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Recently 'Assam Startup - The Nest' has been recognised as an emerging startup ecosystem in the country for its relentless efforts to create a supportive environment for growth of startups. The announcement was made during the 'Startup India Awards 2020' held at the National Media Centre in New Delhi. It is indeed an encouraging achievement for the youths of Assam to take up entrepreneurship in a much larger scale.
The startup movement in Assam has started late but its progress is not slow. In last one-and-a-half years, it has picked up tremendous pace generating much hope and opening new income opportunities for the youth. A case in point is ParkingRhino, a platform that connects available parking spots to drivers through a mobile or web application, empowering commuters with real time parking information to pre-book spaces in advance, navigating to spaces using maps and making digital payments. This venture has partnered with 500 plus parking locations in 8 Indian cities and 240 plus locations in Philippines with access to 228K parking spaces. This App has also made entry into Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia and has raised Rs. 2.85 crore from NEDFI – Northeast Venture Fund.
ParkingRhino is just an example of the long list of startups nurtured by "Assam Startup - The Nest". This incubation hub set up in Guwahati by the Department of Industry and Commerce of the State Government in association with IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, has successfully incubated 76 startups since its inauguration on January 20, 2019 giving direct employment to 1,690 people and impacting 3.2 lakh lives. This includes ventures like Automobile Technologies, a car and bike service aggregator; Bolkol, online platform for Indian handloom products; Brahmaputra Fables, a digital platform that connects around 2,500 artisans and weavers of the Northeast with the global market; Defence & Space Robotics Laboratories, Esah Tea, Let's Learn Together, Little machines, My 3D Selfie, Zerund Bricks, Tholua Pratisthan, Symbica, Sahoni Agro Services, Aranyak Valley etc.
While startup movement in other parts of the country have mostly remained concentrated around cities, "Assam Startup - The Nest" has been able to penetrate into every nook and corner of the State. The startup ventures incubated by 'The Nest' have made remarkable impact in terms of solving local problems by utilising and promoting local culture, places and artistry, engaging the local community and opening employment avenues for them in the process as is reflected by the names of the startups themselves.
A notable feature of this state-owned incubator is that it has motivated young innovators and aspiring startups across Assam, disseminating understanding about entrepreneurship, thawing popular inhibitions about entrepreneurship and encouraging them to pursue dreams for starting up. Further, to identify innovations and providing initial support and handholding to develop fledgling ideas, "Assam Startup - The Nest" has launched the Entrepreneurship Development Centre Network for building and promoting Entrepreneurship Development Centres in educational institutes and signed collaborative memorandums with top colleges and universities.
This state-of-the art incubator has also emerged as the focal point of contact for investors, mentors, corporate representatives and foreign dignitaries willing to collaborate for the growth of the local startup ecosystem. In the recent past, the Israel Ambassador to India Dr. Ron Malka, a team from Microsoft for Startups, N Kruseman, a senior expert at Netherland based volunteer organization PUM, Tay Lian Chew, Global Market Director and Ms. Sabrina Ho, Regional Director of Enterprise Singapore, Government of Singapore; Michael Feiner, Deputy Ambassador, German Consulate and Siddhartha Chowdhary, CEO, Credence Management Solutions, USA among others visited "Assam Startup - The Nest" and extended mentoring support as well as initiated various startup exchange programmes. While the mentors from IIM Calcutta Innovation Park have been dedicatedly engaged in mentoring the incubated startups, many academicians, seasoned investors and mentors have imparted capacity building trainings and exposed the startups to the various aspects of startup investment giving them suitable direction on making their ventures investment-ready.
The success of the nurturing efforts of "Assam Startup - The Nest" is evident from the fact that recently two startups, namely, Esah Tea and My3DSelfie have raised a total of 2.1 crore at the North East India Fund Fest in Guwahati. Three startups, viz. - Let's Learn Together, Zerund Bricks and Little machines got selected for a monthly fellowship of Rs. 30,000 for a year under the NIDHI Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIR) programme. Further, nine startups have either raised or have firm commitment for aggregate funding to the tune of Rs. 7.1 crore. Recently, the State government has also handed over cheques worth Rs. 3.3 crore to 31 startups who have applied for financial benefits under the My Assam Startup ID (MASI).
The progress that is unfolding is very promising. The success of the entrepreneurs of the State is a strong testimony of their innovative ideas that have immense potential to position Assam more visibly in global market. However, to sustain this tempo, "Assam Startup - The Nest" will have to continue handholding the startups with right kind of business knowledge and better networking. It must become a single-point window to realize the entrepreneurial dreams of all the aspiring startups and entrepreneurs of the State.