how this incubator in Uttarakhand builds strong and scalable startups

how this incubator in Uttarakhand builds strong and scalable startups

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Rahul Nainwal is the Chief Govt Officer of the Runway Incubator. He’s additionally the co-founder of iVolunteer and has been concerned with the India Fellow program, UnLtd Delhi startup Incubator, and Cashrelief.

Runway is an incubation initiative by the UPES (The College of Petroleum & Power Research) Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UCIE). UCIE has been recognised by the Authorities of Uttarakhand as a enterprise incubator. UCIE can be a member of the College Enterprise Incubator (UBI) World platform.

Rahul is a TED Fellow, an alumnus of Institute of Rural Administration (IRMA), Oxford College, and THNK (The Amsterdam College of Artistic Management). He’s additionally an angel investor and mentor to early-stage startups.

[This article is part of Startup Hatch, a series launched in 2013 by YourStory featuring incubators, accelerators, makerspaces, and coworking spaces in the startup ecosystem. See profiles of initiatives at IIT BombayIIM Bangalore, BITS PilaniNIDIIIT-Bangalore, NetApp Excellerator, Sandbox Startups, Brigade REAP, Target India Accelerator, Maersk, Afthonia Lab, IISC-SID, and Ashoka Innovators.]

Rahul joins us on this prolonged interview on the function of Runway, alternatives for entrepreneurs, pandemic resilience, and plans for the long run. Edited excerpts under:

UPES Take Off Occasion Panel Dialogue

Table of Contents

YourStory (YS): What was the founding imaginative and prescient of your incubator, and the way is it supported?

Rahul Nainwal (RN): In his many addresses to the nation, the Prime Minister has urged the youth to suppose out of the field, depend on indigenous options, and play a extra proactive function in shaping the economic system.

Aligning with the decision of being ‘vocal for native’, Runway was launched to work with startups inside and out of doors of UPES on their concepts and assist them transition into robust, scalable and profitable companies.

Runway seeks to assist budding entrepreneurs by way of the early phases of constructing a startup. It would present mentoring, monetary, in addition to authorized assist till they’ve constructed one thing spectacular sufficient to boost capital. At UPES, we simply don’t wish to put together our college students as job seekers, however we additionally need them to be job creators. The presence of an incubator in campus will give college students publicity to disruptive considering and modern know-how.

Our purpose is to assist good innovators get by way of the early phases of organising a startup and attain the purpose the place they’ve made a product/service spectacular sufficient to boost cash. This will probably be performed by way of a mixture of mentorship, grants and investments, authorized and incorporation assist, and allocation of area to work.

In April this yr, Runway initiated its first pre-incubation cohort in a two-day occasion hosted at UPES, with 82 startup concepts chosen from over 400 functions. Within the first spherical of pitching, eight startups out of the chosen 82 raised greater than Rs 70 lakh from a bunch of traders.

UPES College of Enterprise and Runway incubator got here collectively to organise ‘Take Off’ in Could this yr, a startup competitors held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi earlier this yr. The occasion supplied an ideal platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their concepts, interact, deliberate, and study to develop their enterprise with seasoned traders and consultants.

‘Take Off’ had invited startup concepts from round India and acquired an amazing response of near 400 functions, of which 16 had been shortlisted. Two successful startup ideas–GoFresh by Mrityunjay Baksh Singh and Metaskate by Anupam Tomar–were handed money prizes.

Equally, Runway plans on organising extra occasions and supporting startups and aspiring entrepreneurs by way of its numerous initiatives.

Entrepreneurs getting their successful prize

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YS: Which startups have graduated out of your incubator to this point?

RN: Homversity, based by Saurav Sinha, offers a one-stop answer for the coed lodging drawback in India. Backed by the Authorities of Gujarat, Homversity not too long ago closed a funding at greater than Rs 80 crore valuation and are presently operational in over 25 cities.

Pension Box, based by Kuldeep Parashar, is a digital pension platform for the non-public workforce. It has been funded by100x.VC & Angel Traders with $160,000 to construct the product and rent a staff. Their staff grew from two to 10 in February 2022. They’re anticipated to cross 500,000 customers by year-end and 50+ staff members.

Mulya Creation, based by Alisha Maindoliya, is a homegrown clothes model from the Himalayas, within the valley of Uttarakhand. They produce 100% eco-dyed materials with discarded flowers and fruit peels. Mulya can be actively concerned in coaching ladies artisans to realize abilities for monetary independence. They’ve been granted round Rs 10 lakh from the Authorities of Uttarakhand.

FitBread India, based by Aditya Kashyap, makes health breads in several flavours like Indian masala, herbs and garlic. Their uncooked supplies are sourced from Himalaya villages. They’re ‘dedicated to be related’ to those communities.

YS: Which startups are presently being incubated?

RN: Agrijoy, based by Priyanshu Jain, is a hydroponics answer supplier, ranging from a four-planter setup to 44,000+ crops. It offers all-round assist to the grower from seed to plate. Agrijoy has initiatives in numerous states and has a worldwide viewers of 15,000+. They function the most important hydroponics farm in Uttarakhand.

