Rajasthan has been traditionally known for tourism, mining, arts and crafts. In recent years, the state has also produced tech-driven entrepreneurs. The state government in late 2017 launched its flagship initiative iStart Rajasthan. iStart ecosystem has over 1600 registered startups. The state’s startups provide an exciting and energetic culture of entrepreneurship.

iStart Rajasthan

The ecosystem is sector agnostic and entrepreneurs from the state continue to make their mark in India and abroad. Startups from Rajasthan are utilizing niche technologies both in products as well as processes for overall competitive value proposition and compete at the global level.

Building upon the momentum and to provide a newer, collaborative and expansive ecosystem, the Rajasthan Startup & Innovation Policy 2019 (DRAFT) sets the tone for building the leaders of tomorrow. The Policy also aims to attract Rajasthani talent across the globe. The government intends to create such an ecosystem which attracts entrepreneurs, innovators and even established startups to startup, grow-up and scale-up in the state of Rajasthan.

The Comments and Suggestions on the policy draft may be submitted latest by December 7, 2019. Visit https://istart.rajasthan.gov.in/startup-policy-feedback to submit your feedback

The government has continuously engaged in obtaining necessary feedback from stakeholders. Therefore, a need was felt to introduce a new policy. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Chaahat Khattar, Mentor & Consultant, iStart Rajasthan.

Rajasthan Startup & Innovation Policy 2019 Draft - iStart

Q.1: Please provide your brief introduction along with roles and responsibilities as part of the iStart Rajasthan Program.
Ans:
I have been part of the iStart Rajasthan team since the inception of the state startup program. I work as a mentor, consultant and an ecosystem player. It is a privilege to be associated with this program.

Q.2: Please highlight some key achievements of the iStart Program, since its inception in 2017.
Ans:
The iStart initiative is a professionally driven and professionally mandated program under the direct leadership of the honourable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shri Ashok Gehlot, through the Department of Information Technology and Communications (DoITC). Since its inception, the program has achieved many milestones.

At present, we have 4 incubation centers across the states, 2 in Jaipur and one each in Udaipur and Kota. We have more than 1600 startups registered and have incubated about 150 startups, out of which at present 116 are currently under incubation in the iStart Nest and Techno Hub incubators. Techno Hub is among the largest startup incubation and innovation facilities of India, which is managed, operated and maintained by the iStart Rajasthan team.

Our key driving pillars have been the partnerships and collaborations. We partner with Global as well as Indian conglomerates and we are excited to increase our footprint not just within Rajasthan but globally. One of our objectives is to take our startups outside the state and expose them at the global front. So in a nutshell, there are a lot of achievements but much like any startup, we are also a startup considering our operational experience is 2 years only.

We are learning, growing and hungry to achieve more, wherein partnerships and collaborations would play a key role. Let’s accept and understand the fact that we cannot be master of all. Attempting to do everything may lead to constant failures. That is why we emphasise building partnerships. As a recent example, we have now partnered with Startup Grind, Startup Success Stories, Inc 42, Yourstory and many other ecosystem builders.

Q.3: What impact has the Rajasthan Startup Policy 2015 created within the state’s startup ecosystem?
Ans:
Of course, the 2015 policy set the foundation for the startup ecosystem in the state. We were among the first few states to come out with a startup policy, which set the tone right for the state government. The new policy takes this progress through leaps and bounds by being very forwarding looking and by not just looking at the present, but also keeping in mind what we wish to achieve in the next 5-10 years down the line.

While the 2015 policy set the basic pillars right, we have now felt that the time is right, considering the dynamism of our startup ecosystem along with being challenging everyday. We have now come out with a policy that is revolutionary, evolutionary and beneficial for the ecosystem in times to come.

Q.4: How different is the Rajasthan Startup and Innovation Policy 2019 from its earlier edition?
Ans:
One of the major highlights of this new policy document has been the feedback-driven approach. Our leadership within the DoITC had mandated Team iStart Rajasthan to take feedback from on-ground, our own learnings as well as global best practices and then prepare the draft document. At later stages, we held both government and private stakeholder consultations to understand what we can implement and deliver in the state.

The policy document is not a compilation of fancy jargons but rather a realistic and practical guide, with each point being deliberated and discussed multiple times, and through multiple feedbacks. We have also monitored various (both good and bad) media stories on the iStart team, how our startups have progressed, with special focus on the ecosystem hurdles and speedbumps.

Q.5: There are 33 districts in Rajasthan. What efforts are being made to ensure that each district benefits from the iStart initiative?
Ans:
Under the leadership and guidance of the honourable CM, one of the key areas for us since 2018 has been to go down at the district level and foster entrepreneurship at the grassroot. That is the reason why the Udaipur and Kota incubators were setup and we are proud to say that they are performing really well. Few more incubators in other divisional headquarters will be announced soon. We recently met the District Collector of Kota to understand how we can initiate partnership at the district level. The Collector was extremely cooperative and forward looking. Such has been the positive response at the district level and everyone has been very pro-collaborative.

The iStart Rajasthan team has strong plans to go deep into each district of the state, and this is one of our key pillars of the program. We would also be harnessing our DoITC team present in each district to increase our reach.

Q.6: How does the policy envisage to address the following problem statements of the ecosystem?
Ans:
It addresses the problem statements in two ways:

a. Creating an enabling environment to foster Innovation within student and aspiring entrepreneurial community: As mentioned earlier, we also consider ourselves to be a startup since we are just 2 years old. We are also continuously learning and have understood the fact that there is a strong demand and need to foster entrepreneurship at the student level. Since 2017, we have been mentoring and hand-holding a lot of interested students. We are trying to build a model to activate and nurture the entrepreneurship cells across the educational institutes. We are determined to develop student entrepreneurs and have researched various successful models across the country.

