Even till a few years back, start-ups were not something one associated with Kolkata. The ones which came up were few and far between – two prominent ones being the data visualisation company, FusionCharts and the digital design services firm, Indus Net Technologies.
However, the bug has bitten, and things have started to look up. Young entrepreneurs, many of them with tech backgrounds, are coming up with innovative ideas. Many of these gung-ho youngsters have either given up cushy jobs or have refused big-pay jobs in favour of giving life to their ideas. These stories of emerging entrepreneurship are, in turn, attracting funding from top investors, both from India and abroad.
A lot on incubation centres have also come up at some of the top institutes in the eastern region to provide an adequate environment for the start-ups to grow and become self-sufficient – in terms of providing ideas, helping with the finances and many other aspects.
Indian Angel Network
Delhi-based Indian Angel Network (IAN), India’s first network of angel investors, and which is also the largest network of angel investors in the world, would soon invest in two Kolkata-based start-ups – one in the field of online healthcare and the other, in food. IAN has already invested Rs 10 crore in Wow! Momo, Kolkata’s extremely popular momo chain, which has outlets in six cities, including Delhi and Bangalore, and which has plans to set up many more in the coming months.
The two-year old Calcutta Angels Network is also optimistic about the growth of start-ups in Kolkata. It has funded eight start-ups from the city till date, involving an investment of Rs 3.5 crore.
Padmaja Ruparel, president of IAN (franchiseindia.com)
NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups programme
The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has also plunged in a big way into incubating start-ups in India. It has a project called 10,000 Startups programme under which, with support from partners Google, Microsoft, Intel, Verisign, and Kotak Bank, it incubates, funds and supports start-ups in India. The aim is to set up 10,000 IT start-ups in the country by 2023.
For this purpose, it has set up spaces called Startup Warehouse, which it calls warehouses, in different cities. The warehouses offer space and other infrastructure to budding entrepreneurs at a nominal cost. The one in Kolkata was founded this year. It is located at Salt Lake.
Start-ups are charged a subsidised rent of Rs 2,500 for each seat, which also comes with a start-up kit comprising value-added services and credits worth $25,000 (nearly Rs 16 lakh) from the partners.
NASSCOM’s first warehouse was set up in Bengaluru in 2013.
IIM-C Innovation Park
The flurry of interest among youngsters to ditch cushy jobs and set up innovative start-ups based in Kolkata has also convinced one of the world’s premier management schools, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta to set up a start-up incubation centre. It is called IIM-C Innovation Park, and became operational last January.
The centre is a not-for-profit organisation that helps to promote entrepreneurship and innovation through its incubator. It currently hosts seven start-ups.
IIM-C Innovation Park hosted a ‘StartUp Weekend’ last July (iimcip.org)
IIT Kharagpur Entrepreneurship Cell
Many of the start-up founders have engineering backgrounds, and some of the brightest to set up shop in Kolkata have been from IIT Kharagpur. In an effort to nurture this trend among its students, IIT Kharagpur has an Entrepreneurship Cell. It provides seed money to those with ideas and also helps to incubate these businesses. According to Partha Pratim Chakraborty, director of IIT Kharagpur, it is important to churn out enterprising students who can provide employment instead of looking to become employees themselves. At the moment, IIT Kharagpur’s Entrepreneurship Cell is incubating 100 start-ups.
Members of IIT Kharagpur Entrepreneurship Cell (vyapaari.in)
Amity Innovation Incubator
Amity Innovation Incubator is a pioneering concept in the context of Indian universities. Supported by the Ministry of Science & Technology, Amity Innovation Incubator has, in a very short span of time, earned for itself an enviable position in terms of being the incubator of some of the best start-up ideas in India. As such, it has been recognised on platforms like The Power of Ideas, Tata NEN and NASSCOM Innovation Awards, to name a few. The Kolkata centre of Amity Innovation Incubator was formed to support entrepreneurship at grassroots levels by assisting start-ups and SMEs, and for assisting in venture capital funding.
Ekta Incubation Centre
The Ekta Incubation Centre is supported by the University of Technology, West Bengal. About 104 schools of management and technology are affiliated to this university. The incubation centre is located at Knowledge Park in Salt Lake, and is spread over more than 6,000 sq ft of built-up area. The focus of the incubator is in the areas of biotech, bioinformatics, exploitive microbiology, agritech and information technology. It offers opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs by providing amenities, preparing business plans, procuring finance and helping them with all that is required to build start-ups, until they can mobilise their own resources.
