How can Incubators, Accelerators and Co-working Spaces in India Help Innovation?
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Currently in India and around the world with numerous government programmes related to start-ups, a number of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces are popping up everywhere.
It is good to explore each of these and their roles in the start-up activities. Each has its own benefits and disadvantages. Given the severe challenges of cost, availability of personal and weak delivery system — the rise of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces in India can play a role in helping innovative projects bring products to the masses at a reasonable cost. These innovations will also create business and impact the employment generated by these start-ups. All three can play different roles. Let us look at each of their roles.
These are generally publicly funded and housed in colleges and research centres. Here technology development can happen as these facilities have some equipment that can be used by start-ups to build their products. The start-ups would get expert advice and assistance from faculty and staff. Primarily incubators are cost centres and are required to create the eco-system.
Many of the start-ups fail here as these are generally early-stage and require lots of time, resources and effort. Many start here as they feel the hype makes the start-ups successful, however to make a start-up work the start-up needs to be passionate, dedicated, patience and skilful. Most start-ups lack the first three more than the fourth attribute and hence give up before they get results. Therefore, we cannot account these as failures as it more the start-ups have not given their best and are half-hearted in this exciting but tough journey.
Accelerators are usually managed by organizations, which are looking for good technology to be applied to their existing products and customer line. They are crucial because they would give a start-up a channel for distribution and manufacturing as these companies already have successfully entered markets earlier and would have a good market reach to support the new technology. Unlike incubation these are usually profit centres with more mature and dedicated start-ups who tend to be generally successful.
Co-working spaces have easy access in most cities and are affordable so start-ups which are technology light like application, business models and systems can surface in these places. Most of these places have a reasonable amount of networking events with minimal support and can help start-ups get going. These are run generally as an infrastructure facility and hence many are sort of profitable as they charge a rental. Here they are a rapid change of the start-ups as many drop out or move on to incubators, accelerators or their own place.
Challenges Facing all Three
Many of these centres are manged by personnel with minimal experience in start-ups, often people who are not sure with what they want to do or people who are interested in start-ups. The latter is not too bad as they are there to explore if the start-up world is something they are suitable for. The former generally hang around till they find out what they want or find a better opportunity. However, this is slowly changing and people with experience in start-ups are starting to join these centres to share their experience.
Such centres tend to produce better start-ups as these people can share and the results are better. Most of these centres tend to be in tier one cities and bigger Universities and colleges and hence the tier two and three and the smaller Universities and colleges tend to miss out. With the government programs there are changes as the government is providing funding to these centres and have pop up all over the places.
The drawback here is that the focus is diluted and many of these are not producing any output and the funding given tends to not make any impact. Some may say this is the way to create an eco-system in these places, it worth noting besides the major cities like Bangalore, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai the start-up activities lack in many other cities. Even these major cities are struggling to produce good start-ups therefore it would be much better to select these cities and focus on providing resources till they are in a par with other parts of the world like USA, Europe, Israel and Singapore.
It is also important not to misguide the young people that start-up isthe only way forward and it is easy to be successful. The success rate of start-ups is extremely low it is probably about 5 to 10 % success. However, saying this working with or starting a start-up teaches skills which are not easily acquired in larger organizations. These include areas of new technology, product development, team management, fund management, challenges, multiple job functions and excitement.
Start-ups tend to have different needs as there go along possibly a route might be starting at a co-working space as it is low-cost and commitment till they are clear with what they are going to do and then move on to an incubator where they can acquire the services they require and then once they get some attraction then moving on to an accelerator would be a good way of planning a start-ups progress. Once they have out grown an accelerator, they might move back into a co-working space to keep costs lower, but they can focus on the start-up while the co-working space takes care of all other activities like facilities, network etc before moving on to their own and larger premises.
It is important to say that all three-play different but major and important roles in creating a start-up ecosystem in India.