You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”
― Ray Bradbury
It is indeed a great way to live, when your ideas propel you out of bed in the morning, when the creator and innovator in you drive you to think out of the box, when you are not convinced about been-around-a-long-time theories, when you are not afraid to take calculated risks, when you push yourself to scale your own mountains, when your ideas benefit others. The decision to become an entrepreneur is a courageous step in making ideas come to life.
To promote the spirit of entrepreneurship among students of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and to help them in the process of ideation, innovation, incubation, and independence, an event was organised on 25 June 2022. It was called ‘Entrepreneurship Day’ and was part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering (ECE). The event was arranged in association with AI & Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK), Entrepreneurship & Innovation at IISc (EntIISc), and Society for Innovation & Development (SID) at IISc.
Eminent experts — Dr Aloknath De (Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Samsung R&D Institute India), Prof. B. Gurumoorthy (Chief Executive, SID), Dr Vinay Kumar Chauhan (Chief Executive Officer of PathShodh Healthcare Pvt. Ltd), Mr Hemant Sharma (Program Director – Advanced Air Mobility, ARTPARK), Mr Naganand Doraswamy (Managing Partner and Founder of Ideaspring Capital), Mr Neeraj Tyagi (Chief Executive Officer of We Founders Circle), and Prof. Dipanjan Gope (Associate Professor in the ECE department; Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Simyog Technology Pvt. Ltd) – highlighted the highs and lows on the entrepreneurship journey.
The two keynote talks by Gurumoorthy and Aloknath De covered ‘Entrepreneurship and Incubation Opportunities at SID’ and ‘Idea Worthiness for Patent-filing’, respectively.
“We do believe IISc is the best place to incubate companies that are based on science and technology”, said Gurumoorthy. Strand Life Sciences and Simputer were the first two companies to have been officially incubated at IISc. Today, there are around 65 companies, covering a wide spectrum from water to mobility to artificial intelligence-based software. “Our start-ups have raised over Rs 120 crores since 2015”, said Gurumoorthy.
SID plans to scale up to an iHUB with ~140,000 sq. ft. of new space by January/February 2023; the target is 30 co-innovation labs, 30 start-ups, 25 SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), and 25 EIRs (entrepreneurs in residence).
Gurumoorthy mentioned that they would like students to finish their academic programme before embarking on the entrepreneurship venture; at least one of the founders is expected to put in 100 percent effort. For persons who are not yet ready to embark upon a venture but would like to validate their start-up ideas, the EIR programme is suitable.
If you are an IISc student and have an idea that you would like to take forward, please contact email@example.com. You can also seek support from senior advisors at the Centre for Product Design & Manufacturing (CPDM) at IISc, ARTPARK, and the MSME Centre of Excellence.
Is your idea patent-worthy? The pre-requisites for patentability—novelty, utility, non-obviousness, and statutory subject matter—were explained by Aloknath De.
A patent is a legal document for protecting an invention and is valid for twenty years. Patents are assets in the intellectual property of organisations and businesses. However, if your patent is successful but stresses people out (as they usually have a set way of doing things), there is no point! In India, a patent is usually granted in three to four years. Aloknath De explained the process of getting a patent and preparing a disclosure of invention (DoI) document.
How do you come up with an idea? Aloknath De advised students to think of a problem, and then come up with a solution for that. For example, how do you resolve connectivity issues? How do you identify the best shot for your Instagram DP? How do you create ideas in known concepts? Aloknath De suggested a study of existing literature. “Where does the world stand today? Can I take it from there and build on it?” For instance, can there be inventions for face recognition in mobile phones? What happens when you wear face masks? Can you get word predictions when you write with a stylus instead of typing? Can you gesture at a television to increase/decrease volume or to change channels?
(From left to right): Dr Aloknath De, Prof. B. Gurumoorthy, Dr Vinay Kumar Chauhan, Mr Hemant Sharma, Mr Naganand Doraswamy, Mr Neeraj Tyagi, and Prof. Dipanjan Gope.
The panel discussion that followed explored the possibility of creating an entrepreneurial culture in IISc. The panellists also described their journeys as entrepreneurs and investors, and shared their experiences.
In IISc, academics is dominant. Only a few people may like to productise their research. Once some success stories of entrepreneurship start coming out of IISc, others may be inspired, said Naganand.
IISc is strong on the research side. What about the business side of a venture? Neeraj said that a fund of ten crore rupees can be generated within a month if we invite investors to campus. But is IISc ready? Dipanjan said that the IISc system has considerably improved from what it was in 2011; however, the responsibility is on the student entrepreneur.
Students can either spend 4–7 years of their M.Tech. and Ph.D. doing only academics, or parallelly volunteer themselves as interns and gain experience in looking at the same problem in multiple ways. They could use this time to build a robust mindset to withstand the big jitters that may arise on their entrepreneurship journeys. They need to be ready for failure. “Not everything goes well. This fuzziness, this greyness is okay”, said Aloknath De.
Naganand indicated that “start-ups are really, really hard. You are responsible for everything.” However, he reassured students that they should do start-ups at some point in their lives, provided they had the risk-taking capability. “It is a fulfilling journey”, he said.
The average enterprise start-up age for a person is 35 years. Dipanjan indicated that the period between 20 to 30 years can be considered as a golden period where there are not many responsibilities on the family front, and there may not be too many buckets in which energy needs to be invested in.
About the core-team composition, the experts stressed that it has to be balanced such that the skill set of each team member complements that of the others. A multi-founder (2–3 members) team is preferred. They need to able to work well with each other and also criticise each other.
Deep-tech product-based companies are different from service-based companies. It is difficult to get deep-tech funding in India. What will be your first product? What are the timelines? You may have a good product, but how will you sell the product? Are you aware of your market reach? From where will the initial capital come? These were some questions posed to the students to set them thinking.
The panel discussion was followed by student presentations of their pitches to the expert jury. These were the shortlisted pitches of the Ideathon pitching competition, that had been opened to all IISc students.
Ankan Biswas and R. Krishnakumaran (Ph.D. students in the Centre for Neuroscience) described vigElens (a solution to improve driver safety) while Srinivas Boda (B.Sc. (Research) student in Earth & Environmental Science) showcased INV PAY (a novel credit card mechanism). Rajesh Yadav (Ph.D. student in the Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering) and Mansi Sharma (Ph.D. student in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology) had designed DiagnAll (a smart phone-based diagnostic device) while Shudha (a wash station) had been conceptualised by Vyom Sharma, Abhinaya Kennedy Christobel, Mayank Agrawal, and Haroon Ottamalika Iqbal (M.Des. students in CPDM). A bike servicing platform (BIKx) was created by Raviraj Bhadange (M. Des. student in CPDM).
Subsequently, these Ideathon contestants had one-to-one discussions with the jury members at the Start-up clinic, where they could seek expert guidance. The prizes for the winners will be distributed during the upcoming SPCOM 2022.
In concluding the event, Prof. K. J. Vinoy (Chair of the ECE department) expressed his wish that there would be more such events and interactions in the future.