India is today the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, with more than 62,200 startups that are recognized by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. These startups are helping India address a wide range of issues in several social, economic and business spheres. Startups thrive on the ability to move fast and be innovative and audacious. From time to time, we see startups challenging the status quo or even creating a new one. However, startups often face challenges on many fronts such as financing, hiring, infrastructure, compliance, visibility, and marketing know-how. They can benefit immensely from the support and mentorship of established companies or experienced industry professionals. Startup accelerators play this role to perfection, offering benefits for both the company as well as the startup.

Founders – especially first-time founders – of startups often cite lack of credibility as one of the big challenges they face at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey. The lack of credibility gets in the way of winning big enterprise customers and scaling up their product, service or solution to the desired scale. Even if they do win an enterprise customer, the mandate often requires them to stick to the playbook, preventing them from giving a free rein to their capacity for innovation.

On the other side of the table, established companies (or incumbents) deal with their own challenges in finding the right balance between growth and innovation; allocating resources for long-term and short-term objectives; and ingraining an outside-in innovation approach in the organization without disrupting their own culture. The latter is a perfectly valid concern because disruptive innovation can sometimes cause incumbents to lose market share even if they are doing everything right. However, incumbents can safely stay at the cutting edge of innovation by either working with autonomous external organizations who are building such disruptive technologies or by designing internal processes that allow them to fail early with new ideas in the quest for innovation.

The search for the next big disruptive innovation need not always be a David-versus-Goliath scenario but can instead manifest as a symbiotic relationship between early-stage startups and established companies. That’s precisely what accelerators enable – mutually beneficial give-and-take. Accelerator programmes can sharpen the growth trajectory of startups by addressing many of the issues they face. Moreover, they can contribute to the growth of the local economy by generating additional business for allied sectors and services such as legal assistance, marketing, patent filing, product design, and regulatory compliance. In keeping with the times, most accelerators have a strong focus on technology and facilitate the adoption of Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Fintech by startups.

The companies behind such programmes often offer startups the opportunity to do paid proof-of-concepts with them as well as tactical inputs by experts on crucial aspects such as product development, technology adoption, and business scale-up. The selected startups can benefit from the opportunity to engage with the company’s product teams and, if their innovation shows promise of delivering sizable business impact, even convert it into a commercial partnership with the company.

Being established businesses in our respective industries, we should encourage India’s entrepreneurs to be bold, to think big, and to build for scale. Our larger, collective vision should be to build and empower communities wherein entrepreneurs can network with and learn from each other and not just from their benefactor programmes. Many of the entrepreneurs we have interacted with have lamented the current lack of such communities. However, it is well within our power to address this need, and we should do it not only because it gives us an opportunity to contribute to nation-building but also because there is every possibility that our efforts could yield an innovative solution for driving our own business forward. The decade we are in will be one of unprecedented innovation, and we should do all we can to enable startups to take the center stage in what they do best.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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