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IIT Bombay peped up to give wings to ideas

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Mumbai: Can you forget the flying helicopter camera in the blockbuster movie, 3 Idiots? Possibly no. It was one of the catching pitches of the movie. However, a very few are aware that the helicopter, called as 'Netra', was originally built in the incubation center of IIT Bombay, SINE. Netra was ideated by ideaForge, which is a startup company, but lacked in terms of finance and infrastructure. There are many standing in the queue with brilliant ideas to start their own enterprise; however, they need financial and infrastructural support to seed their ideas. The question arises, is it possible for each of them to get loans from the bank? Can they afford the increasing interest rate of the private financial firms and institutions? The answer is 'No'. Then, should they wipe off their brilliant ideas? Can they find any solution to these problems?

Here comes the role of an incubation center as a savior to these brilliant ideas from being swabbed by providing various supports to the aspirants who come to them with great business ideas. They can leverage the facilities provided by these incubation centers in terms of finance and infrastructure at a very concessional rate. Various big institutional organizations, such as IITs and IIMs are prominent role players. But why do these big institutions need to provide such support to the aspiring candidates? As a part of their social responsibility, they support these aspirants to emerge as a blooming entrepreneur. SINE is one of such kind.

SINE, Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, awarded the 'Best Incubator Award' in 2009, is hosted by Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), provides canopy for promotion of entrepreneurship at IIT Bombay. SINE provides a platform for technology based entrepreneurship through its incubation programme, thus extending the role of IIT Bombay. It facilitates the conversion of research activity into entrepreneurial ventures by allevating networking with professional resources, which include mentors, experts, consultants and advisors for the incubate companies.

IIT Bombay is one of the best instituteof technology innovation and research excellence in India. In 1999, an IT business incubator was set up at Kanwal Rekhi School for Information Technology, IIT Bombay. The presence of the Information Technology incubator created a milieu beneficial to the entrepreneurship, initially with ventures based on the technologies and ideas of the students and faculties.

With gaining success in the initial experiment, IIT Bombay set up a full-fledged technology business incubator to cover other areas of science and technology. SINE was established in 2004 to administer the business incubator and accelerate the growth of entrepreneurship in IIT Bombay. With an infrastructure spread over 10,000 square feet, it can accommodate about 15-17 companies. Till date, 40 companies have been incubated and currently 15 companies are incubatees under SINE. Some of the graduated companies who have already established a footprint in their respective field are eInfinitus, Mobiance Technologies, Herald Logic, Voyager2Infotech, Geosyndicate Power, Myzus Technologies, Powai Labs, SecLore Technologies, Webaroo Technology, Feast, Girish Kumar Telecom and Zeus Numeric.

SINE provides a three-year program for the knowledge based startups. It incubates start-ups from the IIT Bombay community - alumni, faculty or students; linkage with IIT Bombay is a necessary requirement and the applicant must have business proposals for technology based products and solutions. The start-up company has to make a business plan, which is evaluated by external reviewers with relevant expertise. "We assist the potential entrepreneurs in preparation of business plans and organize workshops and training programs on entrepreneurship at pre-incubation stage. A start-up entity should be a company, which is preferably incorporated before its admission. We conduct periodical reviews and monitoring of companies admitted to the incubator," says Sushanto Mitra, CEO, SINE. During the program tenure, SINE organizes events for their incubate companies to help them exhibit their products and solutions.

"The start-up companies get high quality physical facilities and infrastructure at a very nominal cost. SINE provides them with business support too and is benefited from the ecosystem at SINE and IIT Bombay. A high end business support is also provided to the incubatee companies including mentoring support, access to professionals with legal, financials, accounting and industrial expertise, networking events to facilitate interaction with investors and industries and seed fund support on case to case basis," adds Mitra.

The various facilities provided by SINE to the incubatee companies lists from fully furnished office, personal computers, printers, telecom facilities and internet connectivity. They provide with shared resources also, which are servers, software tools, high end photocopying, fax, scanning machines, meeting and conference rooms equipped with projection facility, audio video conferencing facilities and pantry facilities. It also provides training to other incubator managers on how to manage the incubation centre and the incubatee companies. This surely plays an important role in speeding up the process of incubation of the start-up companies in India.

These are taken care by the governing body of SINE, which comprises of eminent professionals with long experience in their relevant field. To name a few are Pravin Gandhi, Deepak Satwalekar and Ranjit Pandit. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Technology Development Board (TDB), National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), The Entrepreneurship Cell (eCell) and The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of the Government of India (MCIT) are the partners of SINE, who help the incubatee companies, leverage the advantages and benefit themselves from the special services and provisions provided by them.

One of the incubatee's of SINE, mySetu, an EHS and TPM software development company, shares there view about the incubation centre. Co-Founded by AMit Patel and Kruti Patel in 2005, it is presently incubated in SINE. Amit Patel, MD and CSO, mySetu, shares, "It's easy to make a buck. It is a lot tougher to make a difference. SINE proves to be one of these difference creators. We went with our idea of developing software product for EHS&S, to be hosted on cloud environment. To support our idea, we had our business plan ready in place and after rounds of meeting our company was incubated in January 2011. We are a growth stage company and find the program helpful, as we are now able to explore opportunities for raising funds through Debt / VC / PE and many more. We are provided with high level of HR, Legal and Commercial departments, which are very essential functions in business. The association with brand IIT changes the perspective of our business client towards our company and products."

Do the incubation centers enjoy any benefit by incubating these aspirants or is it just a social responsibility that they perform? It can rather be said that it is a dual benefit for the incubation centers. They get a stake in the incubate companies which makes them share the profit of the organization. This profit is ploughed back for further incubation of new aspirants. But questions arises again, is it the responsibility of the IITS and IIMs only to incubate such aspirants? Can they form forums to provide much advanced support to incubatees? Can the huge private companies provide an incubation center in their organization to promote aspirants with similar ideas?

There are many serial entrepreneurs and millionaires in Silicon Valley, who wish to utilize their ideal cash. They can be encouraged to start independent incubation center to provide world-class facilities to Indian startups. They can provide a platform for startups based out of India to incubate in these centers and experience the world market. It surely is a matter of thought.

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