While capital, a great idea and a strong will to succeed are important to run a startup, it’s not enough to scale. Often young entrepreneurs struggle when it comes to commercialising the idea; what they need is active guidance from experienced professionals who’ve been through the same journey.
Incubators and accelerators are proven to be an important cog in the startup wheel due to the many benefits they provide — from mentorship and networking opportunities to low-cost workspaces, funding and more. Many successful companies began as startups and used incubators to spur growth including Reddit, Dropbox, and Airbnb, all of which have current valuations greater than $1 billion.
Recognising this need in the market, the AIC ISB Association at the Indian School of Business (Mohali Campus) was launched with the primary objective of strengthening entrepreneurship and fostering innovation in India.
Building investable startups
Over the years, the Indian School of Business (ISB), being a world-class business school, has done pioneering work in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship. Leveraging its pool of 650+ alumni startups, 400+ mentors and industry leaders, ISB in partnership with NITI Aayog, under their Atal Innovation Mission, has set up AIC ISB Association, a business incubator and accelerator that started in 2019.
Located within the ISB Mohali campus, AIC ISB provides a state-of-the-art space for entrepreneurs to interact with industry mentors, investors and academia. The shared work environment encourages early-stage founders, including students and alumni to build high-impact, innovative and investable startups.
Yamini Bhushan Pandey, CEO, AIC ISB, says, “Our focus is to help startups achieve the best product-market fit by giving them access to ISB’s vast expert pool, in-house business expertise and robust alumni network. At an early stage, we ensure they get the right support, relevant hand-holding and tools necessary to execute pilots, build products and secure investments. The support doesn’t end once you graduate from a program, it is extended well beyond the program, on a need basis.”
AIC ISB is committed to delivering value to the founders, and post the pandemic, the centre has switched to a hybrid program delivery model. Under this model, a few capacity building sessions are delivered using virtual platforms, while a few sessions are conducted in person. This enables startups across India to apply under relevant programs and avail the benefits even virtually, from any part of the country.
Programs for any and every founder
The Center focuses on early-stage startups with a growth mindset through a plethora of initiatives. From masterclasses by ISB faculty, dedicated expert mentorship, corporate partnerships, fundraising support, opportunity to conduct market pilot and other benefits, selected startups get the required support they need to scale their ventures. The programs include:
- AIC ISB Incubation Program – The sector-agnostic highly customised program is designed to support early-stage startups with a validated business idea (POC). The program helps them become scalable and sustainable through capacity building sessions, investor readiness workshops, one-on-one mentorship support, access to a rich network pool and funding through investor and VC partners. The centre also works closely with the startups to identify their challenges, create future roadmaps and provide them with curated support.
- Agri & Food Tech Acceleration Program – AIC ISB’s Agri-acceleration program supports startups that are working on developing innovative solutions for the most crucial challenges faced by the agri and food sector. The program has three focus areas ー increasing the sustainability of food production, upliftment of the small and marginal farmers in India, and nutritional security. The program emphasises enabling market access at an early stage and facilitates co-innovation opportunities between the startups and industry that allows for rapid scaling up and expansion.
- Foundher Women Accelerator Program – AIC ISB is also empowering women entrepreneurs with a highly customised virtual acceleration program that helps growth-stage women-led ventures scale up. Women can apply if they are key decision-makers with a senior leadership role (CEO, COO, President), the annual revenue of their startups is Rs 50 lakh or above, the business has operated for at least two years, has a full-time team in place and is looking to scale its operations.
- Social Impact Accelerator Program- AIC ISB’s Social Impact Accelerator brings together a powerful combination of venture development expertise, sector knowledge, impact creation and capturing, and network access to maximise the impact and reach of social enterprises working on solving the most pressing societal problems.
“We also have a pre-incubation program for student entrepreneurs at the ideation stage to turn their ideas into reality. With mentorship from successful entrepreneurs, students will be able to build world-class products and create a future roadmap of the venture, enabling them to be well prepared for the entrepreneurial journey before venturing into it,” says Yamini Bhushan.
Supporting problem solvers with GIZ, Germany
This year, AIC ISB in collaboration with GIZ, Germany launched the first Grand Idea Challenge for students, aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage startups in agriculture, smart manufacturing, mobility and digitalisation that are working on innovative solutions especially for challenges that have emerged due to the pandemic.
The challenge got an amazing response with 1009 applications, out of which 12 startups (three under each category) were selected as winners. The startups were supported in the form of cash prizes, six-month-long expert mentoring towards grooming their ideas into market-ready products, rigorous capacity building training, exposure to investor pool and the opportunity to raise funds.
Growth journey and future roadmap
So far, AIC ISB has supported 58 startups, partnered with 20+ corporations, onboarded 100+ mentors and generated employment for 350+ individuals.
Several startups have gone on to achieve big like InVOID getting selected for Y Combinator Winter batch 2021, BioPrime partnering with a leading corporate to co-create an agri input product, Qzense Labs raising Rs 4.5 crore and Satyukt Analytics raising Rs 3.7 crore in the seed round. Other startups like Cora Health and MobiGarage have also raised undisclosed amounts.
Going forward, several programs are in the pipeline like Pre-incubation Program for ideation stage and pre-MVP stage startups, and Agri and Food Tech Acceleration Program for growth-stage agriculture startups. AIC ISB also plans to launch a Corporate Co-creation Program where it will jointly work with leading corporates towards creating co-innovation opportunities between corporates and the startups, and the Global Market Access Program to support Indian startups to launch in global markets and international startups to explore the Indian market.