57 ‘nano unicorns’ set to spread their wings in Odisha

Sangeetha Chengappa Bhubaneswar | Updated on March 20, 2018

Entrepreneurs Kamalika Roy   -  Sangeetha Chengappa

Kartikeswar Bhuyan   -  Sangeetha Chengappa

Even as unicorn start-ups such as Flipkart, Ola and Paytm continue to hog media limelight, a mini-sized force of 57 ‘nano unicorns’ that are small or nano-scale businesses, have emerged in the heartland of Odisha.

Some of these businesses that include tailoring, electrical repairing, fast food, plumbing, plastic manufacturing, welding, etc, are run by youth who passed 10th standard and have graduated from an Industrial Training Institute (ITI); many others are run by school drop-outs.

At 24, Kartikeswar Bhuyan, one of owners of the nano unicorns, runs a manufacturing unit for decorative lighting panels, which he sells and rents out for weddings, festivities and events. He employs two people and rakes in a monthly turnover of ₹1.5 lakh.

Kamalika Roy, 24, earns ₹10,000 a month designing and sewing ladies dresses; she is yet to grow her business to a size which would require her to employ a person. Gagan Maharana, 23, has put up a roadside store to sell chow mein, rolls and pakodas; Sowbhagya Moduli, 21, runs a unit that makes plastic containers for baby foods and juices.

These nano unicorns are the result of a pilot programme launched by the Odisha Skill Development Authority (OSDA) last year, under which skilled youth with exceptional entrepreneurial ideas are provided with philanthropic donor capital of ₹1 lakh to start their ventures.

“What India needs today are nano unicorns — small people who are skilled, who will start small businesses and within 12-18 months generate employment for one-three people each. Our goal is to create and support 100 entrepreneurs in 2017-18, 1,000 in 2018-19 and 3,000 in 2019-20,” Subroto Bagchi, Chairman, OSDA, told BusinessLine.

Mini MBA

To cherry-pick entrepreneurial talent, the OSDA team approaches teachers in ITIs and Skills Development Centres that provide short-term courses, and asks them to identify youth with distinct entrepreneurial traits. The selected few are asked to write a page on what they would love to do if they had access to capital, and present it to a panel.

Those who make it through that round are taken through a seven-day mini MBA, where successful small entrepreneurs teach and mentor them on topics ranging from marketing, accounting, life skills, customer interaction skills and networking, to how to approach a bank.

At the end of the mini MBA, each youth is given a cheque for ₹1 lakh to start their business, which is interest-free if returned within a year and at 5 per cent interest thereafter.

“Odisha has big steel plants, big dams and big refineries which create a limited number of jobs. SMEs create jobs in hundreds of thousands. So we need to create hundreds of thousands of nano unicorns that will inturn create more jobs” said Bagchi, who has embarked on an ambitious mission to create a ‘Skilled in Odisha’ brand that will transform the State into a destination for skilled talent.

The writer was in Bhubaneswar at the invitation of Odisha governmnet.

Published on March 20, 2018

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