New Delhi: The Modi government is looking to fund start-ups across sectors and help the projects right from incubation until they’re off the ground in a bid to develop a self-reliant India with regards to tech innovations.
To that end, the information technology ministry launched ‘Chunauti’ Friday, a competition to boost start-ups and software products, especially in India’s tier-II towns.
Launching the competition, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “I urge the young, talented innovators of India to come forward and avail benefits of ‘Chunauti’ challenge of government and create new software products and app. This launch is a bold initiative under the clarion call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
Around 300 start-ups will be chosen and will receive “incubation facilities, mentorship, security testing facilities, access to venture capitalist funding, industry connect as well as advisories in legal, Human Resource (HR), IPR and Patent matters”, according to the ministry statement.
The government has earmarked Rs 95.03 crore for a period of three years to fund Chunauti, with each start-up likely to receive seed funding of up to Rs 25 lakh. Seed funding is the capital put in by an investor at a very early stage, typically in exchange for a stake in the start-up.
Which start-ups will Chunauti focus on?
Under the programme, the IT ministry is looking to cultivate start-ups in a multitude of areas like educational technology (Edu-tech), agricultural technology (Agri-Tech), financial technology (Fin-Tech), where the products have value for mass consumers.
The ministry is also looking for start-ups working on supply chain-related solutions, and solutions on remote monitoring, linguistic tools, healthcare and psychological care, jobs and skilling related solutions.
According to the ministry’s statement, the government is ready to provide a wide range of support to the selected start-ups, from incubation facilities, mentorship to security testing facilities, access to venture capitalist funding and advisories in legal and patent matters.
These facilities will be provided through the government-backed Software Technology Park of India centres.
In addition, the government will pay a kind of stipend to some start-up interns. Selected start-ups that are so nascent that the start-up is still in the “ideation stage” (as opposed to having a proven physical product) may be selected for the “pre-incubation programme”. Such start-ups will be mentored for up to six months to further develop their business plan and solution. For such projects, the government is prepared to pay Rs 10,000 for “each intern” per month for up to six months.
Push for local innovations
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began and amid souring relations with China, this becomes at least the fourth start-up challenge the IT ministry has launched to encourage local entrepreneurs to innovate in line with PM Modi’s call for a self-reliant India.
Other challenges launched by the ministry include the ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge’. The challenge was launched by the prime minister on 4 July and received 6,940 applications across nine categories. These included apps for business-related solutions, eLearning, entertainment, games, health, news, office and work from home, and social.
Upto three winners were announced in each category of the challenge on 7 August. Prize money for first place was Rs 20 lakh, second place winners were given Rs 15 lakh, and third place was given Rs 10 lakh.
On 12 April, the IT ministry announced another challenge to develop a video conferencing solution, incidentally a few days before the home ministry said the Zoom app, which has been widely adopted in India, was not safe.
The ministry chose Vconsol, a product from Alappuzha in Kerala that was developed by a firm named Techgentsia Software Technologies Private Limited, as the winner.
According to a press note, the winner is set to receive financial support of Rs 1 crore for the next three years and will be adopted for government use.
A ‘Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge’ is currently underway, which encourages entrepreneurs to build tech products using microprocessors developed by IIT Madras and the IT ministry’s Center for Development of Advance Computing.
This 10-month challenge that ends in June 2021 provides an estimated financial support of Rs 4.30 crore at “various stages of the challenge”.