Maharashtra scaling up measures to help startups

72 startups received work orders in last three years

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Geetanjali Minhas | February 16, 2021 | Mumbai


#skill development   #gender   #women   #MSInS   #Maharashtra   #Innovation   #economy  
S4sTechnologies implemented a project in Hatmali village in Aurangabad district where SHG used solar conduction dryers for drying local perishable vegetables. Deployment of 25 such solar conduction dryers in Aurangabad is underway.
S4sTechnologies implemented a project in Hatmali village in Aurangabad district where SHG used solar conduction dryers for drying local perishable vegetables. Deployment of 25 such solar conduction dryers in Aurangabad is underway.

In 2018 to preserve and build a cost-efficient supply chain for agro-produce and to empower rural women and farmers, the Maharashtra government entered into a pilot project with S4S Technologies Pvt Ltd. The project involved providing solar conduction dryers for drying local perishable vegetables (preserving food nutrients) to a self-help group (SHG) in Hatmali village of Aurangabad district. S4S also provided buyback linkages to these farmers.  

The Navi Mumbai-based, UN-award-winning integrated food company works in the area of contract farming, setting up dehydration units at the village level, farm-level processing, grading, sorting, and buying back entire produce. It also trains landless women farmers transforming them into “micro-entrepreneurs” by providing them technology, finance and market to sell produce.

The success of the project led to the implementation of another 25 solar conduction dryers in the village in collaboration with Aurangabad Zilla Parishad by the company.

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In 2018-19, to address delayed and incorrect diagnosis, poor prognosis, high defaulting, and increased transmission of drug resistant TB that is resistant to two of the 12 drugs, Maharashtra State Innovation Society (MSInS) along with the directorate of health services entered into a pilot project with Mumbai-based Haystack Analytics Pvt Ltd, a winner of the Maharashtra Startup Week. Sputum samples of 100 drug-resistant TB patients from JJ Hospital’s laboratory were tested using genomics. The aim was to speed up the treatment of TB by identifying correct medication to reduce the speed of the disease.

Using whole-genome sequencing, as against the existing time lag of three to six weeks, results for all the 12 drugs are available within a few days and the patient can be put on the right personalised treatment immediately. Quick diagnosis of TB can check the epidemic which claims 4 lakh lives annually. A single untreated TB patient can spread the disease to 15 others within a year.

In whole-genome sequencing, genetic material from a patient’s sputum sample is extracted and sequenced in the lab. It is then matched with a computerised database to arrive at the final results. Haystack analyses around 4.5 million data points to create a report which had amounted to about 350 Gb data in the case of the 100 patients and used big data analytics to generate individualized reports for each of them.

The effect of using genomics-based DST provides an unprecedented advantage in the Indian scenario, where mixed infections are commonly observed and which result in treatment failure despite initial positive response. Whole-genome sequence based diagnostics will enable detection of mixed infections, prediction of treatment failure and reduce medical expenses.

* * *

In August 2020 vocational training programme institutes under the Maharashtra State Skill Development Society (MSSDS) were looking for solutions to capturing real-time and accurate attendance of students across the state with no physical contact and no additional infrastructure. Due to Covid-19 it was a difficult task to deploy new system as most communication was virtual. DutyPar platform by Gladiris Technologies Pvt Ltd, a winner of the Maharashtra Startup Week, provided the required solution for the virtual training provide (VTPs).

DutyPar is easy to use, scalable artificial intelligence/machine learning-based, facial recognition attendance and leave management mobile based app which uses GPS coordinates to match the location to mark attendance. It is a hardware-independent system that can be used at any number of locations and caters to all use cases related to attendances like shifts, various locations offices, variable entry, and exit.

DutyPar is being used by more than 72,000 users with higher adoption and usage rate and close to 850 VTP centres all across Maharashtra for a period of one year. It has helped the government streamline attendance and leave management for the department by providing crucial real-time information to scheme heads with a few clicks.

* * *

Since its inception in 2018, Maharashtra State Innovation Society (MSInS) is the nodal agency for startups and innovation in the state. Set up under the department of skill development, employment and entrepreneurship, MSInS is tasked with the implementation of ecosystem development initiatives as enlisted under its startup policy.

Out of a total of 42,241 startups in India recognised by the department of promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) of the Government of India, 7,920 are in Maharashtra – the highest number for any state. The state was promoted to the leader’s category in the DPIIT Startup Ranking Framework for 2019. Since then, MSInS has been organising its annual flagship programme, Maharashtra Startup Week, wherein 24 select startups are awarded a work order for pilot project of Rs 15 lakh each – the government will procure their products or services for Rs 15 lakh each and give guidance on how their product will be deployed in concerned departments. Three editions of the startup week have taken place so far – the most recent one in August 2020. As per the NITI Aayog Innovation Index, Maharashtra has jumped from third position to second in 2020, surpassing Tamil Nadu.

