UP Promises One Start-Up Incubator Per District By 2023

The 2021 edition of Startup India’s States’ Startup Ranking brought some positive news for UP – from the fifth tier, it had climbed to the third tier and became a ‘leader’. With 5,616 registered start-ups under its wing, the state is taking fast but steady steps to build its start-up ecosystem. The man-in-charge Kumar Vineet, Special Secretary, IT & Electronics & MD, Uttar Pradesh Development Systems Corporation and Shreetron Indiaspoke with Business Outlook about the ground realities, the focus areas for the state in terms of the start-up ecosystem and changing perceptions. Edited Excerpts:

In the 2021 states’ start-up ranking, Uttar Pradesh featured in the “leaders” category, but it is still behind other states, such as Odisha, which emerged as one of the top performers. What are you doing to change that and add Uttar Pradesh to the top tier?

In the past one year, we have tried our best to create a better environment and strengthen the support mechanism. There is nothing new that is happening on the political side because the problem lies in implementation.

We are increasing our interaction with start-ups and trying to check the disconnect. Efforts are being made to be more involved and get a first-hand feel of what they are actually facing. We are also organizing more melas for them to interact and ensuring that more centers of excellence and incubators come up.

Our plan is to have at least one incubator in every district by 2023. As of now, we have 47 incubators in 20 districts. We are targeting another 25 in the next six months and another 50 in the six months after that. In one year, we will cover all 75 districts. There are 18 commissary headquarters and we aim to have one IT park in every commissary in the next two years. For IT parks, which will have plug-and-play facilities, we have entered a memorandum of understanding with Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) where we provide the land and they get the analysis of the potential of the area and implement the project .

What is the government’s biggest focus area when it comes to start-ups in the state?

The government has a four-pronged policy for start-ups. First, hand-hold them financially in the initial stage—Rs 15,000 for a year—so that they can at least start cropping up. Second, provide a good environment of incubators for mentorship. Third, finance the start-up for their patent fees and everything. Fourth, help them get into the marketing process because ultimately the saleability of the product is very important.

While policies for all four heads are already there, the point is how to implement them well.

Finance is one of the biggest problem areas for start-ups. Any specific initiatives by the government to address that?

We are not getting into the commercial part of financing but trying to hand-hold them when they have an idea which needs to be nurtured into a commercial prospect. For an idea to generate and evolve you need time so the sustenance part is taken care of by the government for at least one year—provided the idea is good enough. That is decided by a committee after start-ups pitch their idea.

We also do other funding. For instance, one start-up went to Germany and had to put up their stall there. We took care of their travel, stay and presentation part with a limit of Rs 1 lakh. Internally, we are sending some start-ups to Bengaluru and fund them up to Rs 50,000.

Uttar Pradesh’s Start-up Policy 2020 made a string of promises. How much of that has been achieved so far? Are you satisfied with the progress made?

The day I am satisfied with my progress, I am stuck. As of now, the progress is there, but we need to jump in a big way. That is why, in the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative, we are planning a big mela in Lucknow so that we can connect with start-ups.

When start-ups meet the right incubators, they can excel. An agriculture start-up developing in Kushinagar cannot come all the way to Lucknow every time to discuss issues. It needs infrastructure and well-placed mentorship near it to develop. That is the ecosystem we have to develop and that is what we are planning to do.

Most Uttar Pradesh start-ups come from cities like Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida), Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Kanpur Nagar and Varanasi. How are things moving in other parts of the state? Has the government zeroed in on a few cities that it wants to develop as start-up hubs?

The term “start-up hub” is sort of a misnomer. It means any place where activities can function and where ideas can be cultivated into salable, marketable concepts and where the market is readily available. This ecosystem can be put in place through two activities—access to mentorship and taking care of the marketability aspect where platforms are readily available to display and sell the products.

This is where our idea of ​​IT parks comes in, particularly in the Tier-II cities where you will not have semiconductors, Python programs or stress management activities coming up. They will come up in ecosystems like Noida and Greater Noida, which are already established in terms of industry. While a complex ecosystem will develop in these areas, Tier-II and Tier-III cities have the potential, not just in IT, but in spaces like agriculture, drone and allied activities like skill development. These are the cities where the One District One Product initiative can be integrated beautifully and connected through this infrastructure of start-ups. Hence, the idea of ​​every district having one incubator.

Uttar Pradesh had set out to build India’s largest incubator in Lucknow. What is the progress on that?

We have a 40-acre land in Lucknow and want to develop it into a complex infrastructural facility which has a technology hub, an IT park and other infrastructure as well. We are visiting different states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana and are having brainstorming sessions with them so that something that comes up in this region will last for the next 30 years.

Our (start-up) policy is valid until 2025. So possibly, by the end of this year or the first half of next year, we will have the concept that has to be implemented. We aim to start implementing it by next April or May. It will take another two years for it to be operational because it is going to be built in a very big way.

The start-up policy had also stated that 25 percent seats at the incubators shall be given to start-ups with female founders or co-founders on a preferential basis. Is that going as per plan?

Yes, of course. There is one start-up from Basti that is into legal activities and one in Auraiya that deals with Ayurveda and the Nadi system on the IT platform. There are very intelligent women working on different things, coming up with ideas and getting support.

In your view, which sectors can attract maximum interest from investors in a state like Uttar Pradesh?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are going to be important sectors. Second, drones which are going to have multipronged activity, both in agriculture and industry, will also see a lot of traction. Third, agriculture, right from seed farming and cultivation to the new techniques involved. These three have the potential. AI and ML already have an ecosystem in western UP, drones have a good potential in central UP because IIT Kanpur has a very good facility of runway and everything, and we are also planning to start official pilot licensing at IIT Kanpur—a three to five -day program where you will learn how to operate a drone. In eastern UP, when we come up with our Varanasi IT park, you will find a very good agricultural hub coming up there.

We also have very big investments coming up in these spaces. Warehouse activity—from eastern to western UP—is coming up because the road infrastructure has come out beautifully which will help in the formation of the ecosystem.

Do you think Uttar Pradesh can break the notion of being an undereducated, lawless state and create a niche for itself in the start-up space? How can that be achieved?

I think, in the law-and-order part, the perception has changed. Secondly, we recently had a groundbreaking ceremony where we saw Rs 80,000 crore of actual investment with the IT sector getting Rs 25,000 crore investment. One of the industrialists had said that his facilitation was at the highest level that he has ever seen in India and he got all the clearances and everything done in just two-three months. Nivesh Mitra (an online portal for entrepreneurs) has got a 93% satisfactory rate in close to 7,60,000 applications which is definitely a very big deal.

We have made our image and have brought back the reverence and good feeling about UP bureaucracy that was once there. The bureaucratic system is here to deliver now.

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