Assam Startup- the Nest: A state-owned incubator for realizing startup dreams

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Assam Startup- The Nest, an initiative that stood by dint of the sweat and hard work of a group of brilliant government administrators has been driven by IIM Calcutta Innovation Park towards realizing the mission of developing a problem-solving mindset and a culture of entrepreneurship in Assam and facilitating the growth of at least 1000 new start-ups over the next 5 years by developing a competent entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It is the state’s first owned marquee incubator initiated as a pivotal pillar of the Assam Startup Policy 2017, under the aegis of the Department of Industries and Commerce, Government of Assam, with Assam Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation functioning as the nodal agency.

After its inception in 2019, the pillar of incubation hub organized outreach programmes across all the districts of Assam and connected with young college students and taught them about the startup platform, its benefits, ethics, and work process with its mission to create job creators rather than job seekers.

Every six months, Assam Startup – the Nest conducts a competitive contest, attracting more than a thousand applications on average. Following a rigorous screening process and evaluation, the most promising startups are selected for the incubation programme. Towards helping them successfully transition to the next startup stage, the incubated startups are provided 360° support in terms of business mentoring, capacity building, networking, market access, funding connections, visibility, and state-of-art co-working space during the period of the incubation. By the time the startups gear up for graduation, the top-performing ones get a chance to pitch their ideas before some of the top investors in the country.

Only Indian citizens who have completed 18 years of age and are willing to set up a business in Assam or have an existing one are eligible applicants, said the COO, Pranjal Konwar. Preference is given to those with a full-time core team and has ideally demonstrated some traction from customers having at least a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with Proof of Concept (POC). The business should not be an expansion of an existing family business.

Furthermore, startups that apply for recognition on the Assam Startup portal and are duly approved by the concerned authority are granted a unique ID known as the My Assam Start-up ID (MASI). This ID enables startups to apply for an array of financial benefits that include:

l GST Reimbursement – up to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakh per startup per year, for a period of 3 years.

l Stamp Duty Reimbursement – 100% reimbursement of stamp duty/registration fee/conversion fee paid on sale/lease deeds for the first transaction.

l Digital Upgradation Subsidy – at 50% of capital expenditure.

l Lease Rental Reimbursement – 50% reimbursement for a period of 3 years.

l Power Subsidy – at 50% subject to a limit of Rs.10 lakh per year, for a period of 5 years.

l 100% Reimbursement on patent filing cost – with a maximum limit of Rs. 1 Lakh for filing a domestic patent and up to Rs. 5 lakh for filing an international patent.

l Incentive for hiring women, transgenders, and differently-abled – the special one-time incentive of Rs. 5000 per woman, transgender differently-abled employee.

l Marketing and Promotion assistance – 50% reimbursement of the actual marketing and promotion costs.

l Incentive for Entrepreneurs – Sustenance allowance of Rs. 20,000 per month per startup for a year.

l Idea2POC Grant – Rs. 5,00,000 per startup for developing product/service.

l Scale-up Grant – a grant of up to Rs. 50,00,000 per startup inclusive of the Idea2POC Grant.

So far, 45 startups who had applied for financial benefits under MASI have received a total grant of Rs. 4 crores.

Over the last 2.5 years, Assam Startup – the Nest has incubated 2 batches of 76 startups. As stated by Pranjal Konwar, these 76 startups have recorded phenomenal growth and have reinforced remarkable impact in the state in terms of generating livelihood opportunities and contributing to the overall socio-economic growth of Assam.

The COO also added that it has generated Rs 42.6 Cr of startup revenue and the 76 start-ups have socially impacted 3.4 lakh lives and have generated direct and indirect employment opportunities for 44,686 people. 39 of these incubated startups have raised a cumulative external fund ofRs. 12.2 cr.

The third batch of 103 startups is currently gearing up for the 6-month incubation programme run in a COHORT mode.

Through its meticulously designed outreach programs, the incubation hub has been able to reach more than 11,000 youths from across the length and breadth of the state to date towards enabling an inclusive development of the ecosystem in the state.

Bolstered by the success of the incubation and ecosystem program for Assam Startup, IIM Calcutta Innovation Park has laid down a comprehensive roadmap to replicate the Assam model in other states of Northeast for nurturing the local potential and building a robust startup ecosystem across the region. The initiative is already taking shape in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh said the COO.

For all the good work done to date, Assam Startup -the Nest has also been recognized by the Central Government, acknowledging the possibility of realizing its vision to make Assam the most sought-after startup destination of Northeast India and one of the top incubators in the country.

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