What Wipro and Infosys incubator is doing in the Northeast

Priyanka Chakrabarty

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Guwahati: The Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), an autonomous society under the Ministry of Electronics, incubated mega success stories in the IT world such as Wipro, HCL, and Infosys. Business North East recently reached out to Vandana Srivastava, the Jurisdictional Director of the organization in Guwahati to find out what initiatives are being undertaken in the Northeast Indian region. Excerpts of the interview are as under:

Business North East: What is the Software Technology Park of India (STPI) doing in Guwahati?

Vandana Srivastava: In the past 4-5 years, STPI has established 23 entrepreneurship centers across India, with eight Centres of Entrepreneurship (COE) in the Northeast. The OCTANE program, funded by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, has onboarded 32 start-ups in various domains, including IoT in agriculture in Guwahati. The funding support is Rs 25 lakh, and the organization has created 18 products with 11 start-up units, with no less than 10 generating revenue. The Guwahati lab is agriculture-specific, while other northeastern states have different domain laboratories; such as Shillong's animation technology lab, Aizawl's gaming lab, Kohima's graphics design lab, and Itanagar's GIS Applications. We promote IT, ITES companies, and exports in India and provide IT-grade infrastructure, plug-and-play incubation space, raw space, internet bandwidth, and other support infrastructure.

BNE:  What is the STPI doing to bring other IT domains like blockchain, fintech, etc to Guwahati?

VS: We are nurturing start-ups in domains other than AgTech as well. When we get proposals for other technology domains in Assam, we will be able to provide them with infrastructural support from other centers. That’s a very unique thing about STPIs. People can be shifted to various locations based on their plans. Various academic institutions provide incubation centers. We are doing it in an organized manner across India in various technology domains.

BNE: Are there any specific programs or incentives in place to attract and nurture startups?

VS: We are mainly focusing on start-up schemes and seed funds for the start-ups. In Assam, the seed fund amount is Rs 25 lakh whereas for other COEs in the northeast, the amount is Rs 5 lakh. Other incentives are in terms of support services such as infrastructure, expertise, laboratory, etc. We have set up a selection process also for getting the right kind of proposals. We register proposals through our OCPs. We have a screening committee and, a selection committee which has experts from industries. We onboard those with good prospects, sign agreements with them, and start providing funding and other support based on their progress. We are not focusing only on the matured start-ups; we are also taking startups at the ideation stage under our wing as well. We nurture them up to the level that they can form a company.

BNE: Are there any strategic partnerships or alliances that the STPI has formed to enhance its impact?

VS: We have partnered with academic institutions which are nurturing start-ups - the list includes IIIT, Don Bosco, Assam Agricultural University, and NEDFi. In Guwahati, we have partnered with the ARIAS Society of the Department of Agriculture and many more are in the pipeline. 

BNE: Can you share any success stories or notable achievements of the STPI in Guwahati in terms of promoting innovation, job creation, or economic development?

VS: Infosys is one of our biggest success stories. ]We have 23 COEs under which 500 start-ups have been onboarded to date. We have more than 600 commercial products that have come up and over 300 Intellectual property rights (IPR) are in process. In the northeast region, we arrived a little late, but we onboarded 32 start-ups to support them. They have come up with 19 marketable products and revenue earned is to the tune of  Rs. 7.5 crores of 10 revenue-generating start-ups which is quite impressive. 'Jakoi', for instance, is a start-up that is increasing freshwater fish production. We also have 2-3 good start-ups in Gangtok in the healthcare sector and others, we have some in Imphal.

BNE: How is STPI  in Guwahati working on exporting software and information technology like the other states?

VS: We do not have much of an IT industry in the northeast - six exporting units are exporting to the tune of Rs 110 crores in total which is a very small figure as the country’s exports total $185 billion. STPI-registered units alone are exporting $106 billion. However, growth is there and we are witnessing a gradual increase in exports. Infosys recently started operations in Guwahati and registered with us under the non-STP category. They are expected to generate employment for local students here. Again, Tata is coming up with an ATMP facility in Assam and investing Rs 25,000 crores. They are also in the process of identifying a suitable location in Assam. This will lead to economic growth in the region.

BNE: What are the challenges STPI is facing?

VS: The Northeast has a very small base of IT companies; outreach is a challenge here because of the difficult locations. We are approaching academic institutions and meeting their final-year students. However, most of them are not in a position to start their ventures. We have more than 4,000 companies registered across India and we are trying to inform them about this program in the northeast to invite more applicants - we have to reach out to more people.

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Priyanka Chakrabarty