bright minds to share experiences that are idea-focused and relevant to the entrepreneur, to foster learning and to provoke conversations that count.”

Prof Suresh Bhagavatula, Chair, Entrepreneurship area at IIM-B and Programme Director for several entrepreneurship programs run by the school, said: “The founder-patron of NSRCEL, Mr NS Raghavan, always wanted us to grow our presence, as an early-stage incubator, outside of Bangalore and, thanks to support from our partners and alumni, we have made a beginning here in Mumbai.”

Describing the journey of IIM-B’s open, early-stage incubator, Prof Panchapagesan said: “When IIM-B set up NSRCEL 20 years ago, we were the only game in town. Now, there is a proliferation of players. But we stand apart not only because we provide a safe space for entrepreneurs but also because we build a body of research, build a community that supports entrepreneurs and mentor sticky stakeholders. Only a public institution like IIM-B can do this.”

The start-up culture

In his keynote address, Karthik Reddy, co-founder and Managing Partner at Blume Ventures, one of India’s early stage Venture funds, offered a framework of funding for start-ups and shared examples of companies that have tread both paths. “The existential question for entrepreneurs, when they must choose a route, remains, ‘is this what I am signing up for?’ Entrepreneurs must ask themselves what kind of capital should be taken for what kind of outcome. They must ask themselves what is the market size and opportunity they are chasing,” he said. He suggested entrepreneurs to evaluate their ability to scale before taking institutional capital.

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion featuring Imran Jafar, Managing Partner at Gaja Capital, Vineeta Singh, CEO of SUGAR Cosmetics, Poyni Bhatt, Founding team member of SINE, the technology business incubator at IIT Bombay, and Deepa Krishnan, Founder of Magic Tours of India.

On how to get talented young people take the entrepreneurial route in the face of the lure of big pay-check, Poyni suggested that a few successes (role models) often pave the way for more risk-takers. She recalled the days when she faced irate parents of IIT-ians who demanded to know how their wards would find marriage proposals if they traded the security of a pay-check for the adrenalin-rush of a start-up. “In order to stay relevant, an academic incubator must play to its strength, strengthen its offerings by way of its infrastructure and funding, and extend its networks,” she observed. Adding to Poyni’s views, Imran said: “For instance, IIM-B can be the custodian of Indian stories of entrepreneurship. Top B-schools should also tweak the admissions criteria to choose risk takers rather than the risk averse.”

The risk appetite

Deepa Krishnan spoke of her motivators — job creation, wealth distribution and social impact, and explained why bootstrapping works for her as in all her decisions about money, she asks herself what brings her joy.

Imran argued that there is no right or wrong as long as entrepreneurs know their risk appetite and ability to scale. He called for tech and product innovation, which needs extremely patient capital — for which, he said, the ecosystem still does not exist in India.

“Scarcity of money (read capital) does not build character — contrary to what we Indians are taught to believe,” he declared, adding that the top reasons for failure of a start-up is that their product or service is not a validated by market need, they run out of cash, and/or they have no teams apart from the founder(s).