PDA, based by Smita Taneja, is a movement useful trend model that works on numerous segments from dance and efficiency put on to yoga and swimwear. It presents customised activewear options by dimension and top.

Pieux, based by Pratyush Kumar, makes use of cutting-edge 3D printing know-how to construct and design eyewear. The eyewear might be upgraded by modularity and interchangeability of components, as in Lego.

Indian Hemp Store, based by Siddharth Gupta, is an ecommerce platform and market for hemp merchandise. Greater than 10 main corporations have been onboarded, corresponding to Boheco and India Hemp and Co.

AAGYO, based by Mukul Mehta, is a supply app for groceries, meals, medicines, make-up, and trend buying.

College students presenting their startup concepts

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YS: What’s the profile of the managers of your incubator?

RN: Senior Supervisor Mohit Nagpal is a submit graduate engineer, mentor, and information to many startups. He additionally executes operational and engagement methods for the complete ecosystem neighborhood, together with startups, traders, corporates, mentors, advisors, and material consultants.


Incubation Supervisor Dr Manjari Chaturvedi is an academician and a mentor. A Fulbright alumnus, she manages the incubation program at UPES. She has labored with startups in branding, advertising and marketing, and constructing social media presence, and is obsessed with making a market-ready startup ecosystem pushed by innovation.


Incubation Supervisor Khushboo Jogani is a design skilled, educator, and mentor. She has additionally been an energetic member for TiE Ladies Entrepreneurs Surat, and initiatives like Fuckup Nights and PechaKucha in numerous cities of Gujarat. She has 18 years of {industry} expertise in product innovation, model id creation, and model fairness constructing.


Incubation Supervisor Vikash Kumar is an entrepreneur and marketing consultant. He’s the co-founder of Outdoor for Studying and Growth, an experiential studying startup. A Naropa Fellow, Vikash co-founded Skillgram in the course of the pandemic with incubation assist from IIT Mandi. In 2018, Vikash bicycled 2,200 km throughout Jammu and Ladakh to boost funds for a non-profit that helps early schooling. 

YS: What would you say are the highest three alternatives for Indian entrepreneurs?

RN: The quickly increasing home market guarantees alternatives in e-commerce, logistics, health-tech, internet applied sciences, and digital leisure.

Nonetheless, at Runway, we consider that issues that want concepts to unravel them are sector agnostic. An thought may match and be grown right into a profitable startup even when it isn’t distinctive or within the prime rising sectors.

Individuals of Runway Incubator

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YS: What are the important thing challenges confronted by startups in India, and how are you going to assist bridge the hole?

RN: Poor income technology is among the challenges. Runway ensures that startups are capable of concentrate on and leverage their aggressive benefits by enabling them to develop, maintain and generate capital.

Constructing a pan-Indian startup can be tough due to market range and digital divides. Runway helps in regional market understanding and connects for the startups.

There’s a lack of applicable methods to counter competitors. Runway offers understanding and abilities to analyse the market and devise appropriate branding methods and contingency plans.

Startups additionally want to search out market niches. Runway, with its college analysis scholarship, allows startups with market analysis to allow reaching out to the precise segmentation for his or her merchandise.

YS: What are the distinctive challenges for social entrepreneurs as in comparison with tech or profit-led enterprises?

RN: Lack of funding or, lack of understanding in regards to the present funding alternatives, are the distinguished challenges.

As well as, poor affect administration resulting from decentralised knowledge, lack of a enterprise technique resulting from inadequate understanding about targets and feasibility, in addition to incapability to scale up are different elements challenges for social entrepreneurs.

YS: What’s the choice standards for startups in your incubator?

RN: We search for founders with intuitive drawback fixing, concepts that present worth to the lots, concepts with lesser competitors or that may have the primary mover’s benefit, concepts that clear up present issues extra effectively or have an modern method to a aggressive space, sustainability of the thought, and disruptive founders.

Rahul Nainwal

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YS: Who’re a few of your institutional companions, and what sorts of agreements are in place?

RN: We now have partnerships with a lot of organisations.

Startup Uttarakhand is an initiative of Authorities of Uttarakhand to create an ecosystem and assist the startups within the state. As a recognised Startup Incubator and Nodal Company of Startup Uttarakhand, Runway is the primary stage screening company for the startups to be recognised by the Authorities of Uttarakhand. As well as, Runway additionally incubates and helps startups recognised by Startup Uttarakhand.

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Dehradun chapter is a non-profit organisation dedicated to entrepreneurs in all industries, in any respect phases, from incubation, all through the entrepreneurial life cycle. Runway is the educational constitution member of TiE Dehradun. Our startups profit from the mentorship of TiE traders and chartered members.

Headstart Community is India’s largest volunteer-driven grass root stage organisation supporting entrepreneurship and startups with a presence in 20+ cities. It has carried out 200+ meetups throughout India impacting over 20,000 lives by way of its actions. Runway is the innovation and incubation accomplice of HEADSTART and our incubated startups actively participates in pitching occasions, webinars, and networking occasions.

