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Spinning success stories in entrepreneurship

By J.S. Bablu

KOZHIKODE, MAY 31. Entrepreneurial initiatives of the youth often fail to take off owing to lack of financial support and proper infrastructure. Sometimes, they may collapse midway owing to lack of proper technical guidance. It is in this context that the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at the National Institute of Technology Calicut (NITC) assumes significance.

TBIs have been successfully implemented throughout the world. It stimulates the growth of technology-based enterprises with the help of technical manpower and infrastructure available at educational and research institutions.

The Department of Science and Technology has helped the NITC, along with 13 other institutions in the country, to set up its own TBI.

The TBI-NITC was established at a cost of Rs 2.5 crores. The Department of Science and Technology has sanctioned Rs.1.55 crores for equipment and recurring cost for five years. The rest of the investment comes in the form of land, building and other infrastructure facilities provided by the NITC.

``We have roped in the expertise of the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, (IIM-K) for the establishment of the TBI. Besides, it can draw on the expertise of the highly qualified NITC faculty and talented students. They can also use state-of-the-art office infrastructure at the NITC, including furniture, connectivity, the Internet, library, computer centre and laboratory, at concession rates'' says A.V. Francis, officer on special duty, TBI-NITC.

``But the most remarkable advantage is the NITC's brand name. Besides, there would be effective networking with national and international technical institutions and incubators,'' says Preethi M, manager, TBI-NITC.

The TBI has an advisory committee with the NITC Director, S.S. Gokhale, as chairman. The IIM-K Director, Krishna Kumar, representatives of the Malabar Chamber of Commerce and Kerala Venture Capital Fund and faculty members of the NITC are members of the committee. ``Once a proposal is submitted, the subsidiary committee of the advisory committee goes through it. They would ask for a business plan once they think that the idea is viable and could be supported by the TBI. They would then enter into an agreement,'' says Ms. Preethi. Though Information Technology (IT) and electronics are the thrust areas, project proposals from other areas also would be considered based on their technology content and suitability to get incubated at the NITC. ``The units will have to move out normally after three years,'' observes Mr. Francis. Some expert opinions put IT, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, instrumentation, sensor-based electronics, embedded system, biomedical drugs and agro-biotechnology as areas that could be successfully incubated under the TBI initiative.

Two companies under two groups of youngsters have already pitched up their tents at the TBI. Suhail V.P., project manager of Core Solutions at the TBI, says that though they had launched the initiative a few months earlier in the city, they decided to move in to the TBI once it was set up at the NITC. All the members of the company are Masters of Computer Applications (MCA) from the NITC. They invested about Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 6 lakhs ever since they started their venture in October 2002. ``Now it is about 20 months and we hope to break even in the next couple of months,'' says Mr. Suhail.

They have already developed some software for schools pertaining to the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). The company is basically concentrating on education-related software.

A group of B.Tech. students who passed out from the NITC also have put up their company, `Neologic', nearby. The company was started in the city seven months ago and it is just a month old at the TBI. ``Since the TBI screens every entrepreneur on his project's viability, the companies here would have a certain degree of reliability among the customers,'' observes Ajith Kumar B of Neologic.

The company has forayed into computer clustering and web development with an investment of Rs.2.5 lakhs. The company has bagged some offers from the State Bank of India. It hopes to break even in two years.

The group of youngsters brimming with confidence at the TBI is itself an image that puts across the success story of the TBI.

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