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Is Pune the next startup hub?

Just a few years ago, if you wanted to do something big, you had to move to a Mumbai or Delhi. Cut to 2016 and we see the geographical barriers breaking down. The savvy entrepreneurs of today are doing their homework to create the ideal environment for start-up success – they are hunting for a perfect combination of technology, innovation and socio-economic ingredients that guarantee success.

Outside of the usual suspects, Pune has seen a steady rise in start-ups and is now considered in the likes of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Jaipur as far as Startup India is concerned. So what about Pune has made Startup India work? We spoke with entrepreneurs across the city, and here is what they had to say:

Pune is a city that believes in value for money

“I knew as an entrepreneur who was looking for a strong tech community, a young market, close proximity to a bigger city and value for money, Pune was the perfect fit for me” says Sahil Khan, founder of Quinto, a crowdsourced dish discovery app for iOS & Android, that helps you search for and rate the best dishes around you. He continues, “It was not too difficult to find a team of young techies, an affordable co-working space and a market that was willing to experience our product.” Esha Gokhale, founder of AdBulb Marketing, a social media management and marketing consultancy agrees with Sahil “Relatively cheaper infrastructure costs along with good connectivity and a growing economy with minimal entry barriers make Pune favourable for a startup”

Pune : The Startup Village

According to Asa Ferreira, founder of an online marketing agency that goes by the name of Socio Loca, Pune has it all – unlimited skill, energy, a strong market and the history of success stories to motivate. “Once you put the plan to action, support comes in from all sides. Take the first step and others follow suit. It might be overwhelming to start off, but there is a lot of motivation around in the form of staff, success stories and networking opportunities.”

Cheap labour has made things easy

Pune : The Startup Village

Sahil thinks that a lot boils down to the fact that hiring cheap labour in Pune has made the startup culture a success. “There is no dearth of dedicated engineering students who will work at lower incomes when compared to big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore. Pune has reputed colleges like College Of Engineering Pune, Pune Institute of Computer Technology, Maharashtra Institute of Technology, Symbiosis International University and Vishwakarma Institute of Technology which are producing graduates every year who are ready to join the startup race”

Some prefer the quality of life

Pune : The Startup Village

Anshul Motwani decided to pack his bags and come to Pune to start Witty Pen, a content management firm. “I could have gone to any city in the country, but Pune made sense to me because the quality of life here was excellent. I don’t have to sit in long traffic jams all evening or pay hefty rents. There is something available here for every income group. You can eat a vada pav for 10 bucks or enjoy a buffet for Rs. 1200 at a star hotel, you get to choose your lifestyle!”

Sahil agrees, “Pune is compact, liberal, green and relatively quiet in comparison to most Indian cities. The quality of life here is important.”

Some love the availability of young blood

Pune : The Startup Village

“The population of Pune is growing. Many innovative ideas are driven by young people. This young blood comes in the form of innovation in business as well as acceptance in the consumers market” says Ritika Guha, founder of Creative Guilds, a photography studio. “Pune has a strong credential as far as vibrancy in the business environment is concerned.”

The startup community is supportive

Pune has a bunch of startup communities that aim at getting entrepreneurs together. These communities organise networking events that result in a lot of ideas and knowledge being exchanged. Few of the communities include The Pune Open Coffee Club, TiE Pune, Startup Saturday Pune, PuneTech.com, PuneConnect. The best part about these communities is that they all work together.

Pune : The Startup Village

But not all is hunky dory in the startup ecosystem in Pune. We’ve all heard of the struggles where founders make ends meet by living on a diet of instant noodles for days on end. Our entrepreneurs have some interesting challenges to point out as well.

The need for more angel investors

Pune : The Startup Village

Even after the close proximity to Mumbai, there is a lack of angels in the city who can help in funding. Smita Jirgale, founder of Workout.Cash, a mobile app for fitness, agrees with us. “Investors in Mumbai would rather invest in Mumbai than in Pune.”

Entrepreneurs are not too keen on marketing

Pune : The Startup Village

“It takes a lot of time and effort to market yourself. Hence, we tend to lack in that as we are so busy dressing up our clients in the best possible way. Pune has a slow acceptance towards start-ups which again puts us in a tough spot as only good marketing can save you here,” says Nikita Sharma, co-founder of Upside Down Designs, a clothing brand.

Entrepreneurs in the city want to get out

Another challenge a lot of startups in Pune seem to face is the lack of desire to seek out beyond the city ecosystem. Smita continues, “ Pune startups traditionally lack collaboration and outreach with other city startups (like companies from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Gurgaon). Pune is always looked at as good talent pool but somehow OPD (Services companies) are favourites in the community. Access to fresh talent for startups is very less as most colleges prefer giving placement slots to OPD giants.”

Pune : The Startup Village

Another teething problem in Pune is the lack of internet infrastructure. Smita points out, “Many core areas in Pune have poor or no 4G coverage and people have to rely on Broadband connections!”

One might also notice that although there is  a large pool of graduates waiting to join the startup culture, they are culturally and traditionally trained to be comfortable in a conventional job, something they realise once they step foot into the startup industry.

Because culturally, an average Puneite would stick to a conventional job. And that’s where the problem lies.

This article was first published here. 

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