Because the licensed accomplice of Startup Weekend, a programme by the operational investor Techstar, Runway organises the three-day program, the place aspiring entrepreneurs expertise startup life. Startups additionally get the chance to attach with mentors globally.

The India Community is a platform for individuals from throughout the startup spectrum to attach, collaborate and study for aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers, artisans, college students, startups and traders throughout the nation, in addition to enterprise house owners and influencers. Rahul Narvekar, Founder and CEO of the Indian Community can be a mentor at Runway.

Ladies’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Trade (WICCI) boosts and builds ladies’s entrepreneurship and companies by way of higher engagement with authorities, establishments, international commerce and networks. Runway has shared an LoI with Startup Uttarakhand Council. Ladies entrepreneurs incubated at Runway participates in numerous networking and ability constructing occasions organised by WICCI.

Runway is the incubation accomplice of FICCI FLO to encourage and assist ladies entrepreneurs in Uttarakhand and set up an enabling ecosystem for ladies to arrange companies within the state.

YS: What assist and providers do startups obtain in your incubator?

RN: We offer infrastructure assist, co-working area, assembly rooms, convention rooms, Wi-Fi, printers, and so forth.

We additionally give entry to providers corresponding to labs, library, recommendation from material consultants, funding alternatives, and Rs 1 lakh grant for prototype growth to all of the incubatees.

YS: What sorts of IP are being created by your startups?

RN: Startups at Runway have been working in various like metaverse, deeptech, healthtech, and edtech, in addition to sustainable trend and natural Himalayan merchandise.

They’re creating options for delivering natural fertilisers to crops, and offering mechanised options for sowing small fields. Being a sector and site agnostic incubator, Runway has enabled creation of IP that features patents, emblems, and copyrights.

Panel dialogue on startups (Left: Rahul Nainwal, moderator)

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YS: How would you differentiate your incubator from the opposite incubators within the discipline?

RN: As in comparison with different incubators, Runway has the benefit of catering to a number of domains underneath one roof.

With a college to assist the incubator, Runway has a spread of technical experience and mentoring to supply to the startups in addition to alternatives to its college students, college members, and workers to actively ideate and be part of the startup ecosystem.

YS: What are among the challenges you face, and the way do you propose to beat them?

RN: As one of many first incubators within the hilly state of Uttarakhand and in Dehradun, assembly the necessity for incubation for the variety of startups from the area is a problem.

This requires Runway to always broaden its capability in addition to its potential to nurture startups in all sectors, in addition to type outreach partnerships each inside and out of doors the state.

YS: What would you outline as success to your incubator?

RN: With the ability to advance the disruptive innovation economic system and strengthen the youth-led entrepreneurial ecosystem would outline Runway’s success

YS: How do you evaluate and distinction India’s incubators with these of different international locations just like the US and China?

RN: Although India does rank third, after the US and China by way of the variety of startups, the hole remains to be vast.

For instance, in India there are about 140 incubators, whereas within the USA, there are about 1,500 incubators. Equally, China offers a startup visa to ask entrepreneurs whereas in India, regardless of the fast-track and one window streamlined clearances course of, there may be nonetheless extreme paperwork stalling the expansion of startups.

Additionally, incubators in India are taxed like different corporations and are obligated to bear a number of direct and oblique taxes together with a company tax of 25% plus surcharge. Incubators in China pay company tax as little as 10% relying upon the size of their operations and are prolonged loans at low rates of interest.

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YS: What are your plans for the approaching years with respect to new startups?

RN: At current, Runway has 120 startups in its cohort. Within the subsequent 5 years, the variety of startups within the ecosystem would enhance five-fold.         

YS: What challenges has the pandemic posed for Indian startups? And on the similar time, what new alternatives are opening up? How are you positioning your self right here on this regard?

RN: COVID-19 created provide disruptions majorly for startups, which induced many to even shut down resulting from unsustainability in an unpredictable surroundings. But, the pandemic additionally ushered in large progress in sure sectors like edtech and healthtech in addition to internet applied sciences and digital media content material creation providers.

The flip in the direction of digital is a key focus space for Runway. A extra curated incubation program that gives higher entry to the market, mentor connection, and prototype growth assist within the subsequent 5 years with two to a few unicorns to emerge is the imaginative and prescient of Runway.

YS: How can higher partnerships be solid between incubators, {industry}, and universities?  

RN: Universities can develop collaborations with {industry} and supply options to industry-relevant issues by way of incubators, the place startups can function efficient options.

YS: What are your suggestions for Indian policymakers to make enterprise simpler for incubators, traders, researchers, and startups in India?  

RN: India has a complete startup coverage that’s being meticulously applied to allow startups to get most profit from authorities and ecosystem assist. Nonetheless, we nonetheless want to achieve out to the outliers and distant areas in addition to entrepreneurial people from rural areas to allow a grassroot startup revolution as a lot as a top-down trickle of the advantages of a startup pushed economic system.

YS: What are your suggestions or phrases of inspiration to the startups and entrepreneurs in our viewers?

RN: Purpose to be creative in going past the unicorn funding norms and turning into the decacorns that may additionally thrive on independence!

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