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Ganesh Natarajan on how Pune should exploit its enormous startup potential

Ganesh Natarajan, chairman, Nasscom foundation and Global talent track; and executive chairman and founder, 5F World on how Pune should design products and have them manufactured from China to get an edge over them. He says Pune City Connect is working towards making Pune a leading startup hub not just in the country, but in Asia.

pune Updated: Jul 05, 2018 15:10 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Ideas for change,Pune in my mind
Ganesh Natrajan, chairman, Nasscom foundation and Global talent track; and executive chairman and founder, 5F World.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

Pune On My Mind: Ideas for Change

Corporates, bureaucrats, NGOs and scientists got together to form a non-profit body called Pune City Connect. We have the support of the PMC commissioner who ensures we get timely approvals, basic infrastructure and locations for our activities. Corporate provides the funding. To that end, we have started a digital literacy and skilling programme

People rant about China being the factory to the world. I say let them be. Pune should design products and have them manufactured from China. Yes, it will not create as many jobs, but will give us an edge over them. Pune has huge possibilities and Pune City Connect is working towards making it a leading startup hub not just in the country, but in Asia.

Forget about being the No 1 startup hub in the country, Pune has the capacity to be like what Berlin or London are to start ups in Europe. And I say this with a careful study of the facts. Pune has absolute edge over other cities in India.

This is because of many factors. The city is known as the Oxford of the East, so it is only natural that there will be many young minds, fresh ideas that can be seeded as startups.

That we have a huge IT industry is well known. Add to that the engineering firms, manufacturing companies, scientific community and you have the perfect recipe for the city to be a leading startup hub. Why India, I would say Pune has the potential to be a leader for startups in Asia.

Apart from this talent, Pune has so many people ready to help entrepreneurs. We have the Nasscom (National association of software and services companies), TiE (The Indus entrepreneurs), Bhau institute of innovation entrepreneurship & leadership, National chemical laboratory (NCL) and so many more. So a young entrepreneur can get guidance and mentorship from so many willing organisations. We also have some organisations willing to invest in such startups. Apart from VC funds we have quite a few individuals who are keen on investing in ideas. In my personal capacity I have invested in eight startups of which seven are from Pune.

“When I look at our start up community and the ideas that they bring out I feel like a child in a toy shop. The ideas coming out of our city are absolutely fascinating. Pune is an investor’s dream come true. The startups I have invested in range from a farm aggregation digital platform, one for tourism and history, one about design thinking... Pune is not just about IT, though I believe that IT, which is part of our ecosystem, has applications that can be used for varied platforms - manufacturing, design, tourism, education, finance, healthcare and so on. But, can we be the best in IT?

So while Pune has the capacity to be a leader for startups in the country, we need to do a little more to push it to that level. We have incubators and accelerators. Even Telangana had set up one for its people, but what is needed is for all of them to come together and make a concerted effort that will push the city to the next level. To that end, some of us, that is corporates, bureaucrats, NGOs and scientists got together to form a non-profit body called Pune City Connect. Through this we undertake to empower people. We have the support of the PMC commissioner who ensures we get timely approvals, basic infrastructure and the location to carry on our activities. Corporate provides the funding. To that end we have started a digital literacy and skilling programme among others.

If we have a central non-profit body that can coordinate the efforts of such incubators and accelerators that promote entrepreneurship, it will give a huge fillip to the start up ecosystem. Currently all of them work in silos. A few of us are trying to bridge that gap, to get all these players to collaborate so that a young entrepreneur will get the best out of the city. The way I see it, apart from the several varied ideas that our entrepreneurs churn, ‘design’ can lead the way forward. We have the potential to build world-class design solutions. People rant about China being the factory to the world. I say let them be. Pune should design products and have them manufactured from China. Yes, it will not create as many jobs, but will give us an edge over them. Pune has huge possibilities and Pune City Connect is working towards making it a leading start up hub not just in the country but in Asia.

5F World is a platform for skills, start-ups and social ventures in India

First Published: Jul 05, 2018 14:51 IST