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IIM Calcutta setting up incubator for BoP startups

IIM-logoStartup incubators and accelerators have been cropping up across the country in the recent times (which is good news for the domestic startup ecosystem). Now Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta is planning to set up an incubation centre which will focus on social enterprises addressing the problems of people living at the bottom of the pyramid.

The on-campus incubation unit has no name yet, but it will be part of the institute's Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI). The faculty and alumni of IIM-Calcutta will be the mentors and the principal mentor of the incubation unit is Ashok Banerjee, dean of new initiatives and external relations at the institute.

"The incubation facilities at IIM Calcutta will include mentorship support from faculty and alumni. We have developed a unique model of mentorship to ensure better monitoring and effectiveness of the programme," said Banerjee in a statement. The incubator will not be providing funding directly, but the alumni (who will be the mentors) will help startups secure funding.

As of now, IIM Calcutta has signed agreements with four social entrepreneurs—Mumbai-based Doctors For You (DFY), a social enterprise in the healthcare space; Kolkata-based SwitchON-ONergy, a startup focused on renewable energy; Uttarakhand-based Edwell Solutions, which offers multimedia based tuition classes; and Delhi-based Utopia, an eco-friendly rickshaw maker.

The four startups have been chosen from a number of ventures that had qualified for the final rounds of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, a joint initiative of the Tata Group and IIM Calcutta, which was held earlier this year.

It is not clear how many startups the unit is planning to incubate in a year. "As of now the plan is to incubate the four selected startups. We will finalise on more companies on the basis of the next final round of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, which will be happening in January 2014," Banerjee told Techcircle.in.

He said IIM Calcutta will be incubating the companies in two ways—physically as well as virtually. While DFY will be physically present at the centre for incubation, the other three will get virtual incubation, with quarterly meets also on the cards.

Earlier this month, Indian Angel Network (IAN), a national network of angel investors investing in startups and early-stage ventures, formed a sub-group called IAN Impact which will also focus on social enterprises addressing the problems of people living at the bottom of the pyramid.

The sub-group of around 50 IAN members has already invested in Delhi-based Gram Vaani and is now looking to invest in six firms in 12 months. IAN Impact will put in up to Rs 2 crore in six early-stage companies yearly.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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