Innovation Mission Punjab () was conceptualised as a catalyst organisation in 2020 to bolster the startup ecosystem in Punjab, support startups in creating high-value jobs, and drive investment into the state.
Built as a public-private partnership, IMPunjab is collaborative in nature. Its mission is to support budding entrepreneurs and startups across Punjab through virtual and physical engagements, training, stakeholder networks, and collaboration opportunities. It also brings in resources from around the world—global mentors, prevalent toolkits, and curated content, and makes them accessible to people.
Making Punjab startup ready
“Post agri and industry boom, Punjab has missed the current economic wave i.e. tech and startups. This hasn’t resulted in investment and jobs in Punjab. The founders of Zomato, Ola, Blinkit, and Flipkart are all Punjabis but migrated to locations with developed startup ecosystems due to a lack of opportunity in Punjab,” IMPunjab’s Chairman Pramod Bhasin tells YourStory.
He explains, “Entrepreneurs from Punjab have built Indian companies with a net worth of over $50 billion and foreign companies with a net worth of more than $100 billion. While Punjabis have been at the forefront of the startup movement, Punjab has not been their headquarters. We wish to reinvigorate the risk-taking nature of Punjabis and push youngpreneurs and innovators to start up and start up in Punjab. Hence, the government and the private sector came together to form a unique partnership to offer the best-in-class platform for budding entrepreneurs.”
In its endeavour to make Punjab ready for a “startup movement”, IMPunjab is working with several stakeholders, including the Punjabi diaspora, investors, entrepreneurs, incubators, schools and colleges, business leaders, and artists. The mission says it has onboarded over 350 startups.
“We are now almost getting a startup registration a day. We actively engage with registered startups on a monthly and, at times, weekly basis by providing them constant support and achieving milestones like creating a financial model, running a pilot, and creating a GTM (go-to-market) strategy. We are constantly helping them to build their capacity and providing open source content as well as access to exclusive masterclass and webinar sessions by experts,” elaborates Pramod.
The mission is also connecting with educational institutes across the state to tap into potential talent and mentor them so that they can create “world-class startups that reach the unicorn status sooner than later,” according to Pramod.
The three pillars of the mission are Pollinator, Accelerator, and Innovation Fund.
Pollinator builds communities by bringing together stakeholders and creating networks. This helps incubators, investors, angels, industries, academia, and college e-cells leverage each other’s strengths.
“We are actively working with state-level higher-education institutions to reach out to students to form e-cells to sensitise entrepreneurship at the college level. We also conduct a Monthly Innovation Challenge across cities to identify the next youngpreneur from the region and support them throughout their journey,” says Pramod.
IMPunjab has also launched the Punjab Incubators Network for Entrepreneurs (PINE) Networking, Matchmaking and Training sessions to get incubators to support and co-incubate homegrown startups.
The second pillar, Accelerator, provides structured guidance, mentor support, piloting opportunities, capacity-building programmes, catalytic capital, and business services to support early-stage startups.
The mission is in the process of launching its first cohort of 15 startups under the IMPunjab Accelerator programme. IMPunjab will provide a structured three-month support to 15 early-revenue stage startups and also provide them Rs 3 lakh as experimental capital to validate assumptions and create scalability. The sector-agnostic programme will have startups from various sectors, including agrotech, deep tech, food processing, and edtech.
IMPunjab is also doing a city-specific event called Startup Day, across the cities of Punjab, to drive registrations. During Startup Day, participants get dedicated time with a panel of experts to get feedback on their ideas and startups. They also get to attend sessions by industry stalwarts and be part of the startup community.
As part of Innovation Fund, the third pillar, IMPunjab is planning to launch a Rs 150-crore VC fund to fund startups that fulfil the requisite criteria.
“We have already received commitments. The state government will provide an anchor of 10% of the total quantum, while the rest would be raised by us through our alliance with corporates and investors. Outside of the fund, with the support of the government, we would be providing cash awards, prototyping awards etc. to winners of various competitions to encourage more entrepreneurship and ideation,” says Pramod.
The government appointed Pramod Bhasin (Founder of Genpact, Clix Capital, and Asha Impact) to chair IMPunjab in 2020. The board also consists of Saurabh Srivastava (Nasscom, IAN, IVCA), D. S. Brar (former CEO of Ranbaxy), Dr Ajay Shah (author and chief economist), and filmmaker Bobby Bedi, along with two principal secretaries in ex-officio position.
Pramod, along with government support, eventually brought together a like-minded and passionate advisory board comprising people such as Naina Lal Kidwai (former Country Head of HSBC India), Manoj Kohli (Country Head of SoftBank India, former CEO and MD of Bharti Airtel), Rajan Anandan (MD of Sequoia Capital India, former VP at Google), Pritika Mehta (Founder of SocksSoho), Jeet Jandu (Director at India Trade and Investment), Sehraj Singh (MD of Nasper Limited/Prosus), Ido Aharoni (Israeli Diplomat, Brand Israel), Ajai Choudhary (Founder of HCL), and Jaspal Bindra (Chairman of Centrum Group).
Somveer Anand is the CEO and Mission Director of IMPunjab. He leads the team from Mohali, Chandigarh.
The road ahead
IMPunjab’s goal is to reach a working population of 14 million, 30 universities, 1000 colleges, and 8 lakh students based in Punjab.
IMPunjab is launching an accelerator at Kalkat Bhawan, Mohali with both virtual and physical interventions. The mission also plans to create state and national angel networks to catalyse seed-stage funding for startups and help them scale their businesses.