India Needs to Embrace a Start-Up Culture

A recent WHO report shows that out of the 27 million babies born in India every year, close to 3.6 million are born prematurely, and out of this more than 3 million infants fail to survive due to complications.

Tragically, India accounts for almost a fourth of pre-term births globally putting it in the ranks of the Top 10 countries with this problem.

For pre-term babies, the first few days of life are the most challenging as their inability to regulate their own body temperature exposes them to the danger of hypothermia.

The survival chances of millions of such premature babies in India get drastically reduced due to widespread poverty and lack of appropriate healthcare infrastructure. In such a bleak scenario, a Bangalore-based start-up called Embrace is holding out a ray of hope for such babies.

This start-up, which I am very proud of being associated with, has developed an innovative, low-cost infant warmer that looks like a miniature sleeping bag and is designed to function without a continuous supply of electricity.

Pre-term babies now stand a better chance of survival thanks to the Embrace low-cost infant warmer, which could be a transformational intervention in the ongoing battle against high infant mortality in India and the underdeveloped world.

Making a Difference

XCyton Diagnostics, a start-up promoted by a scientist in Bangalore in 1993, is similarly making a big difference through its cutting-age molecular diagnostics that allow rapid diagnosis of critical care infections in order to obtain superior treatment outcomes.

Another Bangalore-based start-up, Agro Sciences, has come up with a cost-effective and eco-friendly pheromone-based pest trap that eliminates the need for farmers to spray hazardous pesticides that contaminate the soil and ground water.

Biosense, a start-up based in Mumbai, has developed a needle-free, hand-held device that can measure hemoglobin, bolstering India’s efforts to tackle the problem of anemia linked maternal mortality.

The reason I mention these start-ups is because there is a common thread linking them – all of them are trying to make a difference by bringing affordable innovation to India, a country that is challenged with poverty, child and maternal mortality and environmental pollution.

In the economic reality of a developing country like ours, we require start-ups such as these that think locally but have the potential to make enormous global impact.

At Biocon too, our endeavor has been to deliver transformational innovation, while keeping it affordable and accessible. We have been able to leverage India’s scientific skillbase to come up with novel and differentiated therapies for chronic diseases, where either access was unaffordable or medical needs were unmet.

Our philosophy of ‘affordable innovation’ has helped us to develop two novel Biologics BIOMAb EGFR for Cancer and ALZUMAb for Psoriasis. We have also developed life saving drugs like Recombinant Human Insulin for Diabetics and most recently the world’s first biosimilars Trastuzumab for breast cancer.

What India Needs to Do

I believe that the need of the hour is to recognize and encourage new and innovative ideas and promote a start-up culture in India. The practical, problem-solving approach adopted by start-ups can throw up innovative solutions for deep-rooted problems vexing our country.

An entrepreneurial, ‘can-do’ spirit is the best alternative to unimaginative, knee-jerk policymaking that has come to characterize our jaded and hide-bound bureaucracy that has led to hobbled economic growth in our country.Biocon started in a small garage in Bangalore, India with a team of two people. Today, Biocon has 7,000 employees and has been ranked as the 6th Best Biotechnology Employer in the world Biocon started in a small garage in Bangalore, India with a team of two people.

For a strong start-up culture in India we need a robust innovation ecosystem that relies on: the ease of starting a business, accessing capital and capital markets and mentors. In Silicon Valley, it takes just a day to set up a company compared to 3 months in India. Another factor that augments a start-up culture is business synergy where diverse yet connected businesses feed off each other creating a cluster effect. Bangalore’s Bio-medical cluster is a good example where Hardware companies and Software specialists dovetail very effectively.

In a recent survey by Your story.in, 34% of the 400 respondents chose Bangalore as the best Indian city for start-ups. Bangalore was followed by Mumbai (20%) and the National Capital Region (9%).

Here, the evolution of Bangalore – widely regarded as ‘India’s start-up capital’– holds some lessons for the rest of the country.

It was the visionary political leadership that led to the creation of an enabling context for the incubation of successful start-ups in Bangalore. I, myself have been the beneficiary of this approach way back in the early 1980s when the Karnataka State Financial Corporation lent financial support to pioneering companies like Biocon and Infosys promoted by first generation entrepreneurs with no business track record.

Two decades later, this visionary approach was continued in the form of Vision Groups for Information Technology and Biotechnology that created path breaking platforms for industry-academia and government to collaborate on policy matters. This saw the creation of IT & biotechnology millennium policies, High Technology Parks, Finishing Schools, Incubation centres etc. all of which catalyzed the start-up culture in Karnataka.

Key differentiators such as the availability of venture capital funds through initiatives like the Karnataka Information Technology Venture Capital Fund (KITVEN) and the presence of premier academic institutions such as Indian Institute of Science (IISc) also added up to make the city a fertile field for innovative start-ups to bloom.

If India is to address its socio-economic challenges in a manner that does not weigh it down, it will have to innovate its way into the future.

If Embrace could come up with an innovative neonatal nursing solution, imagine what 100 such innovative start-ups could do to solve the myriad challenges we face as a country.

What we need is a mushrooming of innovative start-ups and an enabling ecosystem that supports them. This will have a multiplier effect on job generation and value creation. After all, for every job that an established enterprise offers, a start-up entrepreneur can create ten!

Source : http://linkd.in/1c5Xqzf

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