These three young techies gave wings to Maharashtra’s start-up policy

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the state government decided to take a helping hand from youngsters while draft its start-up policy that got a cabinet nod last week.

Three engineers and fellows of the Chief Minister’s Fellowship programme 2016-17, all under 26 years, helped draft the policy for the skill development department.

Tanmay Pai, former IIT Chennai engineer, along with Umesh Balwani and Vivek Chirania, former engineers from BITS Pilani, engaged with more than 100 stakeholders, including young entrepreneurs, some from their alumni and friend circle, besides angel investors and think-tanks, before finalising the draft.

The policy aims to facilitate 10,000 start-ups across sectors, by setting up 15 incubators and targeting an investment of Rs5,000 crore in the next five years. It also hopes to provide employment opportunities to five lakh youngsters.

The three engineers had joined the CM’s fellowship programme after brief job stints to get exposure in the government and development sectors.

“We first heard CM sir talk about the start-up policy during a session on changing Maharashtra. We felt we could really contribute to this initiative given our state’s potential and our background of knowing first hand such entrepreneurs or having worked in similar set ups. The CMO and the skill department gave us a chance to take this up and held our hand as we prepared an initial draft after studying many similar policies by other states and countries like Israel, where it has been successful,” said Pai, who did a stint with Nomura, a Japanese financial holding company, as an analyst before his fellowship.

Last year, the chief minister’s office extended their fellowship by one year to allow them to work on the policy and take it to the final conclusion.

The draft policy was put in public domain in August 2017 to hear suggestions and objections. That’s when the trio decided to discuss the policy threadbare with all stakeholders before finalising it.

“The discussions helped us in many ways. One big takeaway was that it would be best to identify and build on inherent strengths in any region. So the idea of innovation clusters and sector specific incubators got sharpened like say automative in Pune or fintech in Mumbai,” said Chirania, who worked with a early stage technological start up before joining the fellowship.

“We also realised that a lot of start-ups look at the government as a market with no access. This led to the idea of a start-up week where theme-wise, these firms can make a presentation before the department concerned and a few selected ones can even get work orders,” said Balwani.

It was also decided to focus on setting up 15 incubators with state assistance in either universities or companies to provide start-ups with an eco system for success starting from capital investments to technical assistance and industry mentors.

Chirania, Balwani and Pai plan to focus now on getting the partners for these incubators in the remaining five months of their extended fellowship.

“The CM fellows brought a degree of passion and fresh perspective to the policy that might not have been possible otherwise. They did extensive groundwork and consultation with the private sector and that has been a big plus for the government,” said Priya Khan, Officer on Special Duty with CMO and in charge of the CM fellowship programme.


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