IIM Bangalore’s incubator NSRCEL looks to enhance its footprint, first in Mumbai, then in New Delhi

The academic incubator enhances focus on women entrepreneurs, social ventures, start-ups in rural areas and student-run ventures across India

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

According to Prof. Venkatesh Panchapagesan, Chair, NSRCEL at IIMB, “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 IIMB and Program Director for several entrepreneurship programs run by the school, said: “The founder-patron of NSRCEL, Mr. N.S. 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 IIMB’s open, early-stage incubator, Prof. Panchapagesan said: “When IIMB 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 IIMB can do this.”

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 also urged 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.The discussion was moderated by Prof. Suresh Bhagavatula. 

On how to get talented young people take the entrepreneurial route in the face of the lure of big pay checks, 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

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

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, IIMB 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.”

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).

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