The Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) at ISB’s Mohali campus provides a platform that enables startups to leverage the opportunities available in their domain to become scalable and sustainable in their enterprise. The Centre is the incubation and acceleration arm of ISB which provides a state-of-the-art incubation space for entrepreneurs to collaborate and engage with academics, mentors and investors.
The Enable Startup Track Acceleration (ESTAC) Programme is the latest initiative by AIC ISB. It is curated in partnership with the Government of Punjab. An MoU was signed, on 22nd November, 2019 between ISB Dean Rajendra Srivastava and Additional Chief Secretary, Government Of Punjab Vini Mahajan. ESTAC was formally launched at the Progressive Punjab Investors Summit 2019 by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on 6th December, 2019. The chief minister invited agri-tech start-ups working across the country to apply for the program.
The state of Punjab contributes 60% of the foreign exchange to India from agriculture. Agriculture contributes to 21% of the Punjab’s GDP and provides livelihood 47% of its workforce. According to Census 2011, the state has achieved 98% irrigation coverage for its cultivable land. Despite such promising potential for a state famously known as the “bread basket” of India, the growth rate in agriculture has witnessed a slowdown over the past decade. Monocropping, extensive pesticide usage, lack of access to open markets, farmer debt, climate change and environmental concerns arising from stubble burning are some of the current problems that agriculture is facing in the state today. In this context, the state has taken measures to deploy modern scientific practices to enhance sustainable productivity and to link the sector to markets internationally. The key initiatives taken include the revamping of Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB), the establishment of Seed Units and promotion of an IPR-based technology environment. To boost mechanisation and bring more sustainable practices the Progressive Punjab Investors Summit 2019 focussed on creating value in agriculture by inviting leading players in the industry to pitch their ideas. The launch of AIC’s ESTAC programme at the summit by the chief minister is also a step to hasten work in this direction by encouraging startups to grow their presence in the agrarian space.
A2P Energy is one of the startups associated with AIC ISB which has developed a promising solution for sustainable farming in Punjab. To address the pollution arising from crop stubble burning, A2P developed a model to collect stubble from farmlands and turn them into eco-friendly bio-fuel pellets and other products from recycled straw. In July this year, A2P won the Global Prosperity Award at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Russia winning a cash prize of 100,000 USD. The startup has won several other awards and accolades for their efforts to fight pollution and climate change.
The first of the series of ESTAC program focuses on Agri-tech start-ups, other themes being e-mobility, grain procurement, electric metering and other support services. The aim is to support startups that are working to address the challenges in Indian agriculture and to empower farmers through data-driven farming, mentorship and expertise. The focus will be on technology-led, scalable and investible growth stage start-ups in the areas of government-enabled and private sector-driven businesses.
The application window for the programme will be open till 15th January 2020. Ten selected start-ups will be given the opportunity to participate in a 6-month programme commencing from in March 2020. The startups participating in the program will receive support from Startup Punjab and AIC ISB to enable their pilot projects. Speaking about the programme, AIC CEO Mrigank Sigh said, “Scaling up in a niche ecosystem such as agriculture is a challenging battle which is achievable. ESTAC would enable startups working in the area to take advantage of the rich agricultural ecosystem in Punjab by sustainably scaling up their operations. The dedicated mentorship and access to a network of experts, along with the fundraising support, would help the startups to work towards offering value in the agrarian space.”
AIC was set up in April this year in partnership with the Atal Innovation Mission of the NITI Aayog. Its offers domain-specific and value–driven programmes for startups with the support of the expert faculty at ISB, mentors and alumni entrepreneurs from ISB.