However, while the region, which counts Kolkata as its primary commercial hub, is yet to produce too many startup ventures of note, barring a couple at best, the green shoots of a potential new economyled change are coming through.
It’s also a cultural mindset that needs to change. It’s happened across the rest of the country, creating the entire ecosystem in the process. But it’s changing here, albeit at a lower pace, compared to the rest of India,” said Raghav Kanoria, a founding member of Calcutta Angels.
According to Kanoria, who also founded and runs Neoleap Accelerator, startup business ideas emanating from eastern India have undergone a significant metamorphosis over the past couple of years, and while the region is yet to produce companies that regularly attract risk capital, promising ventures are beginning to emerge.
“We get a lot of good ideas now, and we are in our fifth year of operations… In our first year, we actually had to go out and look for applicants… We get at least 7-10 startups coming from the east,” he added.
Kanoria, along with Harmeet Sahney, executive director at Avendus Wealth Management, Dipanjan Purkayastha, chief executive of HyperXchange, Vikas Parasrampuria, chief executive of self-drive car rental startup Voler Cars, and Rajat Agarwalla, cofounder of RJ Softwares, were speaking at a round table discussion at The Economic Times Power Of Ideas event, held in the city on Friday.
The topic being debated was, “Why is the startup ecosystem in Eastern India so moribund, and what needs to be done to stimulate it?”
However, unlike the National Capital Region and Bengaluru, the two leading startup hubs of the country, the established business community in the region is yet to support and nurture the region’s startup ecosystem, a situation that needs to change. “We can showcase deals to people. But if they do not want to invest, thinking there are other opportunities, such as the equity markets, for example, then it is an issue. Kolkata is essentially lacking in overall business activity. People here are essentially managing their money, which means they are looking at earning returns tomorrow, and not five years down the line,” Sahney said.
Avendus Capital, which over the past decade has emerged as the investment bank of choice for startups, has handled the fund raising mandates of some of the most prominent companies to have come out of the country. “Somewhere it is the responsibility of the HNIs of the city to start backing these ventures… They are happy to invest in funds… Eventually, it will happen, and we will catch up. But sometimes it does take time,” he pointed out.
Equally importantly, for startups based in Kolkata, attracting top talent and retaining them, involves a certain amount of creativity.
“Specific technical talent is very good here. It’s quite competitive… But there are gaps. Overall, at an early-stage, Kolkata checks all the boxes. From an incentive perspective, you can’t always match what’s being offered in Bengaluru or Hyderabad. But we offer great ESOPs package, flex-hours and in-built travel time, amongst others,” Purkayastha said.
The consensus amongst the panellists is that while the region may lag behind the rest of the country, the opportunities, which have been largely untapped till date, are primed to be unleashed with just the right amount of stimulation needed.