Challenges faced by startups in Kerala

and how socially committed technocrats can support”– Speech by M Sivasankar IAS on 28th February 2020

Complied By : Roopesh Raj, Former Convener, Darsana UAEChapter

Darsana 8th UAE Sangamam was held on 28th February 2020 at Fortune Plaza hotel, Dubai, U.A.E. with participation of around 90 people. Chief Guest of the function was Mr. M Sivasankar IAS, Secretary to the Chief Minister of Kerala and Principal Secretary (IT and Electronics), Government of Kerala.

 

Mr. M Sivasankar gave an inspirational speech starting with a detailing of his campus life in NSSCE which mainly constituted the hardships of the student politics in the campuses during the 80’s immediately after the emergency era. He recalled the socio-political situation during the time and how he started to become a social being and helped him to put up a strong base to his aspirations and career with a proper attitude and vision on the society which we all dream of. If you take all your lifetime, college days and the people whom you met and engaged during the same would be the one which have influenced the most in setting up your forward life.

The scenario of those days with five or six engineering colleges changed to around 150 colleges. It is time to think how this change has reflected the socio economy of the state and whether the same has been to the expected/forecasted position. Further to think how to leverage those changes in the society. The speech further rendered out the new multidimensional initiatives of Kerala Government in the development of Kerala and how those sustainable efforts has been cascaded or clouded out by the right-wing media. Having such a situation in the ground, he highlighted Darsana members supports and cooperation to the Government’s initiatives. As a major example, he expressed his happiness of completing more than 200,000 houses through life mission. The study during the project execution to analyze the shortlisted beneficiaries came up with a surprising fact that most of them became homeless not due to their family status, instead, the financial mismanagement which led to losing the homes. The various hurdles faced during the execution of such a bigger size/mega project in Kerala were detailed.

There exists a big question whether our society has grown enough to interfere in the socio economy by thinking that it’s not just only government to do everything. However, the government took a strong decision to move forward to bring those 2.5 lakhs homeless people – physically or virtually to a system where they will have home and come to know of what and how government is supporting – with all the social infrastructure to escalate them to a better sustained life (Ration card, Electricity connection and All govt schemes).

 

Life is to give life a set of people who was far away from the society. We as socially committed engineers should educate the common man on this prominent vision and action. Accordingly, he presented the Government Housing project of building flats for rehabilitating people in Akathethara where Darsana can take part on a charity as well as technical perspective.

Life tower at a place provided by government in Akathethara panchayat – flats for 223 homeless (expecting around 10 lakhs cost for each flat).

Mr. Sivasankar, after putting up a clear picture on the latest developments in Kerala, started on the assigned topic of Challenges faced by startups in Kerala and how socially committed technocrats can support”.  The following were the highlight of the talk:

·       The future is with startups. The steps taken by the Government of Kerala to promote the same will be a measure commendable for the future.

·       Although with our own minor mistakes, a big size industry has not flourished or sustained in Kerala. The state does not have the resource to sustain a huge size industry due to many reasons like – the lack of land and being at a corner of the country raw materials will reach only with high transportation cost.

·       Our possibility is knowledge based soft industries for which we have the manpower with technical base. Although the syllabuses are not getting updated to the global perspective, the availability of lateral knowledge has helped a bigger group to be updated with the latest happenings.

·       Entrepreneurship modelling theory getting implemented earlier has led to student startups. However, it became a hobby rather than becoming a structured and matured model. Also, the main thing happening was that at a certain stage these startups gets moved to a bigger city in search of funding, promotion, Guidance and Mentoring too.

·       The present government made the big change by interfering to the micro level and started funding in sharing with potential funders. Presently it stands at 1000 crore funded field. Recently, Seeding Kerala program was done to promote startup funding as the present leading promoters wished to have individuals from the state itself to get benefits there itself. However, not much response was received from the invited high net worth individuals.

·       Investment in Startups are with high Growth cash flow and early profit receiving category. Although there is a risk involved, return is high. The 3 types of investments are: –

Direct Investment in companies – invest in single company with high risk or invest in multiple with self-knowledge (groups).

Angel groups – invest in multiple companies with shared-knowledge (groups).

Angel fund – followed by government where they find a SEBI accredited fund and invest our fund there. The funder decides on which startups to invest and accordingly the risk is with the fund manager. These startups normally get bought by someone or go public in 2 to 5 years (so we get a clear picture for sure by this period).

·       As of now the present scope of funding is mainly at the 3rd stage where the startups are going commercially. The initial two stages are mostly funded by govt itself. So, in short, either invest in Angel funds or set up a group and invest in multiple startups.

He gave an example of Exoskeleton done by MES students and the Bandicoot robot.

 

On his closing note, he suggested Darsana to ponder about investing in startup projects in Kerala to be part of the development and create job opportunities along with generating income. If the funds from the alumni batch group and Darsana gets initiated, it is a chance to start a momentum for all such groups to startups. And accordingly, the high net worth individuals will set back, and new path will open in the frontage of investment.