Rajesh Joshi has been an entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in business and start-ups. He had started 6 startups during the time when the startup concept itself was not so in vogue. He moved to Goa as a project consultant for the Government of Goa as a part of a startup promotion cell in the state. Later on, he was appointed as CEO of the Atal Incubation Centre (AICGIM) at Goa Institute of Management which was formed under the Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog of the Government of India in 2021 and since then he has helped hundreds of startups to achieve their dreams by providing them with a platform and funding.
Rajesh believes he could have always continued to set up his own startup or business, but while working for the government of India, he found his life’s purpose. “I decided to help other startups to scale up because I think it’s not always about achieving your dreams but to help the startups in achieving their dreams and I really thank the GIM (Goa Institute of Management) who hired me and gave me an opportunity to do this,” said Rajesh adding, he has helped, supported, assisted more than 100 startups with incubation programs at AIC-GIM. “One of the startups I would like to name here is Minks Pay started by Sanket from Sakhalim, Goa. This start-up managed to raise 2 million dollars. We had also started the virtual incubation during the Covid and it continues today. Besides this, we have also added something called On-Demand Incubation, under which the startups don’t have to sign a contract with AICGIM and they are free to incubate elsewhere and at the same time come to us for any kind of help when they face an issue. This way we are trying to be a startup buddy or startup friend rather than incubation as such.”
Increase Customer Base
There are many issues faced by startups in India, or rather in Goa, pertaining to the lack of funds, or no funds at all, and when I asked Rajesh about the same, he said that there are issues existing in the country as far as the funding goes. He puts that down to the rate of interest which is comparatively higher than the other developed countries. “It is not right to compare the western economy with India since the rates of interest in western countries is much lower compared to India,” said Rajesh, adding that the rate of interest in other countries is around 2 to 3 percent while in India it is nearly 6 to10 percent. “The investor in the west does not have any choice but to invest in startups, new ventures, and new ideas but in India that is not the case. My advice to the startups in India is to generate money through the customers rather than investors. Although India does not have lower rates of interest, it surely has a larger marketplace, and stronger customer base compared to other developed countries. The startups make this major mistake by looking for investors when instead they should be widening their customer base and the investors will come automatically to them.”
Goa is a Great Place to Innovate
Goa is a great place to live and work and thus many start-ups come to Goa but once they get initial funding and support, they move out of the state. When I asked Rajesh about this he said that Goa is a great place to start and innovate. “Goa is a place where startup concepts can be born and grow, and according to me, there is no other place in India like Goa. When the startups start their innovation and product tests, Goa is a great market for the product-market fit and the reason behind this is that Goa has everything from industries to agriculture, from marine to shipping, and most important is tourism and health care and Goa is a mix of all three sections of society: rich, middle and lower-middle class. All innovators need is quality of life and work-life balance which Goa has in abundance and that is what makes Goa a perfect place for a startup.”
Rajesh gives his opinion on why people move out of Goa. “First is the market expansion which is not possible in Goa due to its small population and second is due to the lack of technology and talent in Goa. When development requirements grow from a couple of engineers to 100 or 500 engineers, Goa is not the right place and that is the reason the startups move out of Goa,” said Rajesh adding that there is a new era of innovation coming called Web 3 or blockchain, where the customer base does not become a geographical hurdle and according to me these types of companies will thrive here in Goa soon. These new generation startups will be working for the world, not just India. Besides that, these Web 3 startups won’t need more manpower to do the coding as they can work from their garage or their living rooms and accomplish the tasks.”
Rajesh does not believe that it’s a lack of infrastructure or lack of manpower that is responsible for startups moving out of the state. “You’ll have heard of the phrase “sour grapes.” There are many Goan start-ups, like Mrinq Technology and Genora Infotech, that have excelled in their ventures and made Goa proud. These startups have also benefited from Goa Startup Policies,” said Rajesh adding that Goa state government has distributed more than 1.5 crore rupees since the inception of the Goa Startup Policy. “If you compare the population of the state and the startup money that has been disbursed by the government, I can bet that Goa will be in the top 5 across all states in the country.”
Rajesh believes that entrepreneurs shy away from the policy due to a lack of documents. “They (startups) feel reluctant since they have to submit certain documents and most of them don’t have them in order. I have worked with the Government of Maharashtra, Government of Rajasthan, and Government of Goa, and I have seen reluctant people ask why the documents are required but it is the part of the process,” said Rajesh adding, AICGIM, FIIRE, CIBA and BITS PILANI together have received the approval of 10 crore rupees to give to startups in Goa. “Funds are distributed and many have already benefited out of it but there are some startups who have not applied properly and not followed due diligence and they keep receiving emails asking for more documents which is part of the process.”
The Infrastructure and Topography of Goa
There is an issue as far as the infrastructure is concerned but it is not due to the lack of any attempt from the Government side but due to the existing topography of the place. “When I moved to Goa, initially I also got frustrated due to the constant power failures and lack of internet services but soon I realized that this has nothing to do with the efficiency of the state government but because of the topography of the region, which is out of the scope of any technical expertise. Goa is very unique geographically and the population is also spread across the larger areas making it difficult to create sustainable infrastructure. Sometimes downtime is good because we are in Goa and do not constantly work. We all need that break to enjoy the environment which makes us also think better and create better. This is unique and one of the great reasons to be in Goa.”
The other thing Rajesh mentions is the effects of over-development. “If you look at the metro cities like Mumbai and Bangalore that have underground cabling and 24-hour electricity and internet supply, do not have greenery, but here in Goa, it’s different: this place may not have their infrastructure but it has a beautiful environment,” he added.
The Journey Has Just Begun
Rajesh says that the startup revolution has only just started in Goa and compared to the other states, it is also at the very initial stages. “The startup policy was introduced in 2017 which is very recent. Another thing, a lot of people are not aware that Goa is the only state in the country that has two successive startup policies. The attempt has already been made and it will take some time for things to settle down. There is a need of becoming a part of the ecosystem. According to me, Goa is advancing in the right direction and I will urge all startups to talk with the other startups who have benefited so they can learn from each other and at the same time the startups who have received the grants from the government should talk about the same in the public so that it benefits others.”
AIC-GIM Foundation is a Sector Agnostic Incubator “which means we don’t prefer any certain sector. We have launched a few initiatives and one of them deals with the food part called Fierce Kitchen, a dedicated support system for the food-pruners, and the second is the Hub-CE to support the startups who are looking to mitigate the climate crisis, and thirdly we are trying to build the Web 3 port in Goa,” said Rajesh adding that this will help in innovating the new blockchain Web 3, NFT and Crypto Industry. “The reason we are calling it port is they will not be based here, they will be entrepreneur tourists, they will come to Goa, they will innovate and create something here. We are looking forward to do something in this sector which is a new industry and it will save the brain drain which is happening due to the migration of the Indian talents to other countries. I believe that Goans who are innovating should not move out of Goa. We will provide them with a platform and environment that will help them innovate and we will provide them with a strong ecosystem and we will also be the bridge between the start-up and government.”