The Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (GDC), IIT Madras, conducted the finale of Cohort 18 of its I-NCUBATE program on January 12. N. Srinath, CEO, Tata Trusts, presided over the event as the Chief Guest. ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and one of the founders of GDC, also addressed participants.

‘Customer Discovery’

Eleven start-ups from the cohort presented their learnings and narrated how I-NCUBATE had transformed their entrepreneurial journey. Gopalakrishnan lauded the participants for letting go of their initial assumptions about customers in accordance with their learnings from the Customer Discovery exercise.

“The mantra is ‘fail early and fail safe’, rather than wasting time and resources by chasing the wrong customers or product idea,” he said.

“Local innovations are the need of the hour for India”, said Srinath. “We have tremendous capability in our people, and we have tremendous capability in the infrastructure that we are creating. If we put them together, we have an opportunity to create truly world-class enterprises.”

He stressed the need for ‘process innovation’ on the same scale as ‘product innovation’ to address some of these problems.

“Using today’s solutions to address today’s problems is not enough. To truly make a difference, we need to look at tomorrow’s solutions for today’s problems,” he added.

Lab-to-market transition

Gopalakrishnan spoke on the need to take indigenous research-based innovations out into the market to bolster India’s growth to attain a $5 trillion economy in the future.

“GDC’s efforts are to enable this lab-to-market transition by working with academicians and scientists to commercialise their research and transform the basis of value creation in the Indian economy,” he said.

Speaking about scaling up the I-NCUBATE program, he said that GDC has managed to reach out to faculty and students in several colleges across Tier 1 and 2 cities.

GDC was established at IIT Madras by Dr Gururaj Deshpande, Jaishree Deshpande and Gopalakrishnan. It works with faculty, researchers and students from STEM universities across India to implement a ‘Lab to Market’ mission by helping them commercialise research and build startups that create socio-economic impact at scale.

I-NCUBATE is an eight-week online program that GDC offers to startups from research labs and STEM colleges across India. About 10 teams come together in every cohort to undertake a Customer Discovery exercise for their innovations. Since 2018, the I-NCUBATE program has completed 18 cohorts and trained close to 1,000 participants from 36 universities and colleges. So far, over two-thirds of I-NCUBATE startups have scaled their ventures, raising ₹46 crore in external funding.