Startups Are Not Exclusive to Urbanites. Here's Why
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As we read this, technology is enabling someone, in Manipur, Andaman, Leh or Chattisgarh, do business, sell products, find customer or sign partnership. To call Start-ups an exclusive urbanite affair will therefore be a misnomer.
Report by the Smart City Council says 18 cities, which were hitherto not in the map, have bagged hefty foreign investments and emerged as popular business destinations. Remarkably, 10 states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, account for more than 75% of India’s aggregate GDP, and Tier II cities such as Surat, Jaipur, Indore and Patna clock economic growth rates of more than 40%.
Nitin Sharma, Founder of RentRoomi, an online marketplace, based in Sawai Madhopur (Rajasthan) to find out roommates and look for amenities provided in the room, has a feisty feeling about the future of start-ups from small towns.
“As long as you are able to communicate effectively and gain the necessary feedback from your customers, the location doesn’t matter. If you are addressing a problem and the customers are finding relief and value from your service then you have covered the most important issue for a start-up. When you think of it, most tech businesses serve customers from all major cities and they definitely don't see many customers face to face,” he shared.
What Hinders Startup Growth in Mega Cities
Small is historically known to have its beauty and poets and writers have panned panegyrics in its praise. Now what are the beauties that small towns hold forth? There are many if you see. High taxes and strict regulations in mega metros, traditionally associated with start-ups, often hinder growth. In fact, today businesses often tend to perform well in small towns, with their availability of resources, budget-friendly office space, easier networking and accessible market.
Emergence of technology has ended mundane physical or geographical constraints. Communication through different channels has made it cheap and easy to stay in constant touch with people, clients and business corporate, whether they lived round the corner or on the other side of the globe. Companies could communicate with customers and employees no matter where they were. And like-minded individuals or business owners, prospective clients, vendors and resources, who share a common interest, can get together online from all round the world.
“Finding information relevant to a particular place, or the location associated with a specific piece of information, was not always easy. This has caused a surge of innovation, as new technologies have been developed to link everything in the real world—stitching together the supposedly separate virtual and physical worlds,” emphasized Sharma.
Market in Tier-II, Tier-III Cities
Riddhinil Roy, Founder of NE8x in Guwahati (Assam) shared a similar enthusiasm. NE8x is the Northeast’s first start-up accelerator. “Small towns and Tier II, Tier III cities are where the market is headed,” he asserted in a voice that spoke of the confident in his conviction.
Roy is also convinced that start-up trend has always been there in the Northeast. “It’s just that the terminologies as in entrepreneur, investor, seed capital etc. are terms that we now can fairly associate and understand with. The biggest advantage in our region is the regional diversity the food items, rich fabrics and elements of culture that is even exported. Although affected by militancy, and poor infrastructure, Northeast India has emerged as a growing startup hub over the period of last two-three years and state governments are waking up to this reality as well,” he added.
“State governments of Manipur, Sikkim have announced their separate start-up scheme, which is a big boon for the regional entrepreneurs here as the schemes will extend support from the state government and from Ministry for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), which have already identified and invested in more than 60 start-ups this year,” informed Roy who has been part of start-up policy draft for the government of Assam, under Invest-India.
West Bengal's Story
Somewhere in a non-descript village in Birbhum district of West Bengal, Tajkira, weaves dream, in what is traditionally called Kantha, a traditional embroidery which is unique to the region. Poverty and social marginalisation had crippled Tajkira’s life when she decided to start anew through what we now call a startup. Lexicons may change, but reality remains. Tajkira Collections is a sparky proof of this.
“I started small as there was no money to invest. With time and guidance from some NGOs I took baby steps to sustain and grow my business in Kantha embroidery. Over the years I have successfully grown into a full-fleged enterprise and my products are now exported to Europe, China and Middle East,” she enthused.
More power to you!