In 2014, a serial entrepreneur with 20 years of industry experience, Manipal Dhariwal noticed a glaring problem. The growth of startups was slowly gaining momentum in India, but, this was somehow restricted only in the metros. He believed that there was a need for an inclusive movement across rural India and even women entrepreneurs.
Setting up a business from scratch was not new for Manipal, so he decided to launch Startup Accelerator Chamber of Commerce (SACC).
Despite having business footprints in over four continents, and being a true Punjabi at heart, he moved back to his roots with an intent to see his home region grow to its maximum potential.
In addition to founding award winning IT companies like Netsmartz, Sebiz InfoTech, and APPWorx, he supports the portfolio of more than 10 startups from the region. Besides contributing to business investments worth over 100 crores in the region, he has successfully created over 600 direct jobs and around 2000 indirect jobs in India, especially in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi NCR regions.
SACC counts Vineet Khurana, Tanushree Chandra, Shilpa Saluja, Smriti Sharma, Avnish Sharma, Dharamveer Singh and Sunant Grover as its core team members. The core team is razor focused on strengthening and nurturing the existing portfolio of startups, as well as identifying new founders for building a more inclusive startup ecosystem for rural and women entrepreneurs.
In a conversation with YS, Manipal Dhariwal talks about how he aims to create a powerful and inclusive startup ecosystem.
Edited excerpts from the interaction
YS: Tell us about the SACC? And why was it established?
Manipal Dhariwal (MD): Startup Accelerator Chamber of Commerce (SACC), as a not for profit social organisation, has played a pivotal role in encouraging and empowering young entrepreneurs through its various initiatives.
Started in 2014, SACC today accelerates more than 100 startups founded by a diverse set of first-generation entrepreneurs across northern India.
Most of these entrepreneurs come from economically weaker sections, and are deprived of the benefits which others might have access to. Despite this disadvantage, over 60 percent of our accelerated startups are generating revenues and getting the required guidance for scaling up their effort.
We believe that there are some amazing ideas shaping up. Hence, we look forward to partnering with like-minded organisations to support them with the intent of encouraging more young people to start their own ventures.
YS: What are the core focus areas of the SACC, and how do you aim to help startups?
MD: Our core focus is creating mass mobilisation of entrepreneurship, where there are no geographical boundaries or gender bias. We are putting in great efforts for creating a conducive startup ecosystem in Tier II and Tier III towns of India, and wish to see millions of local jobs created by thousands of such local founders who we accelerate through our consistent efforts.
Our efforts start from identification of an individual’s natural skill/talent, and shaping their minds to adopt entrepreneurship as a career. We help them find the right co-founding team, provide free of cost incubation space, and also handhold and mentor them at every stage. We offer all the vital help a startup founder needs at the seed stage.
YS: What kind of startups are you looking at, in what sectors, and why?
MD: We are sector agnostic, and currently accelerating more than 100 startups through five startup incubators in Panchkula, Karnal, Hisar, Faridabad and Gurugram, that we operate in partnership with the Department of Higher Education (DOHE), Haryana.
The founders of these startups belong to rural parts of India, and come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Our startups represent sectors like art and craft, FMCG, marketplaces, agriculture, technology and many more.
What we look for in a startup is differentiation in an already crowded market, and the founders’ ‘fire in the belly’. As long as the founders are forward looking, everything else can be taught to them.
YS: Please give us some examples of startups from SACC, and what they do?
MD: On one side of the spectrum, there is a technology startup called ‘Mechanic Guru’, which acts as a car service aggregator in the Delhi NCR region. On the other side, there is a daily wage worker’s son, who has created a solid-state lighting manufacturing business, Bharat Light, in Panchkula, that produces 5000 bulbs monthly across 26 categories.
On yet another side is a young college graduate from Hisar who manufactures and sells sustainable cutlery across Haryana. There are many such founders having very humble beginnings but an untiring zeal to excel.
YS: What are the challenges SACC faces and how did it overcome them?
MD: A major challenge was finding focused founders who, despite their socioeconomic backgrounds and family pressures, would still be inspired to continue on their respective entrepreneurial journeys. We were very clear that we would do everything under the sun to identify such founders, and luck favoured us.
We also initially struggled with creating market linkages and finding the right mentors, but as we proceeded in our mission, everything fell in place. From arranging the support of the Higher Education Department in Haryana to creating a massive pool of more than 100 mentors, we have tried to bring out very good resources at the disposal of our founders.
YS: Do you have equity sharing? And what are the benefits startups get?
MD: We provide zero fee, zero equity acceleration to startups. We have been, and will continue to be a not-for-profit entity to ensure that no selfish means are involved in running SACC as the enabler of the startup ecosystem.
Startups selected and incubated by us get – free space to work, support for rapid prototyping, access to a large pool of mentors and angel investors, exposure at various national and international events and market linkages for commercialising their businesses.
YS: What are the future plans?
MD: We would like to open one startup incubator in every district of Haryana and Punjab whilst doing strategic partnership with key institutions and expanding the mentor pool across India. We also aim to create the largest software as a service technology incubator in the north of India.