Karnataka’s dynamic IT & BT Minister Priyank Kharge is a big champion of women entrepreneurs. As part of the state’s innovation fund, a separate corpus has been kept aside for women who are driving new business ideas. Talking about the government’s ELEVATE 100 programme, he emphasised the need to have a big focus on female entrepreneurial talent through the Women In Innovation Entrepreneur Summit. Here he is in conversation with Shaili Chopra on why women need special focus from government to empower their ideas and businesses.
Why do you believe it is important to have a Women in Innovation Summit as part of Elevate 100?
Priyank Kharge: It’s important to us. We encourage women entrepreneurs in our state. One, because there is an existing ecosystem and that needs more women. Given the right direction, I believe they will succeed better than men because they are more hard working than us. When we called for applications for Elevate 100, when we received more than 1700 or so, of that nearly 400 were women. And these are real solid startups they are running. Women are thinking out of the box. They are using technology. There is need for an impetus and we want to be the ones to provide that. From innovation, incubation, funding support, knowledge on legal aspects, we want to give them the right direction and impetus.
What provisions has your government made to focus on funding ideas by women?
Priyank Kharge: We are only govt that has a separate funding mechanism for women entrepreneurs. It’s a rigorous one and brings in support where they need it. We are not giving away funds just because there is a female representation on board, we want to support organisations where women are actively involved in the shaping of the business. Women have to be technically involved and play a substantial role in the start up. We are trying to see how we can ensure women succeed as fast as possible. The funds are sector agnostic, and have no age limit. We help women validate the ideas within the government sector as well if they want to. There have been some people piloting with the government just by sending an email and making a start. We are very responsive. It’s been clear for us, that we want to ensure government promotes more women.
What kind of tools are in place? How are the incubators supportive of women?
Priyank Kharge: Incubation is a big part of the plan for the startups. Ideas are born here and bred here. I have always been very vocal, and our principal secretary and director have been strongly supportive of female who need incubation. It’s not a reservation system, but women entrepreneurs get priority. We have 700 seats in the state.
How are you involving other cities and towns of Karnataka and going beyond Bengaluru?
Priyank Kharge: Elevate 100 is not about Bangalore. We have reached out to Hubli, Mangalore, Mysore and others. We wanted to get the best possible innovation across the states. 460 applications are from tier II and rural areas. Agriculture to aerospace, they are all in there.
And the thinking behind Elevate100?
Priyank Kharge: Bengaluru fosters innovation and startups. Our state is right ahead in fostering entrepreneurs and have aggressively pushed for collaboration of startups. Our startup policy is comprehensive for budding entrepreneurs and a dedicated Start Up Cell provides extensive services like legal and accounting advice, mentoring, incubator options, subsidized tariffs and also seed funding. The Government of Karnataka is committed to provide the most conducive environment for investments and acceleration across all verticals to ensure we remain the leaders in technology and innovation.
As a state with Rs 400 crore kept aside for startups, we collaborate and connect startups and give them a platform. We have fostered cross border incubation programs. We have tied up with Boston, Australia, London, Israel, Hague, Singapore and others right across…the globe. Collaborations will help startups get a global perspective. We remain sector agnostic and are open to innovation from all. Never before have we had gaming studios, original IP content, for comics, for animation. No one else is looking at those. We are right ahead of the curve on identifying the new sectors.