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UT Incubator Changes Landscape for Indian Startups

McCombs MBAs on a visit to Nexus

A new incubator is bringing Texan entrepreneurial knowledge to a group of promising Indian startups.

This spring, MBAs from the McCombs School of Business saw those startups firsthand during a visit to the Nexus Incubator in India. The incubator, the result of a collaboration between the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and The University of Texas at Austin, graduated its first cohort of 10 startups on July 21. Its aim: to foster the growth of Indian startups, entrepreneurship, and technology commercialization by teaching founders U.S. business concepts. Nexus works with financially sustainable companies poised to solve problems in India, such as improving access to health care, offering better public transportation, and creating jobs.

For many Nexus founders, this was their first entrepreneurial venture.

The startups were chosen from over 113 applications. They underwent an intense 10-week training program that featured workshops led by expert speakers and industry leaders from India and the U.S. 

Connecting MBA Students with Emerging Markets

Although Nexus is relatively new, Business, Government, and Society Professor Kishore Gawande sees its potential to offer MBA students hands-on international business experience. 

Gawande took graduate students in his Business and Global Political Economy class (BGS 374) to India for two weeks during spring break. McCombs MBAs met with local founders, incubators, and companies.

"My intention was to check out the Indian startup ecology because it’s slowly picking up speed," says Gawande. "Our students and the startups in India want to interact with each other."

Gawande is optimistic this excursion can become a bridge for MBA students to gain work experience abroad in India's emerging economy. 

He plans to take class trips to India every two years, with the next visit planned for spring 2019. These trips will expose students to startups, potential collaborations, foreign business practices, and other growing industries in India.

Developing India’s Future

Nexus came about after Craig Dicker, head of public affairs in the U.S.  Department of State in India, came to a realization: The U.S. Embassy's library housed thousands of books that sat underutilized by locals. Dicker started thinking about how this space, located in a prime downtown location, could be better leveraged for the local community.

He spoke with Sid Burback, former head of the Global Commercialization Group at the IC2 Institute at UT. The two realized the need for a business incubator for Indian startups.

In recent years, while there has been growth in entrepreneurship in India, there are few true business incubators.

"Startups are a very different ballgame and relatively new in India," says Azulay, director of Nexus.

For many Indian entrepreneurs, access to venture capitalists, sponsors and other potential avenues of funding is practically nonexistent.

The Nexus program hopes to change this by teaching founders how to market their company, perfect business pitches, engage with investors, and scale their business.

For Texas MBA students, this presents an opportunity for potential leadership roles managing operations or finance and connecting Indian startups to venture capitalists and investors.

"Although India ranks third in the world in number of startups, the innovation ecosystem in many cities, Delhi included, is very fragmented," says Azulay. "Nexus is our way of bringing the various stakeholders together to work in a concerted way."

Meet Members of the First Nexus Cohort

Chakr Innovation: A pollution control device that captures up to 90 percent of pollutants emitted from diesel generators, which can then be distilled into raw material for inks and paints.

Dhakka Brakes: A retro-fittable device for rickshaws that stores potential energy while braking and releases that momentum upon release of the brakes, allowing rickshaw cycles to move more efficiently.

Rays Enserv: A clean-tech startup that converts used plastic into synthetic fuels for industrial use.

Saral Usna: The company created a steam-based rice parboiling device that allows the grain to maintain more of its nutrients.

Venketesh Biosciences: Developed "Swasth DHA," a vegetarian water-soluble powder that can be used to enhance health products than contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

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