NSRCEL – nurturing early-stage ventures

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on January 24, 2018


NS Raghavan, one of the co-founders of Infosys and its former Joint Managing Director, is one of the patrons. The NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at the Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore, established in 1999-2000, is supported by grants and its patrons are reputed industrialists who want to nurture entrepreneurial talent. Spread over 10,000 sq ft, the NSRCEL can accommodate up to 80 people, which can be distributed over 15-20 enterprises. The centre takes on board ventures as and when vacancies arise and each enterprise stays with it for about 12 months. In specific cases, they are allowed to stay for a little longer.

According to G Sabarinathan, Chairperson, NSRCEL, the centre is sector-agnostic and takes on board a range of enterprises; but being in Bengaluru most of them are technology enabled. NSRCEL works with very early-stage businesses. Many businesses that are accepted for incubation, according to him, do not have much more than a slide deck.

3i framework

The centre follows the 3i framework: it looks for businesses that are innovative, impact making and implementable by the founding team. “These simple set of criteria enables the centre to look at a wide range of enterprises that it can support,” says Sabarinathan.

The centre works with a fixed panel of mentors, who have considerable corporate experience, including Abraham Kuruvilla, Veena A, Dilip Mehta and Vasudev Avdhani.

Sabarinathan says NSRCEL’s approach to incubation is that of a benign facilitator. It assembles a range of resources and connections from its network and makes them available to the ventures. It engages with the entrepreneurs and sensitises them to the possibility of benefiting from resources that the centre can make available. The choice of whether to take advantage of these resources and how to do so is that of the entrepreneur.

He says NSRCEL’s resources can be classified into: intellectual – access to the academic resources on campus; physical – the IIM-B’s campus is a beautiful setting with over 100 acres of greenery in “one of the hottest geographical locations in terms of start-up activity”; and, network – the centre makes available the entire network of service providers, investors, successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives.

Some of the start-ups incubated at NSRCEL and that have made it big are Amagi Technologies, Mango, Vayavya Labs,, Pristech, ArtFlute, Turtle Yogi, Chippersage and Milaap.

Four aspects

On the start-up scene in the country, Sabarinathan says there are four aspects that strike him. One, entrepreneurs are more aware of the processes of starting up – be it business model development, organising, funding, strategising, customer acquisition – and are far better prepared for the journey than entrepreneurs 10-15 years ago. Two, entrepreneurs have realised the value of networking. This makes it easier and much more likely for the enterprise to succeed. The first two aspects, he says, apply to tier-I locations and to some extent tier-II cities. In the rest of the country, the level of awareness has a long way to go. Lastly, entrepreneurs in India have to be and must be a driven lot; else they would not want to start-up given the difficult and challenging environment for starting up, growing and exiting a business.

“Policy responses in India to the needs of entrepreneurship are inadequate. Often they focus on less critical issues such as setting up trading platforms for unlisted equities, which are not the most pressing pain points for Indian enterprises,” says Sabarinathan.

Published on July 27, 2015

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