We strongly believe that the key driving force for the student entrepreneurship initiatives would be partnerships and collaborations with other relevant government departments. It is very encouraging to see that whenever we speak with these departments on student entrepreneurship, we receive positive feedback and makes everyone very excited.

b. Faster accessibility for:

i. Compliance Support: Startups are in dire need of support for compliance, valuations, legal services, etc. The policy provisions allow startups to avail incentives for professional services. We are also building our internal capabilities to have professionals on-board. From iStart’s perspective, having such professional collaborations would ensure that startups get the much needed support on real-time basis.

ii. Technology: iStart Rajasthan goes for non-exclusive and non-binding partnerships, which have really helped the ecosystem in gaining access to several technologies. Some prominent examples are Google, Amazon and Microsoft. The Google team have visited us in Jaipur 2-3 times to conduct masterclasses. Our startups are doing direct business with OYO Rooms. Different partnerships are solving different issues.

HDFC has come on-board as our financial partner and talks are on with other financial institutions to gain access to the fintech sector. Very recently, Microsoft for Startups had conducted their Emerge10 program across the state. There is an existing MoU with Reliance Jio as well.

iii. Markets: Over a period of time, we have realised that more than direct funding, startups actually need business and market linkages. To cater this need, we have been sponsoring startups for the Jaipur Literature Festival in the city, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) events across the country as well as travelling to the Silicon Valley, USA.

These initiatives are now being consciously formalised in the draft policy. We believe it is important for our startups to go out as well as invite people to the state. We are trying to harness all possible platforms, forums, communities, organisations for taking the ecosystem outside Rajasthan as well as bring global expertise in Rajasthan.

iv. Government Contracts: We already have made an amendment in the Rajasthan Transparency in Public Procurement Act, 2018 (RTPP Act), which says that state departments may give relaxations to startups on several parameters while they procure work orders upto INR 1 crore (10 million). So we recently held internal deliberations on understanding how to activate and spread more awareness about it. Very soon, many Request for Proposals (RFPs) would be rolled with these relaxations.

We are also soon rolling out the ‘Challenge for Change’, a unique initiative wherein all state departments announce their domain-specific challenges through a common portal, which are eligible for startups who can look to solve these challenges and get direct work orders from the state departments. The modalities for rolling out these challenges are currently underway.

We do not want to in the ecosystem unprepared. We want to go prepared so that startups don’t face any difficulties. The very basis of having this policy is to have all preparations and frameworks in place and then go out. Hence, designing these modalities and procedures is even more important so that things are streamlined.

The Rajasthan eBazaar is already live and some of our startups are already listed on this portal, which is open to both government and public.

v. Investors & Networks: The draft policy specifically has identified the Rajasthan Foundation for collaboration, wherein we plan to gain access to the global Rajasthan diaspora for both investing as well networking and outreach perspective. We believe that the Rajasthan Foundation would play a very key role.

Q.7: How does the policy envisage to integrate the iStart program with the various academic institutions and their incubation centers present across the state?
Ans:
There is no doubt about the fact that an academic institution forms the backbone of any individual. The draft policy has listed down 75 educational institutes with whom we would like to partner and on-board on the iStart portal. And we are looking for both soft and hard infrastructure fungibility.

For example, there is an education institute with an incubation centre. We would like to on-board this incubation centre in the iStart program so that existing startups and other students can benefit from this engagement. This also works vice-versa, wherein our incubators are open to students and other local entrepreneurs for booking facilities. We also have key state educational institutes as part of our state-level implementation committee.

These intentions clearly show how much strength we draw from these educational institutions. We also had various institutions as part of the Rajasthan Innovation Vision (RAJIV), which happened in August 2019. We are in constant discussions with academic institutions to be part of their events as well as inviting them to our facilities. So a lot is happening and in the next few months and long run, more academic partnerships will be signed up and we are equally excited about it.

Q.8: What would the Rajasthan startup ecosystem of 2024 look like?
Ans:
The startup ecosystem is extremely dynamic. The policy has been drafted keeping in view the next few years and not just the present. And it has been kept very practical without the intent of having just a good looking document. We have consulted startups, investors, ecosystem enablers, partners, etc. and then we have put down those aspects which can be implemented and would benefit the ecosystem as a whole.

Keeping these in mind, we see the next 5 years as very exciting. We would be proud to see few unicorns coming out of Rajasthan, but this is not going to be the key parameter of success for the ecosystem. The key success parameters for us would be better employment opportunities in the state, startups being profitable and paying their taxes and adding economic value to the state, startups going global seamlessly, and other startups coming to Rajasthan for setting up their businesses.

We have recently initiated a ‘Homecoming Support’ for Rajasthan-grown entrepreneurs to come back to the state and we would be happy to provide as much support to them. We believe the next 5 years would make the ecosystem more exciting, vibrant and collaborative.

Q.9: What is your message to startups in Rajasthan?
Ans:
The draft policy was possible because of the robust feedback mechanism for anyone to reach out to the iStart Rajasthan team. Our contact details are available with almost everybody in the ecosystem and we are an extremely feedback driven program.

We are happy to interact with anyone from the ecosystem and pass on the feedback to relevant authorities and partners. We look forward to receiving comments and suggestions for this proposed draft, which will be presented to the appropriate authorities. We envisage to make Rajasthan as the most vibrant ecosystem not just in India but across the world.

The video interview is available at:

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Thanks Chaahat. All the best!

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