It may surprise many of you that nearly 20% of our graduating UGs are favorably inclined towards start-up’s—either launching one of their own right out of school, or after a few years of seasoning at a start-up. This year’s placement at IITM reflected this trend. It therefore behooves the institution to provide a nurturing ecosystem for these wanna-be entrepreneurs. The Center for Innovation (CFI; http://cfi.iitm.ac.in), Center for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CSIE; http://csie.iitm.ac.in), C-TIDES (https://www.facebook.com/CTIDESIITM), the IITM Incubation Cell (http://incubation.iitm.ac.in), and IITM Research Park (http://respark.iitm.ac.in) are the key components of this eco-system. Two academic programs—M.S. in Entrepreneurship, and a Minor Stream in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship— provide the necessary grounding as well. A bio-incubator has been launched recently (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/IIT-Madras-launches-incubation-cell-for-startups-in-biotech/articleshow/45485582.cms) to add to the variety on campus.
The tech-fest, Shaastra, that was held during the first week of Jan, saw an “Entrepreneurship Conclave and Startup Hive”, with PayPal’s “Start Tank” providing an obligation-free environment for two selected IITM tech startups in a facility of almost 11,000 square feet in Chennai (http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Student-entrepreneurs-to-get-a-shot-at-Start-Tank-incubation/articleshow/46036384.cms;http://www.asianage.com/business/entrepreneurial-bug-bites-students-startups-rise-509).
Centre for Innovation (CFI), the student-run innovation lab at IIT-Madras, is running an initiative called Nirmaan, a mock incubator to support students with entrepreneurial interests by providing them a risk-free environment to develop their ideas and shielding them from financial pressures through seed funding. Mahesh Panchagnula, Adviser of Co-Curricular Activities at IIT Madras, says that though CFI’s motto is “Walk in with an idea, walk out with a product”, right now the students build a prototype and leave it at that. Through Nirmaan, students can choose to work on improving their prototype so that at the end of their college stint, they are ready with a marketable product. 29 teams and projects are now part of Nirmaan after a registration and selection process in September. A seed funding of 2 lakh per team is being provided, and the progress of ideas is being reviewed by a faculty team. The funds come from alumni grants, corporate sponsors and institute funds.
Promotion of social entrepreneurship is also receiving due attention via CSIE, which recently held a camp for school students to inculcate the spirit in them.
The times, they are a-changin’….. mostly for the better!