Innovation Mission to Punjab () was conceptualized as a catalytic organization in 2020 to strengthen the startup ecosystem in Punjab, help startups create high-value jobs and boost investment in the state.
Built as a public-private partnership, IMPunjab is collaborative in nature. Its mission is to support aspiring entrepreneurs and startups across Punjab through virtual and physical engagements, trainings, stakeholder networks and collaboration opportunities. It also brings resources from around the world – global mentors, popular toolkits, and curated content, and makes them accessible to people.
Preparing Punjab Startup
“After the boom in agriculture and industry, Punjab has missed out on the current economic wave i.e. technology and startups. This has not resulted in investment and employment in Punjab. The founders of Zomato, Ola, Blinkit and Flipkart are all Punjabis but migrated to places with developed startup ecosystems due to a lack of opportunities in Punjab,” said IMPunjab Chairman Pramod Bhasin, at YourStory.
He explains, “Punjabi entrepreneurs have built Indian businesses with a net worth of over $50 billion and foreign businesses with a net worth of over $100 billion. While Punjabis have been at the forefront of the startup movement, Punjab has not been their headquarters. We wish to invigorate the risk-taking nature of Punjab and inspire young entrepreneurs and innovators to start and start in Punjab. Hence, the government and the private sector have come together to form a unique partnership to deliver a best-in-class platform for aspiring entrepreneurs.
In its efforts to prepare Punjab for a “start-up movement”, IMPunjab is working with multiple stakeholders including the Punjabi diaspora, investors, entrepreneurs, incubators, schools and colleges, business leaders and artists . The mission claims to have integrated more than 350 startups.
“We now receive nearly one startup registration per day. We actively engage with registered startups on a monthly and, sometimes, weekly basis providing ongoing support and completing milestones such as creating a financial model, running a pilot and creating a GTM (go-to-market) strategy We constantly help them build their capabilities and provide them with open source content as well as access to exclusive masterclass sessions and webinars by experts,” says Pramod.
The mission also connects with educational institutes across the state to tap into potential talent and mentor them so they can create “world-class startups that reach unicorn status as soon as possible,” according to Pramod. .
The three pillars of the mission are Pollinator, Accelerator and Innovation Fund.
Pollinator builds communities by bringing stakeholders together and creating networks. This helps incubators, investors, angel investors, industries, universities, and college e-cells leverage each other’s strengths.
“We are actively working with institutions of higher learning at the state level to reach out to students to form electronic cells to raise awareness of entrepreneurship at the college level. We also organize a monthly innovation challenge in all cities to identify the next young entrepreneur in the region and support them throughout their journey,” says Pramod.
IMPunjab has also launched the Punjab Incubators Network for Entrepreneurs (PINE) Networking, Matchmaking and Training sessions to get incubators to support and co-incubate local startups.
The second pillar, Accelerator, provides structured advice, mentor support, piloting opportunities, capacity building programs, catalytic capital and business services to support early stage startups.
The mission is in the process of launching its first cohort of 15 startups under the IMPunjab Accelerator program. IMPunjab will provide three-month structured support to 15 early-income startups and also provide them with Rs 3 lakh as experimental capital to validate assumptions and create scalability. The industry-agnostic program will include startups from a variety of industries, including agrotech, deep tech, food processing, and edtech.
IMPunjab also organizes a city-specific event called Startup Day, in all cities of Punjab, to generate registrations. During Startup Day, attendees get dedicated time with a panel of experts to get feedback on their ideas and startups. They can also attend sessions led by industry stalwarts and become part of the startup community.
Under the Innovation Fund, the third pillar, IMPunjab plans to launch a venture capital fund of Rs 150 crore to finance startups that meet the required criteria.
“We have already received commitments. The state government will provide an anchor of 10% of the total amount, while the rest would be raised by us through our alliance with companies and investors. Outside of the fund, with government support, we would be offering cash prizes, prototyping prizes, etc. to the winners of various competitions to encourage more entrepreneurship and ideation,” explains Pramod.
The government has appointed Pramod Bhasin (founder of Genpact, Clix Capital and Asha Impact) to chair IMPunjab in 2020. The board is also composed of Saurabh Srivastava (Nasscom, IAN, IVCA), DS Brar (former CEO of Ranbaxy), Dr Ajay Shah (author and chief economist), and filmmaker Bobby Bedi, as well as two ex-officio principal secretaries.
Pramod, with the support of the government, eventually assembled a like-minded and passionate advisory board made up of people such as Naina Lal Kidwai (former HSBC India Country Manager), Manoj Kohli (SoftBank India Country Director, former CEO and CEO of Bharti Airtel), Rajan Anandan (CEO of Sequoia Capital India, former VP of Google), Pritika Mehta (Founder of SocksSoho), Jeet Jandu (Director at India Trade and Investment), Sehraj Singh (CEO of Nasper Limited /Prosus), Ido Aharoni (Israeli diplomat, Brand Israel), Ajai Choudhary (founder of HCL) and Jaspal Bindra (president of the Centrum group).
Somveer Anand is the CEO and Mission Director of IMPunjab. He leads the team in Mohali, Chandigarh.
The road ahead
IMPunjab’s target is to reach a working population of 14 million people, 30 universities, 1000 colleges and 8 lakh students based in Punjab.
IMPunjab launches an accelerator in Kalkat Bhawan, Mohali with virtual and physical interventions. The mission also plans to create state and national angel networks to catalyze seed funding for startups and help them grow their businesses.