Nestled amid lush landscapes and serene beaches, Kerala, the famed ‘God’s Own Country,’ is now making efforts to emerge as a vibrant startup haven. Its picturesque charm now mingles with a bustling entrepreneurial spirit as the government fosters mentorship, incubation, and funding, vying to rival Bengaluru and Delhi’s startup prominence.
The Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM), a central agency of the Government of Kerala, which hosted the fifth edition of the flagship event Huddle Global 2023 in Thiruvananthapuram, is making efforts to nurture innovation by enabling budding founders to build and grow. Today, Kerala has nearly 5,000 startups spread across its 14 districts and sectors of AI, SaaS, Healthtech, and Fintech, among others. They have raised a total of around ₹2,000 crore in investments from various funding agencies.
Anoop Ambika, Chief Executive Officer of Kerala Startup Mission said, “Kerala has a comparative edge given the availability of abundant infrastructure and ready talent base. The organization is focused on providing infrastructure, grants and access to markets.” The mission has so far disbursed ₹22 crore in grants, has a ₹61 crore fund of funds, and has over 63 incubators.
KSUM is setting up Startup Infinity Centres in Belgium and Australia - with whom it signed MoUs for the same. These centers are aimed at co-creation and providing a launchpad for Kerala startups. It already has one center in Dubai. The mission is also coming up with Startup Pods - spaces where founders with an idea can spend time to develop prototypes-, according to Ambika.
The growing ecosystem has helped change startup founders’ decision to not shift to other prominent startup hubs like Bengaluru and Delhi. Naseef Nazar, founder of female hygiene startup FemiSafe said, “We choose to stay in our home state and develop our startup, as the region does provide an ecosystem and opportunity just as Bengaluru or any other city would. The governments’ initiatives provide us access to funding, space to network and collaborate.”
KSUM partially funds itself and facilitates funding by partnering with Venture Capital firms and Angel Networks. It has partnered with Unicorn India Ventures, Indian Angel Network, Funding Simplified, Sea Fund, and Speciale Invest among others. The mission is in advanced talks with more funds to forge partnerships.
The Venture Capitalists also said that Kerala is quite a sought-after location to find good startups. Mayuresh Raut, Managing Partner at Sea Fund said, “After places like Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad, places like Kerala are where the next big opportunity is. The region has founders with great potential waiting for a catalyst, and are just as good as founders and startups in any other region nationally.”
Albeit, there is still room for improvement for the state to make. Ambika notes that the Kerala government could better the ease of doing business by reducing the complications of departmental procedures such as regulation and validation. Government should work towards making it easier for founders to work on their innovations and inventions, he notes.