Assam aims to become a hub for startups and entrepreneurs

Finally, the startup ecosystem in India seems to be moving beyond the top metro cities. As Assam gears up to host its first Global Investors Summit in Guwahati between February 3-4, 2018, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today met potential investors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders in Bengaluru to pitch for the advantages of doing business in Assam.

The Startup Observer, India’s first news and insights portal that aims to connect the nascent entrepreneurship ecosystem of North East India to the more mature and evolved ecosystem of mainland India, attended the event to share the highlights with our readers.

Besides traditional sectors like agriculture, power, food, tourism, river transport, etc., the government of Assam is putting special thrust on the IT-BPO sector and startups which has so far been largely untapped in the region.

As far as IT-BPO is concerned, the government envisions to establish IT parks in Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Silchar with an objective to have a conducive environment to set up IT companies. IT aims to set up BPOs both in urban and rural areas to create a platform to train and employ youth, ensuring development of the economy and at the same time, offering public services.

With reference to startups, the government has launched the Assam Startup Policy 2017 which aims to facilitate the growth of 1,000 new startups over the next 5 years and attract funding opportunities of $250 million. It aims to create 1 lakh job opportunities in the next 5 years. It will open a dedicated portal for startups and create a My Assam Startup Id (MASI) through which startups can utilise the state-wide infrastructure and avail the fiscal benefits.

“Entrepreneurship is given a big boost in the state. New policies for supporting young entrepreneurs have been put in place. Skill development institutes and incubation centres for aspiring entrepreneurs in partnership with foreign nations are being set up,” Sonowal said.

The government is facilitating FUNDING through:

  • Assam Angel Network (AAN) – The state govt will encourage high net-worth individuals (HNIs), industrialists, successful entrepreneurs, university alumni and highly experienced business executives and professionals (residing in Assam and outside of Assam) to create an Assam Angel Network to help with early stage funding needs of startups in Assam.
  • Sarothi “Start-up Fund” Scheme – The scheme will provide financial assistance in the form of a loan up to Rs. 10 Lac with Interest subsidy @ 5% p.a to beneficiaries through Assam Gramin Vikash Bank (AGVB) across Assam. Later more banks will be brought under this scheme to increase its accessibility.
  • Assam Biotechnology Venture Capital Fund- The state government proposes to create and augment an “Assam Biotechnology Venture Capital Fund” with an initial corpus of Rs. 100 crores to support entrepreneurs and innovators in the Biotechnology industry.
  • Innovation Fund – The state government will establish Innovation Fund to foster research in ICT and Electronics in the institutions of higher learning in the state.

The government will also set up a STARTUP COUNCIL wherein:

  • A Startup Council chaired by Secretary (Industries & Commerce) shall be set up at the state level to monitor disbursal of fiscal incentives proposed in the policy.
  • The Startup Council will be responsible for the overall working of the policy
  • The members of the Startup Council will be hired and shall be representatives from the startup ecosystem.
  • Specific Performance Indicators (SPIs) shall be defined for monitoring the policy objectives. An online system to track the progress on policy objectives in real time will be built, ensuring transparency and accountability in the process of target monitoring and reporting.
  • The Startup Council shall periodically review the implementation process and report the progress to State Level Committee on a periodic basis.
  • The Startup Council shall also revisit the policy document from time to time to review and suggest recommendations to the State Level Implementation Committee to realign it as per the changing needs of the Startup business community.

In the last one year, Assam has already received investments worth $1 billion and generated employment to over 40,000 people, Ravi Capoor, Additional Chief Secretary, government of Assam said as part of his presentation in the Advantage Assam roadshow in Bengaluru. The government has already held roadshows in the US, UK, Canada, Cambodia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Raos, Vietnam, Malaysia and others. In India, they held shows in Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and New Delhi.