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Where is Assam headed in the Startup hustle?

05 Apr,2022 08:06 PM, by: Pooja Dasgupta
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‘Startup’ is the buzzword lately among the entrepreneurial youths of Assam; striving to compete at par with the Indian startup ecosystem. To this effect, the Govt. backed Assam Startup - the Nest has been facilitating incubation of several startups from the state in association with IIM Calcutta, Innovation Park since 2019. Interestingly, Assam’s startup ecosystem largely comprises first-generation entrepreneurs. 

In the past, the majority of people in Assam either chose to pursue a career in Govt & academics, or preferred to venture out of the state to pursue higher ambitions. Scope of corporate career in the region also remained limited to the field of sales, distribution and operations. But things have changed in the last couple of years and a promising outlook can be anticipated amidst the rise of booming startups in the state. 

To further encourage the growth and scalability of local entrepreneurs, several investment & networking focused events & workshops are being held in the state. Govt. of India’s ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives have also enabled many young talents to take the plunge into becoming ‘first-generation’ entrepreneurs and contribute to the economic growth of Assam.

Given that Assam is regarded as the gateway to ASEAN nations for India, it does offer tremendous scope for local businesses to capitalize on this strategic vantage point. In 2018, the Assam Global Investment Summit held in Guwahati was able to lock in MoUs worth Rs. 79000 Cr, out of which Rs. 65000 Cr has already been materialized - as per Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister of Industries & Commerce, Govt. of Assam. 

In the recent Assam Budget for the Financial Year 2022-23, Govt. of Assam has allocated Rs. 25 crore to Gauhati University for building the startup ecosystem. This move is anticipated to widen the entrepreneurial scope and attract innovative solutions from passionate youths at a larger participation scale.

The surging popularity of startups in the region (as is true for the rest of India) has also led to a growth in PR and marketing activities. Admittedly, these activities start off in favor of promoting the growth of startups in the region. However, the role of PR and marketing also has a reputation for over-glamorizing the ‘startup life’, thereby misrepresenting the true journey of an actual startup venture. 

Long-standing startup founders will agree that building a business is far from an ideal path to walk, especially in the initial years. Unless one is serious about the business they wish to pursue, it is quick to crumble under the high pressure of market demand. The scenario is more challenging for first-generation entrepreneurs, as they usually lack proper mentorship and struggle to connect with the right networks. On that note, it is definitely welcoming to see various platforms and industry leaders working to bridge the gap here. The participation of angel investors, venture capitals and other funding organizations in Assam’s startup hub has further opened up new avenues for many business ventures in the state - allowing scope for expansion and growth.

Amidst the positive outlook on Assam’s startup ecosystem, there’s one key aspect that often gets the least attention in mainstream media - Bootstrapping. Bootstrapping is essentially a firm with no external funding backup - meaning no VCs to pitch to, and no seed funding events to participate in. Basically, it is the old-school form of doing a business, where a venture takes longer to grow, but offers greater autonomy to its founders while taking strategic decisions in various aspects of the business. 

In contrast, funded firms have access to ‘fast money’ that allows them to grow at a faster pace. However, it also invites investors to sit at the company’s board and partake in all major decisions in the business. So, while it’s great for any startup founder to secure funding, he or she must be willing to let their investors influence the growth trajectory of their business. 

Assam’s startup hub is still at a nascent stage and will take time to mature into a robust ecosystem. Having said that, it is crucial that new entrepreneurs continue joining the space and bring in healthy competition to the market. A decade from now will give us a clearer trajectory of Assam’s startup ecosystem and its contribution in the state economy. Until then, the hustle has to keep going. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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