The content on this website is strictly the property of InsIghT and the Students’ Gymkhana IIT Bombay. Reproduction in any form of mass media is strictly prohibited.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the interviewee are his perspectives alone and should not be taken as facts endorsed by InsIghT.
The entrepreneurial initiative of IIT Bombay was set up in 1999 as a pilot project under the guidance of Professor Deepak Phatak. The initiative was generously supported by IIT-B alumni like Kanwal Rekhi and Nandan Nilekani for its infrastructural and operational requirements.
The programme was initially oriented towards IT as it originated in the School for Information Technology. It catered to this department for five years until other departments developed an interest in it. Several faculty members with their repertoire of various research projects were keen on the opportunities offered by this programme, of converting their projects/ideas into possible business ventures. It was then that IIT-B and the Government of India(GoI), through the Department of Science and Technology, envisaged the idea of setting up a formal technology business incubator on the campus.
[pullquote]SINE has so far incubated 47 companies, with 17 companies presently in the incubator.[/pullquote]
Thus, in 2004, the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) came into being, as an independent legal entity. The incubator is housed in an area of 10,000 sq. ft., spread over two premises within the campus. SINE has so far incubated 47 companies, with 17 companies presently in the incubator. The rest have graduated successfully, or have been acquired, with about eight having closed down. Half of the incubated companies are faculty-driven, and 19 are such where the technology [developed] from the institute has been converted into businesses.
The success of SINE lies in the fact that more than 50% companies are funded by angels, VCs, and financial institutions, and are also revenue-generating. A few are funded by strategic partners, some of which have also raised their next level of funding. SINE companies have collective revenues of about R100 crores, and have generated about 1,000 jobs.
SINE has its own governing board where the director of IIT-B is the chairperson; the board has an equal representation of institute faculty and external individuals of repute, who are industry professionals, alumni, VCs, and entrepreneurs themselves. The members not only help in policy matters but are also good mentors for SINE and its companies.
Under the wing at SINE
The mandate of SINE is to look at business ideas that fulfill two criteria:
• They should have an IP backing them, which need not be necessarily patented; SINE does not prefer pure services or consultation ideas.
• At least one of the core promoters should be from the IIT-B community, which includes graduating students, alumni, faculty, permanent staff, and other research partners.
[pullquote]The ideas could be from any of the three categories—pure economic value, strategic value, social impact.[/pullquote]
The methodology is quite simple; anyone with an idea walks into SINE. They discuss to see if the idea merits a business case or not. If it does, the person is asked to write a business plan, which then goes through the due diligence of an internal review. At this stage, much iteration is done [to the business plan] in collaboration with the applicant to perfect it from all aspects. This is followed by an external review by experts who could be from the said domain, an entrepreneur, or an investor. Depending on the external reviewer’s opinion, a call is taken on whether to incubate the project or not. The ideas could be from any of the three categories—pure economic value, strategic value, social impact.
Further, based on the level of maturity of the idea and the actual need under incubation, SINE has three kinds of incubation support, viz. regular incubation where infrastructure support is given at subsidized cost, virtual incubation if infrastructure is not required, and pre-incubation if the idea is in its nascent stage and needs to be tested and validated before being taken up as a business case.
The SINE incubation programme is for three years. SINE believes in not just providing infrastructural support to its incubates, but also in giving intangible support in the form of in-house guidance, retainer professional services such as CA/lawyer/HR, accessing funders’ network, mentors, advisers, and institute resources such as labs, faculty support, technical guidance, etc.
SINE also helps in creating the desired brand name for its companies and in enabling the necessary ecosystem where the companies are nurtured to evolve into independent/successful business ventures.
Challenges of turning an Innovation into Business
[pullquote]SINE often states that between an A team with a grade B idea and a B team with a grade A idea, SINE would choose the former[/pullquote]
Entrepreneurship is a challenge. It is risky and there is a fear of potential failure. SINE, frequently, plays the devil’s advocate to the applicants, by shattering the myth that technology is the most important aspect of the business, and technology alone can sell. They are told that while technology is essential, key aspects that drive the idea is the team, and the market need that it addressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dresses. SINE often states that between an A team with a grade B idea and a B team with a grade A idea, SINE would choose the former, as execution is the key for the success of any business idea. It is here that innovation becomes important for the entrepreneur to be able to shift gears as per market needs. Good entrepreneurs not only become worthy role models, but are also an asset to the economic needs of the country by being job creators.
Manoeuvring the next curve
Going forward, SINE envisages an incubation capacity for 50 companies with a multi-pronged approach:
• All efforts will be made to include non-engineering departments like Humanities, the Management School, and the Industrial Design Center.
• SINE will also widen its focus from pure technology-backed ideas to include process-driven ideas, which have a sustainable business and revenue model.
• Increase the scope of pre-incubation by largely targeting the student body to help their ideas to be tested out and validated.
• To extend its virtual incubation concept beyond the existing geography of Mumbai. As a test basis, SINE has set up a Virtual incubation arm at Pune with generous help from one of its alumni.
• While plans are on for SINE’s own building, SINE may hire space outside of the campus to accommodate companies beyond its existing capacity
• Enable both backward and forward integration starting from interaction at lab-level ideas and provide support right up to established corporate levels
SINE aspires to be the vital link in the entire value chain supporting entrepreneurship. Considering the huge young human resource available in our country, incubators such as SINE are essential to tap the potential of entrepreneurship and generate employment avenues.
[pullquote]I-ASCEND event is scheduled for 19th April at VMCC[/pullquote]
IIT-B alumni too have pledged their support to SINE, by recently initiating a platform called ‘I-Ascend’ to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the institute community. I-Ascend is a joint initiative of IITB Alumni Association and SINE, to strengthen the entrepreneurship efforts of SINE, ECell and IITB, by building strong alumni linkages using the IITBAA/HF (Heritage Fund) network and bring support from alumni to IITB entrepreneur communities. As a celebration of SINE’s 10th anniversary and to inaugurate the I-Ascend programme, an event is being organized at VMCC on 19th April. Several industry experts, alumni, startup mentors and investor groups will be coming to IIT Bombay to be a part of the same. For more details please visit –
Certain sections of this article have been sourced from – “Creating employers, not employees” by Prof. Milind Atrey which was first published in Innowin magazine (Volume 1, Issue 3) by Spenta Multimedia on behalf of the Marico Innovation Foundation.