Sunil Abraham from CIS led this breakout session along with Khushboo Hasija from CKS. It focused on the question of how best to incubate startups that focus on the grand challenges of society. The logic of this session is to build on the panel discussion on Startups and Entrepreneurship from the second edition of Design Public. There, we talked about the enormous disconnect between the kinds of ventures that entrepreneurs and startup businesses are undertaking, and kinds of social challenges and needs that continue to exist in both rural and urban India.
There is an urgent need for people trained in management, innovation and design to marry their knowledge with the situation on the ground. They need to develop a much richer understanding of the current situation on the ground, and thereafter provide guidance on production, marketing and distribution models which are all operating at the grassroots level. The idea for an innovation accelerator at the grassroots level was proposed, but it was considered a bit too idealistic.
Most importantly, many models of innovation accelerators have failed because they start strong and then falter later. Some participants felt that especially in the area of social innovation, there is not a lot of room for startups to make a difference because of this lack of a sustainable model. In order to really encourage and incubate a startup ecology, participants talked about having more economic support, more mentors, a dedicated space, and more.