Ekta Incubation Centre (wbut.ac.in)
Here are some of the upcoming tech-based start-ups from Kolkata, including some of the best ones being incubated at Startup Warehouse:
Eazy Coach: It is considered one of the brightest ideas, with high business potential, at 10,000 Startups. Eazy Coach facilitates students aiming to study in USA with the writing of applications to various colleges, mentoring for specific exams in universities like Harvard, Stanford and Colombia, and arranging for finance for the courses. The entire process is done online. It was founded by 23-year-old law student from NUJS, Kolkata, Om Agarwal.
Wow! Momo: Sagar Daryani and Binod Homagai started Wow! Momo with the idea of turning momos into a diversified product category. The two college buddies had pooled in Rs 30,000 seven years ago to set up their first shop. They now have 52 outlets in six cities. Wow! Momo’s extreme popularity has enabled the company to raise Rs 10 crore funding from IAN, with which it plans to expand to many more outlets all over the country in the next two years.
The innovative momo chain has secured a funding of Rs 10 crore (knowstartup.com)
Changer Mints: It is the only entity among the eight NASSCOM-incubated start-ups to raise Rs 1 crore, from the Andhra Pradesh-based private investor Gagan Reddy in May. Changer Mints aims to solve a perennial problem in India: that of small change for paying shopkeepers. The Mahesh Bhupathi Pardhasarthy and Sudhanshu Pawar-founded start-up has a near field communication (NFC)-based product to instantly transfer small change. One needs to pick up a ‘changer card’ from retailer stores or authorised dealers; then scratch it to reveal a PIN number, call Changer Mints at its toll-free number, enter the PIN, and stick the NFC tag to the back of the phone – the small change is in the phone always. It is currently operating in Kolkata. Bangalore and New Delhi are on the cards.
iZofy: An occult start-up, iZofy.com has created a lot of buzz lately. It was founded by Rohit K Singhania. iZofy.com has brought occult science practitioners across all categories – astrologers, numerologists, palmists, psychics, tarot card readers and healers – under one roof and created a virtual platform for them. The company has secured a seed funding of $5,00,000 from Prime Capital Markets, and Singhania is planning to raise $15 lakh from investors across the world.
TaxMantra: Founded by Alok Patnia, TaxMantra works with start-ups and SMBs (small and medium businesses) to provide legal and tax-related services. The company operates with the aim of making all tax-related activities paperless and therefore, painless. The company has helped with more than 5000 business registrations and has helped to manage 8000-plus businesses.
Astrik: It has devised a web-based wristband that measures and analyses vital health signs, syncs with the Cloud, and relays information to doctors and hospitals. It was founded by Anurag Prajapat.
Mihup’s Nectar: Mihup’s Nectar is a personal mobile assistant (PMA) that provides users desired information on demand and finds the best options from the web, with curated recommendations based on reviews, ratings, users’ social interests and affordability. It is an SMS-based web search engine for context-independent information retrieval. With a simple query, the PMA can give you advice on food, errands, travel, etc. The application has been hosted at a third party platform and already has more than 5 million user-hits. Its monthly user growth is around 15%. It was founded by Sandipan Mandal, Tamal Sen, Tapan Barman and Biplab Chakrabarty.
SIBIA Analytics: Founded by Angshuman Bhattacharya, SIBIA Analytics is a cloud-hosted predictive analytics solutions start-up. He had quit his job at a data and analytics solution centre in the US. It offers real-time intelligence through deep predictive modelling and provides decision-enabling tools to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) over the cloud. Its core competency is in algorithms and modelling; however, it wraps it up with enabling technologies like big data, cloud computing, etc. It works mainly with retail and consumer brands.
BuyHatke: Online price comparison engine BuyHatke was started by Gaurav Dahake, Prashant Singh and Srikanth Sethumadhavan when they were final year students at IIT Kharagpur, to counter the problem of finding the best price for any product sold online. Importantly, the company has raised $10 lakh in seed funding from investors Kris Gopalkrishnan and Japanese e-commerce investment company, Beenos.
