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Wadhwani Foundation’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) to transform Indore and Bhopal into a vibrant entrepreneurial hub

~ Pilot effort aimed at building and catalysing tier-2 city ecosystems into thriving startup hubs ~
~ NEN’s activities primarily comprise of providing mentoring, learning and investor connects ~
~ NEN’s goal is to create 15 city-based entrepreneurial ecosystems across India ~

Wadhwani Foundation’s flagship Initiative, National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) has initiated a concerted effort to transform Indore and Bhopal regions into a model entrepreneurship ecosystem. The initiative is aimed at creating impact opportunities in emerging cities with entrepreneurship development as a key tool for sustainable job creation.

The pilot effort is being undertaken in Indore and Bhopal. While Indore is the mini-Mumbai or the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh with steady growth in entrepreneurial potential over the last few years, Bhopal too is experiencing a growing list of entrepreneurs. Majority of the 500+ startups in Madhya Pradesh operate out of Indore and Bhopal, tapping into the technology wave. Many of them are focused on IT and e-commerce.

This initiative is targeting onboarding of 100+ mentors, 50+ growth stage startups and 100+ early stage startups in the next 6 months’ timeframe, and providing help and assistance to them. NEN is looking at on-boarding another 25-50 angel investors through the angel investor workshop. The Foundation and NEN seek to enhance the entrepreneurial capacity in Indore and Bhopal, with intent to have a multiplier effect on job creation and the growth of the city’s economy.

A key entrepreneurial support element will be India’s first-ever Startup Helpdesk consisting of free access and service to resources that are just an email away. Any startup can drop an email to NEN at NEN’s in-house helpdesk consultants will answer queries, provide links to tools, templates or connect the startup with service providers based on their requirements. The helpdesk welcomes feedback on the services provided and their usefulness.

Says Suman Sasmal, Managing Director, India and Asia, Wadhwani Foundation, “Optimum utilization of the local demographic dividend is critical for entrepreneurship development. Indore is an educational hub with skilled professionals, and along with Bhopal is in the middle of the country providing a direct and seamless connectivity by all means of transport. Such available support infrastructure with immense growth potential will now be leveraged by a network of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors towards providing a fillip to the entrepreneurship fervor in the two cities.”

NEN’s activities primarily comprise of providing mentoring, learning and investor connects. The NEN experts are spending significant time in Indore meeting entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, various associations, educational institutions, media houses and other stakeholders to understand the nuances and requirements of the city’s ecosystem. NEN envisions playing a ‘catalyst’ role in spurring the entrepreneurial activities through networks and partnerships, and bringing the required resources and knowledge to the entrepreneurs.

Ramakrishna Kalluri, Vice President – NEN Ecosystem, Wadhwani Foundation is excited at the prospect of Indore and Bhopal as thriving entrepreneurial hubs. “It gives me great pleasure that the Wadhwani Foundation’s flagship initiative, National Entrepreneurship Network, is now expanding its network and capacity building model to Indore and Bhopal. We see tremendous energy, enthusiasm and innovation in the younger population in this region. We are confident that by enhancing the networking and learning opportunities between startups, mentors, investors, angels, ecosystem partners, and academia, we will greatly enhance the entrepreneurial growth opportunities in this region”, he says.

Awareness on entrepreneurship among students and youngsters in Tier-2 cities like Indore and Bhopal has gone up significantly in the last few years. Lot of youngsters are taking entrepreneurship as their preferred career choice and starting new ventures. However, important stakeholders who act as support systems to these aspiring entrepreneurs are still evolving and far from maturity. There is a need to develop and nurture mentors, angel investors, faculty, corporates, media so that they play much more active and constructive role in contributing to the ecosystem.

A key element of the startup ecosystem in any geography are high-quality mentors who are a scarce resource. NEN is making special efforts to bring on-board city-based mentors to add to its existing global mentor base of 400+. The entrepreneur and mentor engagement efforts are geared towards assisting entrepreneurs to get the best of help possible within the ecosystem by building sustainable and scalable online and offline networks.

Short to medium impact of this NEN initiative will be in the form of increased startup successes, accepting entrepreneurship as a viable career option, and better networking and coordination among various stakeholders for efficient value delivery to entrepreneurs in terms of capital, know-how and innovation.

About Wadhwani Foundation:

Wadhwani Foundation was founded in 2000 by Dr. Romesh Wadhwani with the primary mission of accelerating economic development in emerging economies through large-scale job creation. The Foundation is present in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, East Africa and Latin America operating in association with governments, corporates, mentors, investors and educational institutes. Its four Initiatives are driving job creation through entrepreneurship, skills development and innovation.

National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) inspires, educates, and supports student entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs for creating high-value jobs. NEN has also ventured into creating city-based entrepreneurial ecosystems consisting of mentors, investors, and incubators supporting startups and SMEs. NEN also aims to create world-class innovation ecosystems in critical sectors of high importance in India through innovation grants to 25,000 companies over five years as part of the Startup and Small Business Innovation initiative (SSBI).

Global Innovation Network (GIN) aims to create world-class research institutes addressing challenges in emerging economies that also lead to creation of global organizations. Its Startup and Small Business Innovation Program (SSBI) strives to create ecosystems in critical sectors in emerging economies through Govt. sponsored innovation grants to thousands of startups and small businesses.

Global Skills Network (GSN) aims to equip non-college-bound high school graduates with sufficient work-skills to command family supporting wages. GSN is also working with the Central and State Governments to transform ITIs to modern manufacturing training hubs and multi-skill institutes, and with employers to engage in providing adjunct faculty, internships, and apprenticeships.

Policy Research Network (PRN) provides data-driven research inputs for informed policy action focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, skills development and employment aimed at accelerating economic growth.