Beyond Boundaries: Nurturing Innovators in Small Towns of India

Explore the rise of small-town innovation in India with Mr. Uday Wankawala, CEO of AIC Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini Foundation. Discover how innovators in tier II & III cities are driving change. Join us on TICE TV for insights into this startup revolution!

Swati Dayal
18 Oct 2023

India's startup landscape boasts an impressive 47% of recognized startups located in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. These startups have not only established their presence but have also played a pivotal role in introducing groundbreaking technologies and innovative solutions to address persistent social challenges.

In an exclusive interview on the show "Incredible Incubators," Mr. Uday Wankawala, the CEO of Atal Incubation Centre - Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini Foundation, supported by Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog, shares his insights.

Mr. Wankawala, an educator, collaborator, and motivator, has dedicated his career to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs in India. With vast experience in entrepreneurship and a background in leading incubators and innovation-focused organizations, he discusses fostering entrepreneurship in smaller cities, the role of technology and innovation, his experiences, and more.

During an intriguing conversation with TICE, Mr. Wankawala, who also serves as a jury member of the Global Student Entrepreneurs Award (GSEA), reveals how innovators from smaller towns are developing groundbreaking solutions for social problems, contributing to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Building an Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Tier II and III Cities

Giving key Insights from Tier II and III Cities, Mr. Wankawala reveals that his journey to promote entrepreneurship in tier two and three cities was motivated by a desire to explore untapped potential. He emphasizes the need to identify and nurture talent beyond major metropolitan areas, highlighting the incredible innovation present in these regions.

“…the whole idea around when we say startup ecosystem, innovation, what used to happen, and still, I think at times, we see a lot of metros and mainly the cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, having the major share of it. And I believe that it's high time, but then we really need to identify that raw talent and potential from tier two and tier three cities as well. And that's where I think this happened way back in 2016-17, almost seven, eight years back when I saw a lot of people talking about the potential, but nobody was really wanting to get into that particular ecosystem and understand how tier two or tier three works. And that's where I took it up as a challenge,” Mr Uday said.

Challenges in Smaller Cities & Overcoming These Challenges

One of the core challenges Mr. Wankawala encountered was changing mindsets, emphasizing the importance of mentorship, visibility, and credibility for entrepreneurs. Bridging the gap between metro cities and smaller towns is vital, and he underscores the significance of breaking out of comfort zones.

He addresses these challenges by offering mentorship and building confidence among entrepreneurs, ensuring they can access the resources they need.

“I believe that in tier two and tier three, it's more about getting out of that comfort zone. It's also about access to different resources. I think what you get in cities, and what you get in tier three smaller towns is completely different. I think that particular gap needs to be really bridged in a way that you find the talent and also give access to mentors give access to funding give access to platforms, I think that's something that I found to be missing. So it's what both ends at the founder level as well in a way that how do they really identify problems, use technology and then really come out with good solutions, which are more scalable. I think it's very much important that you have to really work on the mind mindset of those specific towns or smaller cities and then after that, provide them the real access to what has been required to really start on your own is. I always say the first and foremost is the mentorship,” Mr Uday said.

Driving Startup Growth with Technology and Innovation:

Mr. Wankawala shared examples of startups that have demonstrated the potential and innovation of smaller cities. These include startups providing solutions for clean water, agricultural drones, and initiatives empowering local communities. These stories showcase the relevance of startups in addressing real problems.

Working with AICTE and Ministry of Education

Mr Uday highlighted the outcomes of collaborative efforts with AICTE, such as the Smart India Hackathon, where student projects received substantial funding to transform their ideas into tangible products. Additionally, innovation centers have been established to support projects with the potential for intellectual property.

Role in the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards (GSEA)

Mr. Wankawala provided insights into his role as a jury member for GSEA, emphasizing the competition's positive impact on nurturing student entrepreneurs. He said how GSEA goes beyond evaluating ideas; it mentors and connects students with experienced professionals, setting them on a path to success.

A Message for Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

Giving an advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs, Mr. Wankawala encourages students and young innovators to explore, experiment, and gain experiential knowledge. He urges them not to fear failure, as it is a part of the entrepreneurial journey.

In this engaging interview, Mr. Uday Wankawala sheds light on the dynamic world of entrepreneurship in India, especially in tier two and three cities. His commitment to empowering and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the success stories and initiatives he shares. This interview serves as a source of inspiration for budding entrepreneurs and a reminder of the untapped potential in every corner of India.

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