Chandigarh's Transition from the City of Bureaucrats to North India's Corporate Capital

From the city of bureaucrats, civil servants and lawyers, Chandigarh is transitioning to an ideal breeding ground for start-ups

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Not too long ago, Indians were categorized as safe players who’d rather park their money in banks than taking the risk of making uncertain investments in business ventures with possibly a massive potential. Then came the investing wave of 2011-14, when n number of angel investors came forward to test the waters and putting their money into the budding start-ups.

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That marked the inception of multiple success stories. Be it Flipkart, Ola or Zomato, almost all the start-ups with over $1 billion valuations started their journey around the same time. Among the mentioned, one name that created havoc in India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem would, without a doubt, be Flipkart. While the start-up’s acquisition by Walmart became the talk of the town, its co-founders’ journey intrigued business aspirants the most.

Unbeknownst to many, both Sachin and Binny Bansal were born in Chandigarh, a city which lacked a proper corporate culture until a few years ago. Known for being an attractive destination for bureaucrats, civil servants and lawyers, the region had lost various talented minds to cities with better entrepreneurial ecosystem in the past, including the Flipkart breeders.

However, the growing opportunities in technology, digitization of education and availability of affordable office spaces have had a positive impact on the city. The penetration of the internet has played an irrevocable role in providing transparency to government schemes and other opportunities that are relevant for entrepreneurs to start their business.

Privileged Position

Being the centre point of Haryana and Punjab, Chandigarh enjoys a certain advantage over the cities in the proximity. Due to its prime location, the region is a focal point of over 5 neighbouring states along with being a union territory. “Over the last decade or so, some of the topmost brands in the world are opening up shop in Chandigarh, which has led to an increase in the quality of life and aspirations of the youth here,” stated Radhika Panickar Serai, CEO & Founder at Rumour Books India.

“Chandigarh has become the hub of entrepreneurship in North India due to its HNI population and risk appetite,” she further added. Tricity houses many high-income group individuals who are ready to take calculated risks by investing in potential businesses. The influx of funds has pushed the VC industry to mature and actively participate in the growth of the company to influence the outcome of their investment instead of just being a sleeping investor.

In any investment, the factor of risk is omnipresent. Only a potent involvement can dim its certainty. “Risk-taking has become an integral part for any business to grow. No risk - no profit. The formula has become synonymous with many new investors willing to be part of the new entrepreneurial ecosystem built across the nation,” stated Anubhav Sawhney, Executive Pastry Chef & Co-Founder, AJ Foods.

Shift in Interest

Earlier in the days, Chandigarh millennials were attracted towards the service sector, always looking for opportunities to land a stable job in either IT, agriculture or finance sectors. The sudden boom of technology has added a new perspective to people’s life by invoking their hidden entrepreneurial aspirations. With the surge of new skills, more and more people willing to become entrepreneurs.

“This combination (of technology & skill) has given opportunities to investors for wealth creation. Market winning innovative companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Paytm have proved that startups with disruptive innovations come with lucrative results, have greater chances of securing investment in a long term,” expressed Sidharth S Oberoi, Founder & CEO, LetsShave.

From being solely focused on agriculture and sports, tricity has witnessed youngsters shifting focus to technology and other spaces. However, the food industry has also gone through a rapid change in the city. “With the city opening up to new cuisines and more people travelling, there is a surge of new entrepreneurs who want to try their hand in the Food Industry,” Sawhney added.

Agreeing with Sawhney’s observation, Dinesh Dua, Chief Executive Officer & Director, Nectar Lifesciences stated, “Sectors like aggregation of mobility and food is the fastest and most exciting sectors followed by retail which is catching up amazingly fast. This is followed by communication, B2B platform for industrial products and application development for a variety of purposes.”

Besides IT, food and mobility, education has also seen great scope in Chandigarh. “Huge amount of initiatives have been undertaken by Chandigarh Region Innovation and Knowledge Cluster (CRIKC) which has 26 global institutions of repute which have facilitated and nurtured entrepreneurship. With excellent infrastructure and great resources, Tricity is emerging as an accelerator and Startup hub of the region,” Dua added.

Entrepreneurial Impact

The influx of investments has added to Chandigarh’s entrepreneurial growth but the presence of brilliant minds in the ecosystem has further inspired the younger lot to take the commercial path. From the late Nek Chand, who created the rock garden to the city's designer Le Carbosier, their approach has put Chandigarh on the global map.

Naming a few entrepreneurs who are currently making a difference to the city, Arush Chopra, CEO, Just Herbs expressed that the business personalities which inspire him include “Restauranter Priya Grewal as you can never go wrong with the food at her varied themed restaurants across the city, Vipul Dua of Peddlers for bringing live music to the restaurant scene in the city and the Mittal family of Nik Bakers.”

Needless to say, tricity has seen many entrepreneurs doing exceptionally well in today’s technology-driven world. The most apparent name is of none other than Samar Singla, the founder of Jugnoo who is revered in Chandigarh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for his foresight, “followed by Kamal Bhatia who has revolutionized the pump market (B2B sector and retail) including the unheard market of construction material,” said Dua. He also hailed Manish Kumar of MobiPro and iNVERTEDi founders Ketan Sharma and Shagun Bawa for their very creative and value-added applications.

Networking Events

While tech-focused organizations such as CII, Young Indians, Tie, CAN, etc are doing a lot to promote entrepreneurship in the city, networking events like Franchise India’s Start-up Expo 2019 provide a wonderful platform for entrepreneurs in the city to come together and share their views on the ecosystem.

“Events like Startup Expo 2019 give an opportunity to business aspirants' to come together to exchange ideas with thinkers, entrepreneurs, and great visionaries, help find their purpose and help gain a better understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” expressed Oberoi. These events capture innovative aspiration of Startup ecosystem, particularly for highly educated and innovative students.

“With various talk shows and inspirational stories behind every such event, for sure it is an engaging platform for many and also an excellent tool to network with fellow entrepreneurs,” Sawhney concluded.