John Hoffmire: Please tell me about the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development (CIED) at Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH).
Abha Rishi: John, the central mission of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development (CIED) is to prepare men and women to lead, innovate, and think entrepreneurially in business, as well as in public and social service, to be job creators, and role models. Whether it is the individual entrepreneur, or an ‘intrapreneurial’ professional employee who provides the innovative ideas needed to grow an existing company, or someone in governmental leadership, it is the ability to envision a future, to be driven by a mission, to think innovatively about the mundane, and to move forward with self-confidence that India needs to retain its greatness.
John: Is there is an incubation center that is associated with CIED?
Abha: Yes, in 2017 we received a government grant from the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), to create the Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) at BIMTECH. The center is a partnership with academia and government, with high-class incubation facilities and suitable infrastructure in terms of capital equipment and operating facilities.
AIC-BIMTECH has divided their startup program into three categories according to the stages of a start-up, and has developed each program specific to the needs, requirements, and support for that stage of the enterprise. The first program is KHOJ, which works on the proper molding of a newly hatched idea into a feasible business plan. The GURUKUL program focuses on building a company around the idea and finally, the UDAAN program exists to help the company scale up into different markets or an adjacent offering, helping to extend the roots of the company so it can further develop and grow. The three names, Khoj, Gurukul and Udaan are Hindi words which mean Search, School and Soar, respectively.
Each program is carefully customized and tweaked regularly to keep up with the current requirements of the startups. AIC-BIMTECH also offers a co-living facility to the incubated startups, which provides them access to the residential infrastructure akin to the students of BIMTECH.
John: What do you find most rewarding working with CIED and the Atal Incubation Center?
Abha: There are so many things that it’s a hard question to answer. I would have to say that combining the education component of CIED with the hands-on experience at the Atal Incubation Centre has been particularly exciting to be involved with. In three years, the incubation centre has received more than 1500 direct applications and has supported 81 startups since its operations began in January 2018. AIC-BIMTECH has created 331 jobs via the incubated startups that have also received 14 awards. It has also initiated 77 partnerships, brought in 33 mentors, and has seen 11 incubates raise funds to the tune of INR 9.29 crores (approx. $1.2 million USD). This has been due to the focus on the partnerships created within the ecosystem. AIC-BIMTECH not only brings aboard partners from all spheres to provide support structure for the incubated startups, but there are many international partners in place for creating a market access network to broaden their horizon. We also partner with academic institutes to encourage budding entrepreneurs and equip them with the right tools and mindset required for the tedious entrepreneurial journey. These partnerships have helped us in offering our incubatees free benefits to the tune of INR 8.63 crores (approx. $1.1 million USD).
This success has further inspired us at BIMTECH to keep building an ecosystem to encourage high quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship. We consider ourselves to be an evolving, innovative organization that initiates, facilitates and empowers entrepreneurship development.
John: Tell me about your time with the Chevening Research, Science and Innovation Leadership Fellowship (CRISP) program.
Abha: In 2014, I was awarded a Chevening (UK) scholarship to study as a fellow of the CRISP program at Oxford University. Back then the program was affiliated with Oxford’s SAID Business School and was a ten-week program that focused on science, innovation, leadership and management, as well as wider issues including global challenges, politics, and international relations. It was tremendously helpful in preparing me for the work I’m doing now with the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development and the Atal Incubation Centre at the International Business at Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH).
John: It’s exciting to see the great work a CRISP alum is doing and I congratulate you on the success of CIED, the Atal Incubation Center, as well as the projects in the village and the prisons.
Abha: Thank you, John.
Dr. Abha Rishi is the Chairperson for the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development, and CEO of the Atal Incubation Centre at BIMTECH. She is also an alum of the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Fellowship (CRISP) program at Oxford University (2014)
Interviewer: Dr. John Hoffmire is the Chairman of the Center on Business and Poverty, and Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business
 ‘Chiraiya’ means a small female sparrow in Hindi
 ‘Uthan’ means regeneration or creating a new development