Guwahati: The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown came as an unexpected jolt for many businesses, with no backup plans to sustain themselves. However, the advent of and gradual move of businesses in the virtual world is now reaping benefits.
On February 15, Atal Incubation Centre (AIC)-Sikkim Manipal University Technology Business Incubation Foundation (AIC-SMUTBI) in collaboration with LetsVenture, a Bangalore based online funding platform, supported by the commerce and industries department of Sikkim, launched an acceleration programme to support and assist startups from Sikkim.
On April 4, the first-ever acceleration cohort comprising of 23 startups shortlisted from a pool of 50-plus applications was virtually launched with the founders and mentors congregated on a zoom call.
Shanti Mohan, the founder of Letsventure, initiated the opening remark with her appreciation on the enthusiasm of all the founders and expressed her desire to work very closely with all the startups from Sikkim.
The acceleration is designed to offer one-on-one mentoring sessions, boot camps, understand and provide customer connect, and finally converging into a demo day which will be a speed dating with potential investors and also assist in access to other forms of capital, including government grants.
The programme which was earlier planned to be launched physically offering opportunity to interact and engage with VCs and Angel Investors had to be opted for the virtual platform due to the sudden outbreak of the pandemic.
Dr Tej Chingtham, CEO of AIC-SMUTBI, said that the domain expert mentors will be mapped to each of the founders to ensure maximum benefits for scaling of the startups.
Boot camps to ensure the nitty-gritty of signing a legal deals, contracts and valuation of a company etc will all be part of the acceleration process to ensure that the startups are well prepared before they could raise funds from potential investors, informed Dr Chingtham.
Chimi Ongmu Bhutia, the founder of Lagstal, a pro-nature handicrafts e-commerce business, said that people think making handicrafts products is pretty easy but the market is really competitive, as they have to compete with Chinese products that are mass manufactured.
On the acceleration programme, she said that when we talk about entrepreneurship and business in Sikkim, not a lot of them are serious about it. Everything is seen as a small scale business. But Dr Chingtham is making us realise that it is possible to grow on a bigger scale and we too are trying our best.
Amazing Adventure Private Limited’s DK Ghatani agrees that it will help since Sikkim doesn’t have any other platform for entrepreneurs.
Sonam Gyaltsen Bhutia, founder of Echostream, feels that Sikkim has always been cut off from the rest of the world. And the beginning of the cohort will help in building a network of opportunities.
Bhutia feels that each sector will feel the impact of COVID-19 in a different manner. For instance, the craft sector will be badly hit.
The virtual session was also attended by Parjakt Raut and Priyanka Ahuja. Raut is the founder of Applyifi.com, and author of the book for startups, Starting Up & Fund Raising. He has invested in multiple startups. Ahuja is the co-founder of Startereum and currently serves as director, partnership and innovation programme. She is also an active investor.