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Startup Saturday: Why Baner is Pune’s sweet-spot for startups

Affinity to Hinjewadi’s IT majors, open spaces to ideate, cheap but good infrastructure makes Baner No 1.

pune Updated: Sep 22, 2017 23:44 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
Baner is an area that has a lot of techies, with Hinjewadi close by. They work here and share their ideas. These guys are not married or studying, they don’t talk Bollywood, they talk work, says Ajay Agarwal, entrepreneur and mentor to startups.
Baner is an area that has a lot of techies, with Hinjewadi close by. They work here and share their ideas. These guys are not married or studying, they don’t talk Bollywood, they talk work, says Ajay Agarwal, entrepreneur and mentor to startups.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

According to ER Planet, a website for engineers, the total number of IT companies in Pune’s Magarpatta is 34 while Baner, a relatively new area compared to Magarpatta, has 44 IT companies.

Apart from these numbers, Baner has become a hotbed for startups. You could throw a stone and it would land at a startup’s office. What is it about Baner that has so many startups starting up here?

Says Ajay Agarwal, an entrepreneur and mentor to startups: “In Mumbai, Powai has developed as a startup hub because of its proximity to IIT. In Bengaluru, it is Koramangala and Whitefields that boast several startups. In Pune, it is Baner. The reason for this is that it is an area that has a lot of techies, with Hinjewadi close by. They work here and share their ideas at public spaces. These guys are not married or studying, they don’t talk Bollywood, they talk work. So it is natural that they will find some idea that they can chase into a business model.”

Sandeep Saxena, who tried his hand at entrepreneurship before joining Persistent agrees. “Baner is placed in a sweet spot, between Mumbai and Bengaluru. The distance to Pune city is also not too much. You have so many watering holes in Baner that provide the physical space to sit and share ideas. Twenty years ago it was Hotel Mahabaleshwar that was cheap and informal. Now, of course, there are many.

Tejasa Potnis, CEO, Trios, a shared-office space venue in Baner. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

“These are the places where techies meet, share ideas and suddenly get pumped up enough to start out on their own.” The other reason Baner is oozing with startups according to Tejasa Potnis of Trios, a shared office space set up, “is the proximity to other big companies in Hinjewadi. Not just that, we have noticed that people from all over Pune are coming to Baner. We have a guy who comes all the way from Sinhagad road. We also see companies shifting here.”

Daftar is another set up that offers shared office space mostly to startups. Says Sunanda Verma Bhatta, co- founder, “We have three offices in Baner totalling about 160 seats. In fact we are planning to set up another such centre as the demand for such spaces, mostly by startups, is on the rise. It is a cosmopolitan area with students and techies that flock here. There are several meeting places where people share ideas and it has great infrastructure with good wi-fi, connectivity and till some time back, was affordable.”

Sunanda Verma, cofounder The Daftar, a shared-office space says she is planning to expand given the demand in Baner. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

As Bharat Nadkarni and Chaitanya Kedia partners of Three Plus, a startup, found out. Says Bharat, “Chaitanya and I were doing freelance work and collaborated on a project. Then we realised that if we worked together we could get bigger and better.

“So we started Three Plus. We offer software and digital marketing services. Initially, we did think of setting up our office on SB road, but it was too expensive. Places like this (Daftar) are far more affordable and we do not have to bother about things like connectivity and paying service providers separately. Of course there will come a time when we will get bigger and need to move out of this place, but as of now it suits us fine.”

After doing his B.Tech Phani Kumar had a steady job at Wipro. He quit it to do his MBA and got placed at Auto Ninja, a CRM service provider to auto companies. Says he, “It is working in this small set up that has spurred the entrepreneur in me. I now have an idea to provide entertainment to the rural areas and am looking for funding.” Would this have happened when he was working with Wipro? “Never,” he says. “People working with large MNCs can only think of what to do tomorrow, they cannot even begin to see long term into the future. When you work in a small company, you have to do many things and you can think for yourself, about your future. I am glad I got placed at Auto Ninja that provides CRM services to the auto industry. It’s because of this work environment that I got charged into looking at my own business.”

Bharat Nadkarni (left) and Chaitanya Kedia, Threeplus, say Baner was their choice for keeping costs low for their startup. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

It is not necessary that tech people give birth to business ideas always. Anurag Vyawahare had done his B. Tech and MBA and worked for a year at Sterlite as planning manager. Photography was his hobby. Says he, “I quit my job and came to Baner, Pune. I was confused whether to join my family business or get back to an engineering job or do professional photography. Of course I was getting small orders from friends and family, but since I was living in Balewadi and had a complete social circle here in this area I chose to take up photography as a career.” Anurag today heads-up A9RAG Photography.

Anurag Vyawahare, founder, A9RAG Photography says his social circle in the area moved him to go it alone. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

Baner is the choice for most young entrepreneurs not only because it is relatively cheap and has good infrastructure, but also because it has good connectivity to other areas. Says Phani, “If we have to meet a client in Hadapsar, it’s 45 minutes, in Chinchwad that too is 45 minutes. We are right at the centre and commuting to any place from here is relatively easy.” Affordability, infrastructure, connectivity, socialising spaces and proximity to IT Parks are some of the reasons for Baner evolving into a startup hub. Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra chief minister, has stated that “Pune is high on our agenda and a smart city project will change the face of the city in the next five years.”

The government is putting in place a fibre optic system that will enable wifi hot spots, smart transport, water supply and power grid networks.

“But” as Ganesh Natrajan, CEO Zensar says, “The government should not just focus on the ABB area, i.e. Aundh, Baner and Balewadi alone. A city needs to be well developed equally in all the areas. The PMC is doing a lot by providing infrastructure, but it needs to focus on other areas too.” Till then, Baner will continue to be the hotspot for startups.