While the pandemic’s impact on the start-up segment was “debilitating” with about 15% temporarily shutting shop, Wadhwani Foundation — a not-for-profit group that works with start-ups in 20 countries — said it expected unparalleled growth going forward, in sectors such as healthcare, online education and e-commerce, due to a wave of digitisation.
“In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 on start-ups was debilitating. We expect unprecedented growth in the coming years because of the massive pent-up demand,” said Ajay Kela, President and CEO, Wadhwani Foundation. He added that the recovery would be gradual, and that start-up activity may see an upswing from mid-2021. “I foresee increased tech and digital adoption in the start-up ecosystem as a major fallout of COVID-19. Also, opportunities will arise in setting up manufacturing/assembly units due to the realignment and localisation of supply chains and concerns around China as the predominant manufacturing source,” he said.
The human resource element will also see upskilling, reskilling and multi-skilling to meet the demands of changing work styles, Mr. Kela said.
He added that start-up entrepreneurs who have shown resilience in tough COVID times through innovation, perseverance and pivoting their business models will leverage the unprecedented opportunities COVID-19 has offered in healthcare, online education, e-commerce and streaming media.
“With the wave of digitisation as never seen before, unparalleled growth in many sectors should hold for the mid-to-long-term,” he said, noting that according to a recent report by TiE Delhi-NCR-Zinnov, 15% of start-ups temporarily closed shop, while 44% have a cash runway for less than six months, and 52% are struggling to raise funds, due to the pandemic.
Wadhwani Foundation seeks to drive job creation in emerging economies through large-scale initiatives in entrepreneurship, innovation and skilling. It operates in 20 countries, including India, Mexico, Brazil, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and a host of countries in Africa.
Mr. Kela said that post the pandemic, the Wadhwani Venture Fastrack programme has worked with more than 225 start-ups, which were given support via workshops, mentoring, investor connections, driving business growth and customer acquisition. “Investments, if needed, follow with start-up success,” he said.