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Student Entrepreneurship Policy Boosts Youngsters

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Kochi, Sept22: Enthused by a tremendous response from the state government at the just-concluded Emerging Kerala global investors' meet, Startup Village has now scaled up its ambitions to become the world's largest telecom incubator while Kerala is set to break into global products space with a soon-to-be-announced Student Entrepreneurship Policy.

Post-Emerging Kerala, Startup Village sets eyes on becoming world's largest telecom incubator. Unlike other announcements at the mega event, the one for Startup Village came with specific timelines with first 25,000 sq ft by May 12, 2013 and the remaining 75,000 sq ft by January 12, 2014.

"This will make the Startup Village the world's largest telecom incubator. We will further strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate this transformation by providing infrastructure in the form of a TIZ (Technology Innovation Zone) in about 10 acres of land in Kochi with an initial investment of Rs. 100 crores,'' Chief Minister Shri Oommen Chandy had announced at the meet.

Shri Chandy also assured to put in place "a landmark Student Entrepreneurship Policy" within 30 days, showing his government's commitment to encourage entrepreneurs at the college level itself. The policy provides 20% attendance and 4% grace marks to students engaged in entrepreneurship during their study.

Lauding the government's support, Mr. Sanjay Vijayakumar, Chairperson of Governing Board of Startup Village, said it would give a huge fillip to the state for tapping its vast human resource potential.

The various waves of computing like personal computer revolution in the 1970s and '80s saw the emergence of Apple and Microsoft. The Internet revolution spurred the birth of companies like Yahoo and Google. During the Social Networking revolution, global giant Facebook was born.

"The key link between all these companies was that the founders of these companies were college students," said Mr. Vijayakumar, who is also the CEO of MobME Wireless Solutions (P) Ltd.

Student Entrepreneurship Policy

"It's a known fact that out of the Nasscom Top 10 Emerge Product Companies, four have founders from Kerala. Startup Village received over 250 applications in the last five months since its inauguration by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan. It is now trending to cross 900-1200 applications in the next 9-12 months showing the underlying surge for entrepreneurship in Kerala college campuses," he said.

The PPP model experiment by Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, is now taking a major upswing with the state government actively stepping in to aim at a global scale. Both governments have stressed that they would limit their role to a facilitator, creating the right foundation and policies and leaving it to industry experts like Mr. Gopalakrishnan to create the framework for the startup ecosystem.

TIZ is proposed to host more initiatives like the Startup Village on a PPP mode in other technology areas and verticals in Telecom, Data Analytics, Animation and Gaming, VLSI, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology. The zone will provide space at a low cost to the startup companies, which would have to pay only the operational cost. Government will manage the infrastructure and the innovator units will have 100% operational freedom to pursue their novel ideas and graduate into independent businesses.

Welcoming the Kerala government's initiative, InMobi founder Amit Gupta said it was truly a defining moment for promoting entrepreneurship. "Rather than doing academic projects in the final year where most of the students don't achieve much, starting a company will help them significantly in their learning. This will foster culture of innovation, team work, risk taking appetite and ability to think big that will help our country leap forward."

Mr. Ashish Gupta, of Helion Advisors Pvt Ltd, said the chief minister's initiative is commendable and far-sighted. "By encouraging our students to be entrepreneurial, we change how they think. That skill and initiative makes them more effective as members of any team - not just small companies. I hope that other states take a leaf out of this book and encourage entrepreneurship nationwide."

Mr. Sharan Thampi, a student entrepreneur and head of The College of Engineering Trivandrum Entrepreneur Society, also expressed happiness over the chief minister's announcement to help startup initiatives.

"Finally, we have a leader who understands the voice of the youth. Mr. Oommen Chandy has taken a bold step to free us from the four walls of a class room and an outdated syllabus," he said.

Pointing out that some hugely popular games like Angry Birds were developed by Finnish company Rovio, which started as a student startup in 2003, Mr. Thampi said the time was now opportune for the Kerala youth to innovate and set up enterprises that would pitchfork the state on to a global stage.

"The Student Entrepreneurship Policy will give a much-needed boost to Kerala to bring its talented engineers back home both from other states and foreign countries. Currently, we are witnessing a steady exodus of our youth to Bengaluru and Chennai as also to the Gulf countries for jobs in IT companies. This has also resulted in Kerala moving towards a zero per cent population growth," he said, quoting a report of the Centre for Development Studies.

"Our countdown to ‘freedom' has started and we look forward to the CM keeping his word by bringing out the Government Order on the policy in next 30 days," Mr. Sharan added.

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