What do Capillary Technologies, Splashmath, GoZoomo, Roadrunnr and BuyHatke have in common? While each appeals to a different market and customer base, each is also a runaway hit in their respective industries. These tech-based startups also have one other thing in common – their founders all graduated from Kharagpur’s well known Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-KGP).
In fact, each startup’s founding team members initially met while studying at IIT-KGP. First came the shared studies, followed by a natural unfolding of curiosity and creativity, which led to tinkering with tech ideas while increasingly developing close friendships. These friendships ultimately led to profitable startups which are making a name for the graduates and their alma mater.
There are also many other successful tech startups which hail from this celebrated university – Moengage, Carbon Clean Solutions, Innovacer, Stayglad, Mapmygenome, Traveltriangle, Venturesity, Signeasy and others – either there is something in the water at IIT-KGP or this is where future tech geniuses go to launch their startup dreams.
Arnav Kumar (Gozoomo co-founder) cites the domino effect of seeing IIT-KGP graduates launch successful businesses for fielding the next generation of students to strive towards the same [Tech in Asia].
The university campus is 2,100 acres, but the surrounding town doesn’t have much to hold the interest of eager and ambitious young minds. With a large student body relying nearly completely on the campus and each other for just about everything, it is no wonder so much pent-up creativity takes birth in the form of cool and potentially profitable new technological ideas.
It doesn’t hurt that the college also offers degree plans that are hard to come by elsewhere, including medical sciences, energy, economics, architecture, agricultural engineering and others. As well, the sheer diversity of study plans fuels an interdisciplinary approach to innovation that has spawned everything from IoT (Internet of Things) to AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics to wearables and more.
About the IIT-KGP Entrepreneurship Cell
IIT-KGP’s “entrepreneurship cell” has played its own significant role in guiding students with an entrepreneurial bent. The student-run and -led organization is known as a “startup incubator,” with more than 50 successful launches under its belt to date.
Aneesh Reddy and K.K. Mehra (Capillary co-founders) are also responsible for the launch of the university’s entrepreneurship cell. Their goal was to foster entrepreneurial thinking with the goal to boost entrepreneurship amongst their fellow graduates. With so many students formerly focused on landing jobs with traditional employers, Reddy and Mehra wanted to change the mindset to showcase the possibilities for being the employer instead of the employee.
While it took some time initially to catch on amongst the student body, today the success of the cell startup is easy to see.
Looking for the Next “Great Idea”
To this day, IIT-KGP’s entrepreneurship cell continues to run inter-collegiate contests, workshops, seminars and events to encourage big ideas, foster those with promise and mentor budding entrepreneurs to launch their own startups. The cell’s latest brainchild has expanded beyond country borders into the global arena with a competition named “Empresario.” The contest has an association with IBMC, the International Business Model Competition, which includes as co-hosts Stanford, Harvard and Brigham University. Winners of the initial round will proceed to the IBMC 2016 semi-finals.
Empresario offers two entry tracks: Social and Product & Service. Students worldwide are invited to submit entries. Entrants may submit to both categories without restriction. In 2015, Empresario category winners each received a prize package worth INR 1.5 million (US $23,000).
Empresario’s student co-organizers celebrate the value of the great idea itself – stating that ultimately, even the most promising new venture is first simply about identifying a problem and proposing a possible solution to that problem. Along with a platform for new great ideas, which is what the Empresario contest aims to provide, comes the possibility of validation, which can generate fuel for a future launch.
The first round asks applicants to share their idea and submit responses to a standard list of questions. Entrants selected to proceed to the next step will then have the chance to hone their great idea, and those who make it through this stage will actually present their idea in business model form to a group of potential investors.
The 2015 Empresario winner was Betaglide, an IIT-KGP brainchild that provides a testing platform for new mobile apps. In fact, Betaglide, with its four IIT-KGP co-founders (Abhimanyu Dikshit, Amritanshu Anand, Anshul Singhle, Manan Shah), was recently acquired by Inshorts, a news app also co-founded by an IIT-KGP graduate. Clearly, IIT-KGP’ers stick together even after graduation, supporting great ideas wherever they may be found within the greater graduate community.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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