Priyank Kharge: A Man On A Mission To Make Karnataka The Startup Nucleus

Karnataka, especially its capital city Bangalore, has always been the face of the startup ecosystem in India. The recent appointment of IT and BT (bio-tech) minister Priyank Kharge has added new fire power to the startup ecosystem in the state. Under his helm, the government has launched a startup cell in the state, where startups can register and post evaluation via a panel of government and industry experts; they will be entitled to certain benefits. Speaking at the
Entrepreneur India Summit in New Delhi held last month, Kharge opened up about how his government is going to address problems that surround every budding entrepreneur.
“The government of Karnataka strongly believes that it’s not about ideas, but it’s about making ideas happen. Karnataka was the first state in the country to envision IT as a surprise industry and drew up an IT industry policy way back in 1999-2000. This vision of ours has today accelerated Bangalore as the second largest technology hub in the world,” he said. 

Kharge strongly emphasized Bangalore’s lead not only in the technology domain, but also in bio-sciences, geographical information technology and nano-sciences. Apart from Bengaluru, Kharge said that the state’s success story lies in the fact that even smaller cities in like Udupi, Mangalore and Mysore have clocked about $25 million- $30 million in startup funding last year.
“The objective of the state is to ensure that Bangalore continues to remain the startup hub and also make other tier-two cities as startup destinations,” he said.
The two Ps — Policies and partnerships
The Karnataka government has envisaged the country’s first multi-sector startup policy wherein the government will encourage 20,000 startups during the policy tenure and out of which 6000 of them will be product startups.
The government has partnered with home-grown and global incubators to setup world-class accelerators in the state. “With the introduction of the start-up cell and the booster kit, all that a startup needs to do is to register with the startup cell and avail a whole galore of services from the government anywhere in the state,” Kharge stated. Kharge said that the government has provided a special quota for women entrepreneurs to fund startups founded by women. The government also plans to collaborate with innovative technology to solve some of the ongoing issues, which the state is currently facing.
There’s room for every entrepreneur
“The booster kit and the startup cell ensure that people with all kind of characteristics come forward. The only characteristic the government is looking for is – is the drive to do things,” Kharge said in an interview to Entrepreneur.
Apart from allocating funds, the booster kit comes with special amenities which include cloud services, payment gateways and internet plans. Shedding further light on the procedure, Kharge said, “If you have the drive and if you have an idea, all you have to do is register with us and see which of categories you fit in. The government is trying to facilitate this ecosystem and the first step towards accelerating that is the startup booster kit.”
The state government has already announced Rs.400 crore funding over the next four years as grant or equity for startups, micro and small IT and BT (biotech) enterprises. Kharge said under his new scheme he intends to cover “pretty much every vertical” and that the government has received an “overwhelming” response so far from this initiative.
What makes Bangalore special
According to Kharge, what makes Bangalore special is the availability of skill sets and the fact that the city has always been a pioneer of information and technology.
“Currently we are the biggest technology cluster in India. There is a lot of learning to make note from not only the Silicon Valley but also from places like Israel. There are a lot of things that the Silicon Valley can take away from Bangalore for example, the new-age information networks that we have. We are taking the new age technology to tier-two towns. We aren’t concentrating on one city alone but also taking it all across the state,” Kharge said.
Collaborating with government
Talking about collaborating with the centre, Kharge said that the government is currently collaborating with the central government for a couple of things, which includes the centre of excellence – the Internet of Things. He continues to look for more collaboration opportunities under programs like Startup India, Make in India as he believes that at the end of the day the ecosystem should benefit and make sure that the right delivery mechanisms are being given to the ecosystem.
On asking on things he intends to work with the central government, Kharge said that aerospace, manufacturing and a couple of other domains are definitely on his wishlist.
Competing with emerging startup hubs in India Karnataka, as Kharge puts is the torch bearer of the startup ecosystem in the country. “I hear a lot from our friends in the media about the developments in the startup ecosystem in Hyderabad, but we love competition. The fact remains that over the last two years $1 billion have been spent in startups in Bangalore, whereas Telangana was able to get $89 million. So the figures speak for themselves,” he said. Kharge said that competition is always good as it validates the policies and ideas.
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (September 2016 Issue).

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