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Here's How Indian Hardware Start-ups Can Overcome Challenges The Plugin is a unique program wherein the industry, academia and government come together to support hardware and systems-based startups in the country

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The hardware entrepreneurial segment in India is not one bereft of challenges. Several hurdles lie along the way which includes the lack of an enabled ecosystem, labs or market testing facilities. Putting together the capital to start a hardware start-up from scratch is a sizeable task which again makes it difficult for these companies to flourish.

However, initiatives by the Indian government like the Make in India program is now pushing these startups towards growth, giving them the opportunity to scale and prosper. Another step in the right direction is the Plugin accelerator program. The Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (SINE)-IIT Bombay and Intel India, have announced the second edition of Plugin ("Program").

The Need to Plugin

With an accelerator program, hardware startups will get access to not just mentoring but also growth opportunities. The Plugin is a unique program wherein the industry, academia and government come together to support hardware and systems-based startups in the country, Plugin will provide mentoring, training, and international visits with networking opportunities. The collaborative accelerator program will also facilitate infrastructure and technical support, prototyping, product development and manufacturing connect, business services and funding, etc.

H K Mittal, Advisor and Head, NSTEDB (National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board), DST, Government of India, said, "Department of Science & Technology (DST) has partnered with Intel and SINE to launch the second edition of Plugin, a collaborative accelerator program based on the positive outcomes in the first edition. DST has been working with both Intel and SINE in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship for over a decade. We believe this program will not only help startups to accelerate their product journey and scale their business, but also provide them with a platform to establish themselves through opportunities that arise from local and international connections."

Launched in August 2016, the first edition of Plugin supported 15 startups in developing products in the areas of transportation, smart home, industrial automation, healthcare, and entertainment across AI, Robotics, IoT, and Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR). Nine of the startups already have market-ready products; seven startups have reached early revenue stage. Cumulatively, these startups have raised about INR 2.5 crore funding till date.

Poyni Bhatt, CEO, Society for innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) IIT Bombay, said, " We are delighted with the launch of the second edition. The first edition had a very positive outcome and this was possible because of the strong collaboration with DST and Intel. Intel's contribution was pivotal, as it provided the vital competitive edge to fast-track growth of startups involved during the Program. The Program helps us to support startups pan- India, and contribute more to the ecosystem."

Who Can Apply?

The second edition of Plugin will include hardware and systems startups in the areas of Artificial Intelligence -Machine Learning (AI-ML), Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT), catering to the healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and transportation industries. It also includes collaborations with corporates such as TCS, ABB, Posiflex, Valeo, and BOSCH; several manufacturing and design trade associations, and prominent investors are also a part of the initiative. To participate in the Program, startups can nominate their entries till July 22, 2018.

Talking about the program Nivruti Rai, country head of Intel India and Vice President of the Data Center Group, Intel Corporation, said that Intel India remains committed to accelerating hardware and systems based entrepreneurship through collaboration with the country's technology ecosystem. "The first edition of Plugin was truly enriching and led to a number of startups developing exciting products, with some of them already generating revenues. This year, Plugin will focus on data-centric startups catering to the retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation industries. The technology support that will be provided across AI, blockchain, and IoT are Intel's core strengths, and we want to make that accessible to the Indian start-ups," said Rai.

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