Interviews

An incubator lends credibility and legitimacy to early stage Startups – Ambarish Datta

BSE Institute Ltd. is a 100% owned subsidiary of Bombay Stock Exchange which operates a successful incubator which helps in bringing the best practices in operating a world class incubator. It has helped over 180 companies start up, raise more than 40 million dollars and create 3000+ new jobs over the last few years.

Along with Atal Innovation mission grant, BSE Institute has recently enabled setting up of ‘Atal Incubation Center- Mahamana Foundation for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. It will be a first of its kind in the region and will focus in key domains critical to the local region related to citizen services, eGovprojects etc, which new startups could work on and provide possible solutions.

Ambarish Datta is the MD & CEO of BSE Institute. Prior to taking up this assignment, Ambarish headed the Technology Aided Learning group at Reliance Retail Limited. He has also handled various portfolios in the IT and learning solutions space. He has extensive experience in sales & execution of technology solutions. 

In an interaction with IncubateIND, Ambarish Datta talks about the role of incubators in the startups ecosystem. Read On!

Tell us something about yourself and what does BSE Institute do?

I am the founder, Managing Director & CEO of the BSE Institute Ltd. BSE Institute Ltd. is a 100% subsidiary of the Bombay Stock Exchange and offers training in the Finance and Financial markets domain. The institute was set up as a department of the stock exchange in 1989 and has been a leader in offering financial education to investors, students, market operators and government officials. Since 2010, the Institute was spinned off as a separate company.

Prior to taking up this assignment, I headed the Technology Aided Learning group at Reliance Retail Limited, where I was responsible for the nationwide roll out of e-learning and blended learning programs that covered a wide range of learners from shop floor staff to senior managers., I have also handled various portfolios in the IT and learning solutions space. I have extensive experience in sales & execution of technology solutions.
I am an alumnus of the SMP program from IIM Kolkata and have over 25 years of experience.

  • The institute now focuses on skills, education and innovation.

In skills, BIL conducts a wide range of programs ranging from 1 day workshops to 3 months certificate programs in financial markets and fintech. It currently is one of the largest catalog provider of short term programs in the world with almost 100+ course offerings. In addition, BIL assists state governments to implement skill development program under the national skills program.  BIL, also the founder of the BFSI Sector Skill Council of India, the nodal body under NSDC is working to implement PMKVY and other skill programs.

In education, BIL offers multiple master level programs including a Master’s in Global Financial Markets, Master’s in Financial Technology, PG in Banking and Finance. It also offers twinning programs with Universities in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada for master level students.

In innovation, BIL is the promoter of Zone startups India – the world’s first startup accelerator housed in a stock exchange. In the last four years, it has incubated close to 160+ startups and have raised close to 40 M USD for the community. In addition, BIL has recently set up a new startup incubator along with Niti Ayog and BHU, Benaras under the Atal Innovation Mission.

How many startups are connected at this point of time?

Through our JV with Ryerson Futures of Canada we have incubated over 160 + startups over the last 4 years.

What advantage do you think startups from incubators have over the regular startups?

The biggest challenge faced by startups at an early stage is validation, mentorship, industry connects and investor access. While many startups may choose to operate from their homes or coffee shops, an incubator lends credibility and legitimacy to several early-stage ventures and, more importantly, is able to forge relationships and connections that help startups surge forward.

What do you look for in a startup as you evaluate it for BSE Incubator?

An idea that leverages technology to solve a problem and will create a huge impact; some unique insight that is durable and sound; and a cofounding team that I believe can deliver.

What are the hurdles that keep people away from starting an entrepreneurial career?

People who have a stable career find it scary to take this leap of faith. Walking away from a promising, steady long-term opportunity for something unpredictable is scary, especially if you’ve never run a business before. Secondly the fear that they may not be able to raise the finances to convert their idea into a product or service and sustain it.

What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs?

An entrepreneur, is expected to come up with well thought out ideas which are detailed out and executable. When a competitor emerges, it will be the entrepreneur’s responsibility to come up with a suitable plan of action to counter it. When the team hits an impenetrable obstacle, it is the entrepreneur’s job to come up with an alternative plan to move forward. This demands on-the-spot creative thinking, since entrepreneurs rarely have the luxury of time. The less experience you have, the more pressure you’ll feel from this, and the harder time you’ll have coming up with acceptable plans. So new entrepreneurs need to keep this in mind and work on honing their thinking and analytical skills. I think it is worth investing time and effort in acquiring skills in using techniques like Googles Design Sprint methodology. This can help new entrepreneurs quickly navigate through problems and move from problem to solution using a step by step process.

What qualities do you try to find in the mentors you select to come work with the startups?

I believe that a mentor is a critical investment required to guide a startup. When entrepreneurs are mentored their chance of success is significantly enhanced. I look for mentors with the ability to identify challenges and potential bottlenecks and help the mentee navigate the same.  Identifying a mentor who is from the same or related industry helps. This type of mentor has already walked in the mentee’s shoes; he or she can help address industry-dependent challenges like managing finances and choosing suppliers. These individuals rarely mentor full time, but their one-on-one advice can be invaluable, especially in niche fields.

As for startups, in your opinion, what makes a startup become the next big thing?

A startup idea which is well thought through and is addressing a unique but significant problem; a deep-seated, unflinching belief that you’ve figured out how to become a game changer and realized that it is actually possible. Someone who has worked out the concrete steps that need to be taken and committed to follow the identified path.

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