For an entrepreneur, getting the right guidance and mentorship is an important part of their success. Right from the validation of their idea to evaluating their business plan and even finalizing their marketing strategies, start-up founders are always on the lookout for mentors who can help them scale. And this is where, incubation fits into the picture.
Given India’s booming start-up ecosystem, it comes as no surprise that the country holds the third position globally in the number of incubators and accelerators (as mentioned in a report by NASSCOM). With over 140 incubators, India is a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
Enabling this entrepreneurial ecosystem further, the concept of virtual incubation is the new rage in India. While existing players are looking at ways of reaching out to more entrepreneurs, players like Facebook are making use of their existing reach to help entrepreneurs with the launch of their Digital Hub.
While the debate continues about how virtual incubation cannot take over the value of face-to-face mentorship, the former is still attracting the attention of entrepreneurs from across the country. Entrepreneur India spoke to experts who are all sold on the idea of online incubation and its reach.
Incubation Not Just for Early-stage Companies
For a long time, the concept of incubation has always been associated with early-stage companies. So, in that case incubation requires a more hands-on approach. And that is why Sweta Shetty, COO, Startup Bootcamp believes that with greater involvement needed from the coaches’ side, virtual help will be essential for accelerators.
However, the belief that incubation is just for early-stage start-ups is untrue, believes Srinivas Kollipara, founder & COO, T-Hub (India’s largest incubator). At T-Hub, they receive requests for incubation from Series A start-ups too. For start-ups to be a part of their program, they need to have a product and a good amount of traction as well.
As some of these start-ups are well positioned in their cities, Kollipara said that they take incubation to them. “Two years ago, a later stage company would have scoffed at the thought of joining an incubation program. But the time has changed now, mature companies want guidance too and are even looking at better methods of customer acquisition from incubators,” he said.
While Kollipara agrees that a physical incubator gives you the opportunity to gain knowledge from peers, it also helps in networking.
A Great Concept for Startups in Smaller Cities
There are multiple ways that virtual incubation can help entrepreneurs. Pankaj Diwan, Managing Director, IdeaLabs, believes that start-ups that are stuck in smaller towns can make greater use of such an opportunity. “They will have access to the best resources without letting go of their operations in the city where they are based out of,” he said.
With virtual incubation, one can even reach out to students in schools and colleges and help them develop their idea. Diwan, who works with students too, believes that this will further enable entrepreneurship at an early stage.
A Global Platform
The concept can become a one-stop platform for entrepreneurs from India to connect with global mentors. Entrepreneurs have the inherent quality of making the best use of resources. Diwan believes that experts might not be available everywhere but with virtual incubation; they can reach out to entrepreneurs from across the world. “This will also help in the scalability of the start-up,” he said.
Not just entrepreneurs in India, but such a format will help global entrepreneurs enter the Indian market with a soft cushion believes Sweta Shetty, COO, Startup Bootcamp. They will get to learn about the do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship in India while also receiving the guidance from mentors about the Indian market. “For an entrepreneur who doesn’t have the resource or time to engage with the Indian audience on his/her own, virtual incubation is a great concept. Seventy per cent of the work that accelerators or incubators do for entrepreneurs, can be covered online,” she said.
At T-Hub, through the first half of their India Market Access Bridge program, they offer virtual incubation to start-ups based overseas. So, they assess whether the international start-up needs incubation and can enter the Indian market or not. “Once the assessment is done, we strategize to localize their operations in India, while they are still there. We even create sales channels for them. So, the discussion and the work starts even without them moving to India. At a later stage, a part of their team comes to India to implement the work,” said Kollipara.