Nestled amidst the idyllic landscapes and serene beaches of Kerala, often referred to as 'God’s Own Country,' a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit is taking root. The state is making strides to establish itself as a vibrant startup hub, challenging the prominence of Bengaluru and Delhi in the startup ecosystem. The Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM), a central agency of the Government of Kerala, is at the forefront of this initiative.
Hosting the fifth edition of the flagship event, Huddle Global 2023, in Thiruvananthapuram, KSUM is actively fostering mentorship, incubation, and funding to nurture innovation among budding founders. With nearly 5,000 startups spanning across its 14 districts, Kerala is making waves in sectors such as AI, SaaS, Healthtech, and Fintech. These startups have collectively raised approximately ₹2,000 crore in investments from various funding agencies.
Anoop Ambika, Chief Executive Officer of Kerala Startup Mission, emphasized the state's comparative advantage, citing abundant infrastructure and a ready talent base. The organization is committed to providing essential support, including infrastructure, grants, and market access. KSUM has disbursed ₹22 crore in grants, holds a ₹61 crore fund of funds, and boasts over 63 incubators.
Expanding its global footprint, KSUM is establishing Startup Infinity Centres in Belgium and Australia, building on existing collaborations through MoUs. With an existing center in Dubai, these international hubs are designed for co-creation, providing a launchpad for Kerala startups. Additionally, KSUM is introducing Startup Pods, dedicated spaces where founders can develop prototypes.
The burgeoning ecosystem has swayed startup founders' decisions, encouraging them to remain in Kerala rather than relocating to established startup hubs. Naseef Nazar, founder of FemiSafe, a female hygiene startup, noted the region's supportive ecosystem and opportunities comparable to cities like Bengaluru. The government's initiatives, offering access to funding, networking spaces, and collaboration opportunities, have contributed to this shift.
KSUM, partially self-funded, collaborates with Venture Capital firms and Angel Networks to facilitate funding. Partnerships with Unicorn India Ventures, Indian Angel Network, Funding Simplified, Sea Fund, and Speciale Invest are already in place, with discussions underway to forge additional partnerships.
Venture capitalists recognize Kerala as an emerging hotspot for startups. Mayuresh Raut, Managing Partner at Sea Fund, sees the region as the next big opportunity after cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, and Hyderabad. The state's founders exhibit significant potential, presenting a compelling opportunity for catalyzing growth.
While acknowledging Kerala's strides, Ambika noted areas for improvement, emphasizing the need for streamlining departmental procedures to enhance the ease of doing business. Simplifying regulations and validations would enable founders to focus on their innovations and inventions more effectively.
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