The Maharashtra government’s focus areas are agriculture, healthcare, sustainability (air/water/waste management), smart infra and mobility, education and skilling, e-governance and miscellaneous. The 1,600-1,800 applications it receives are screened by its screening partners like Social Alpha, Bharat Innovation Fund, UnLtd India, Omidyar Network India Advisors, and Acumen among others. About 100 applicants are then invited to pitch in-person to a sector-specific panel. Each panel consists of experts across sectors. For example, an agri- startup will be routed to the agri-panel consisting of startup founders, persons representing corporates and senior government officials from the agriculture department.

Work orders amounting to Rs 3.6 crore are allotted every year to startups through this initiative. As many as 72 startups have received work orders over last three years. Many have completed projects and been paid for and others are work in progress. This not only gives an opportunity for the startup into the government as a customer but also helps introduce innovative products and services to various government departments.

“Instead of giving cash prizes, here we are an early customer to these startups. Milestones are set by the department in a phase-wise manner and we handhold these startups for doing pilots within the government department. Our job does not end by giving the work order. Along with these startups we attend meetings, guide them and set up their appointments, handover, etc.,” says a representative from MSInS who does not wish to be quoted.

Other initiatives
Besides promoting start-ups, MSInS is funding and handholding setup and expansion of 17 incubators across the state where each will be given grants of Rs 5 crore over a period of five years. It has set up a women entrepreneurship cell (WEC) to focus on supporting women and in its first initiative a dedicated incubation centre for women has been allocated to the SNDT University, Mumbai, in January this year.

To sustain in the competitive world and to protect proprietary technology for early startups, the IPR scheme aims to offer financial assistance of up to Rs 2 lakh for a domestic patent application and up to Rs 10 lakh for an international patent application subject to maximum 80% contribution by MSInS on a reimbursement basis.

For testing and certification of products to ensure quality and assurance for start-ups which are high  in their formative years, the scheme ensures that the state government will be reimbursing a part of quality testing costs incurred by startups at NABL or BIS recognised labs. Under this scheme, DPIIT-registered startups incorporated in Maharashtra with a lifetime annual revenue in any financial year of less than Rs 1 crore and funding of less than Rs  3 crore shall be eligible for support of maximum up to Rs 2 lakh, subject to maximum 80% contribution by MSInS.

To break the barriers of geographic location, the agency plans to set up a virtual incubation centre, a platform offering key services required for startups. To encourage college students and recent graduates to incentivise and advance their research projects, Maharashtra Ignition grants will be set up to give Rs 2 lakh to 100 early-stage researchers across the state. To support deep technology and applied research-based startups and focus on researchers with Masters, PhD or graduates working on a technical domain in the ‘entrepreneur in residence’ scheme approximately Rs 24 lakh will be given to 25 researchers over a period of 18 months split into stipend and product development grants.

Deependra Singh Kushwah, CEO MsInS, says that the government’s role is to give these start-ups a platform, opportunities and create an ecosystem and opportunity to work with the government department and start their initiative. After completion of pilot projects, some of these companies have received big orders from governments and privates and become part of the ecosystem. “Other than work orders we provide them support for patents, quality testing, and support through incubators. As it is not easy to for a new entity to enter the government ecosystem it being bound by rules and regulations through this initiative we are ensuring that only startups get an opportunity to provide solutions to the government ecosystem. In the long term, we want some changes in procurement policy so government can purchase directly from these startups and support them,” he says.

“We are also proposing a fund to support these startups, especially early-age startups, which require financial support and help them in long term. So far we were getting funds from the state’s planning department whose district-level committee allocates funds to the district, that is, Rs 200 crore-300 crore per district, out of which we get 0.5% for the Innovation Society and make provisions. Now with the changes in policy the government is making direct provisions for this initiative. In this year’s budget we have proposed around Rs 200 crore for the Innovation Society’s various initiatives. We are also proposing guidelines so that each department allocates some funds for innovation.”

Nawab Malik, skill development and entrepreneurship, minority development and Aukaf minister, said that the state government is now going to hold mass programmes across Maharashtra for implementing ‘Recognition to Prior Learning’ scheme under central government’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 2.0, so that those who have skills but do not have a certification can be upskilled with few additional hours of training and given certification. “Like the state scheme of Pramod Mahajan Kaushalya Ka Udyojakta Vikas Abhiyan, our scheme too is based on the central government policy. It could not get numbers due to Covid-19. We will be holding a programme on upgradation of ITIs. We are also coming out with a plan to give on job training for a period of three years to 1 lakh students, in which Rs 5,000 will be provided by the government and Rs 5,000 will be given by the employer.”

Speaking about the skilling of the minorities, Malik said that as the pandemic forced all departments to cut their budgets by 70%, this year his department has demanded Rs 20 crore as against Rs 60 crore last year and planned to invite expression of interest (EoI). “To promote self-help minority groups we have given a target of Rs 750 crore to the minority department and to provide a loan of Rs 2 lakh to each minority self-help group. In Maharashtra State Innovation Society we have separated the women’s department and tasked the SNDT University to set up a women’s centre. As many as 70% of skilling beneficiaries are women. We are in talks with NAB (National Association for the Blind) for skilling the visually impaired. A comprehensive plan is being made to involve CSR in skills development. We helped in the placement of 2 lakh people during the pandemic and are coming out with the Private Placement Agencies Regulatory Act.”

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