Start-ups developing education, healthcare solutions emerging from Tier 2 cities: Salma Moosa

The founder of Startups Club, a company that provides mentoring as a service to early-stage start-ups, feels enthusiastic about the emergence of entrepreneurial talent in smaller cities of India

The biggest challenge for a start-up today is reaching out to investors, mentors and customers. Every entrepreneur today looks for a one-stop service provider for all his needs   

Salma Moosa
Founder, Managing Director, Startups Club

Indian start-up sector has grown sporadically over the past decade owing to the rise in opportunities across the world. Indian start-ups are rapidly gearing up and have become one of the key markets to trade and commerce. According to a report by the ministry of MSME, the sector employs more than 80 million people across 36 million units and contributes over 45 per cent to manufacturing and over 40 per cent to Indian export sector. It also contributes 8 per cent to Indian GDP.

SME Futures had a conversation with Founder and MD of Startups Club Salma Moosa, on a range of topics including issues and opportunities facing the start-up sector in India and why it is still a long journey.

How do you see Indian startups tackling leadership issues?

Start-ups these days struggle with mentorship. They do not have any strong practical mentoring that will help them to overcome challenges and encourage them to move ahead. Investors also have low appetite to invest. They are not keen to invest in early stage start-ups. Also, start-ups do not have a proper team of people to ideate and innovate, as they can not be great paymasters.

The biggest challenge is bringing in the culture of self-motivation among entrepreneurs. They lack the courage to encourage themselves. And there is a high expectation on the communities, family and even investors to push or motivate them. Start-ups do not create their products for the masses they create specific business solutions.

What is the right combination of qualities that start-ups need today to succeed?

There is a need to bring in a system in place that will give a free way to early-stage entrepreneurs to move ahead with their start-ups, with the same passion as they had started out. It has often seen that when an entrepreneur launches his start-up, the biggest challenge for him is to reach out to investors, mentors and customers. It is also critical for early-stage entrepreneurs to be able to avail services such as banking, communications, technology, CA, CS and legal support. They require different service providers at affordable cost. Startups Club plans to become one-stop service provider for every entrepreneur. We intend to clearly have a platform that will have the combination of things to ensure they get the space, time and energy they need to work on their core business.

What’s the landscape of start-ups like in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities?

India is maturing as start-up hub in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities have now become unstoppable. Several start-ups are leveraging emerging technologies such as AI, big data and analytics, cloud, machine learning and many more to build in some best in class technology start-ups. Also, many start-ups are developing technologies that address vital problems around education, healthcare, financial inclusion, energy utilization, etc.

The deep impact of the start-up space is felt in creating employment opportunities. With the continued support of global investors and local talent, the Indian IT start-up space will grow fruitfully over the next three to five years. The IT industry is looking for a wave of disruption and the start-up space is the one bringing it.

What are your recommendations for Indian policymakers to make life easier for the start-ups?

There is a lot spoken out there on things that would be provided to the start-ups, incubators, accelerators, investors and researchers but when you actually touch the ground level reality, there is hardly anything being done or accessible. There is so much more to be achieved. I think, if the system actually gets down to automating the process of having all the eco-system players in one open platform, enabling an easy access, easy discovery and making it more simple to avail the various grants, subsidiaries and benefits, it will enable the ecosystem to mature faster.

How does Startups Club bring difference to the sector with its initiatives and what is the level of engagement from the start-up community?

Startups Club is the podium for start-ups from napkin stage to growth stage which enables connection, collaboration, funding and networking for emerging entrepreneurs across India. The platform has over 20,000 members including students, across 20 different cities in India.

We connect entrepreneurs to other founders, mentors, investors, and also with early customers. From the last five years, we have been working with VIT –Vellore -Technology Business Incubator program and have been working towards helping innovation-focused start-ups in India. We work with universities through our student arm in order to encourage innovations among student entrepreneurs.

We conduct Demo Day, an event that provides entrepreneurs from various cities to network, meet key players in the ecosystem. Also, there are monthly Roadshows across various cities in India to aware, encourage and motivate emerging entrepreneurs to participate in Demo Day.

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