MindHour: An edutech company started by two couples, Sumit Marda and Somya Agarwal, and Varun Choudhary and Swati Maheshwari, MindHour is gamifying the learning experience for students of Classes VI to X. It is a curriculum-based Adaptive Learning Programme, designed to ensure a child’s complete preparation in maths and science. The company is bootstrapped. It managed to get 10,000 registered users within its first six months.
iKure: Healthcare startup iKure Techsoft builds technology which can be used to provide affordable healthcare services to the rural masses. Led by Sujay Santra, iKure has developed an in-house software that enables treatment of patients in remote settings, where access to hospitals and clinics is limited.
Surgerica: Founded by Amit Bhagat, Surgerica aims to bring transparency to healthcare in India. Users can browse the website of Surgerica to look for the best doctors and hospitals. The company has raised $2,00,000 in funding.
Outbox: Outbox was started by young, first-time entrepreneurs – college buddies Sukriti Agarwal and Kaushal Modi. It offers a hassle-free experience of delivery of gifts, cakes and flowers in Kolkata. Powered by a call centre, the company has had a good start and has shown the potential to take on various routes for scaling up and getting the hyperlocal wave going in the city.
Fashionove: Founded by Sharad Kumar and Tanushree Khandelwal, Fashionove is a location-based, hyperlocal fashion search and review portal, connecting shoppers with local, independent fashion stores and boutiques. The company has launched in beta with 800 boutiques and has raised an angel round from international cricketer Umesh Yadav.
Team Fashionove (yourstory.com)
Restori: Restori is an app that predicts people’s tastes and recommends restaurants, hotels and places to travel to accordingly. One can search by name, city, locality, dish, cuisine, keywords (e.g., mountain view, happy hours), cost, budget type, star status, etc. from a list of 1 lakh hotels and over 25,000 hotels in more than 1,000 cities and towns. The app is a product of Analytics Wise Technology Solutions (shortened as Analyse Tech), founded by Saptarishi Basu and Jaydeep Bhattacharya.
Justshop24: Healthy competition in e-commerce is surely a sign of a budding tech ecosystem. JustShop24 is an e-commerce portal which provides doorstep delivery of groceries in Kolkata and Howrah. Bootrapped by Utkarsh Lohia, Chetan Sethi and Porav Jain, the company is making more than 30 deliveries a day.
Packr and Paaltao: Both these companies have been founded by Arpan Das. Packr is an on-demand logistics company that helps customers deliver anything legal, anywhere in India. Paaltao is a marketplace for natural, hand-made and vintage products, providing features to simplify the process of buying and selling.
iManageMyHotel: It is a cloud-based hotel management software for hoteliers. IManageMyHotel is a multiple-property management software (that is, meant mainly for hotel chains) which can be accessed from any device. Besides enabling a centralised reservation system (CRS), it also helps in accounting and channel management. It was founded by Sourav Goswami and Abhijit Sanyal.
Tickto: The start-up has been founded by Sudip Roy. The app is targeted at enhancing and personalising in-store shopping experience of consumers. It enables retailers to place real-time product promotion directly on in-store shoppers' smartphones, on a location-aware, context-aware fashion, for increasing sales.
Pixo: Pixo, founded by Debjit Kar and Hari Balasubramanian, has developed a photo and video storage app with features such as face detection. It is a cloud-based platform.
Pixo co-founder Debjit Kar (f6s.com)
Electrosoft Consultants: Shamit Patra decided to tread a path that few have before. His Electrosoft Consultants collaborates with institutes that deal with cerebral palsy patients, with devices like special access switches and a portable computerised device that converts speech to image. His long-held dream of empowering the physically challenged has come true at last. There is much tech-based clinical intervention abroad for cerebral palsy patients. However, almost none exists here, and hence, he has become the harbinger of hope for many.
Aptsource Software: It was started by electronics engineer, Manisha Chowdhury. The firm helps hospitals go paperless with its clinical information system software. The venture already manages 15 sanatoria in the UK and as many in Africa. In Kolkata, it is managing the system of Wood lands Hospital. With a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore, the company is now tying up with nursing homes and clinics.
Delta Electrical Industries: When South Point alumnus and IT engineer Biswarup Chakraborty started this venture to manufacture LED lights seven years ago, he gave up some extremely enviable offers. He has taken out patents for his products that promise uniform lighting and also save a whopping 50,000 burning hours. Delta has been able to achieve a turnover of Rs 2 crore.
Manisha Chowdhury of Aptsource; Delta’s LED solar lamps and rechargeable lantern (ehealth.eletsonline.com; delindia.fm.alibaba.com)
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Lead image: iamwire.com