26 Sep 2021  |   05:50am IST

KBU a motivation for many successful entrepreneurs

It all began about five years ago, in 2016. It was time for the young generation to start up as they took interest in entrepreneurship looking at various schemes offered by Union and State governments. In Goa it all started with Kaun Banega Udyogpati (KBU), a start up competition which was launched by the Centre for Incubation and Business Acceleration (CIBA). It was a good beginning as many start-ups came to the limelight and in fact several of them were ‘successful’. VIKANT SAHAY retraced a few entrepreneurs to know what has changed in half a decade
KBU a motivation for many successful entrepreneurs

Kaun Banega Udyogpati (KBU) helped many young minds from Goa to propel themselves and their ideas which later translated into business. Winner of the competition Clayton Mascarenhas, Director of Mascorp Bio narrated his story by saying, “Today it is 2021, five years have gone by since we won the KBU. Where are we now? Post KBU the challenge was putting all the necessary systems in place for a business run on a bigger scale. We shifted to a plot in Margao Industrial Estate and setup new machinery designed from scratch based on our pilot plant. Our plant capacity is at maximum 24000 litres per day. However, at the moment we do not operate at full capacity.”

Mascarenhas further added that they supply to various industries in Goa on bulk orders. “Contrary to popular belief bio-diesel is not filtered vegetable oil. Bio-diesel is a renewable fuel made from organic oils and fats; we chemically react and convert these oils into a substance very similar to diesel. We are currently appointed as the official used cooking oil collectors under the RUCO programme by the FDA and collect from all major hotels and restaurants across Goa,” he added.

Giving the details Mascarenhas said that, “I have also ventured into setting up of solar power plants across Goa, as renewable energy on a whole has always been my prime focus. We see a good future for bio-fuels in general and a chance to scale even further as we look to achieving our maximum plant capacity in the near future.”

Maxwell Rodrigues who founded Creative Makerz in 2016 had returned to Goa from Malaysia after eight years as a professor in aircraft maintenance engineering. Creative Makerz were one of the top 20 start-ups at KBU and thereafter was seed funded by CIBA. “Creative Makerz was registered as Mattzus Learning Technologies Pvt Ltd in the year 2017 and ventured into setting up STEAM Laboratories in schools. From the year 2017 till date Mattzus has set up four such labs in various schools in Goa. We were also chosen by Goa IT Department to set up a display stall at Vibrant Goa Summit held in the year 2019. Our business was in the boom just when COVID struck and all schools had changes or delays in plans,” said Rodrigues. 

However, Rodrigues did not wait for things to recover and started producing specially designed foam based face shield under the brand Mattzus.

Mattzus manufacturer has sold around 8000 plus face shields with around 4000 plus to government institutions alone and rest local companies, doctors, etc. “We were even selected under FICCI national challenge as top 60 start-up ideas to fight COVID-19 throughout India. We were also the recipients of the Goa startup policy seed funds in the year 2020,” he added.

Rodrigues was eagerly waiting for the end of pandemic to restart his business in full swing and just then the second wave hit. “As the government has still not planned to start the schools offline the plans to restart business was totally devastated. Unable to get any contracts for school laboratories and no students in the Porvorim centre for the innovative learning classes, Mattzus was forced to close down,” said Rodrigues. 

However, currently he has successfully ventured into smart home automation, smart surveillance systems business with a number of projects successfully completed in the last two months. An ongoing big project of a 60-room 4-star hotel in Baga, Calangute and a few more are in the pipeline. “Pandemic or no pandemic, when your mindset is innovative and entrepreneurial you keep innovating and nothing can stop you,” stated Rodrigues.

Rohini Gonsalves, Founder and Managing Director of Sevarat Healthcare and Nursing Pvt Ltd which was launched commercially on January 1, 2016 also participated in the KBU contest. “That was my first exposure to the start-up world. They had a fantastic mentoring session with Ramanna Gogula who delved into each of our businesses and helped us identify our USP and create our elevator pitch and pitch decks. That cohort created by CIBA became the stepping-stone to a series of developments namely - We incorporated as a company and received seed funding from CIBA in September 2017.”

She further added that with CIBA the seed capital came in tranches where we had to submit the utilisation certificate and due documents and the funds were released soon after. “Thereafter we went through the expected peaks and troughs managing to sustain the business with no funds to scale”, Gonsalves said.

“Meanwhile the Goa government launched the Start-up Policy 2017 and we were selected for Seed Capital Grant and Interest Reimbursement Scheme in 2019. Over the last two and half years, we have received two tranches of the seed fund and one reimbursement of the interest. This financial relief came when we had hit rock bottom and salvaged us. It has been an uphill task to just stay afloat in business. It has taken me tremendous grit to withstand the storms and maneuver the company through these very tumultuous times. Thankfully, Sevarat shall be completing six years since inception in October this year,” stated Gonsalves.

Farheen Syed, Director Vanillakart who participated in KBU also received the top award for the Chief Minister’s Start-Up Competition in 2017. She believes that entering KBU in 2016 was a very powerful experience for her as a new business. “It built a huge momentum during our critical first year. Ever since then I have built many products depending on the market demand, right from cleantech, blockchain, crypto to social commerce. I personally believe that the crux of entrepreneurship is that you should not fall in love with any idea and it should be practical, and hence if something does not work you pivot,” said Syed.

She added that winning the CM Start-Up Challenge that came with a lot of perks, gave her a huge credibility bone to raise funds and access the PR and investor network. “And as the saying goes your network is your net worth. As a start-up we have gained a lot from competitions. While we do not do this much now, in the past we have entered many competitions and so far had great success. The coolest part of being an entrepreneur is seeing people use what you have created. After years of experience, we have understood the core needs of the market and incorporating all the focal points we have started the project Vanillakart,” added Syed.

Samson D’costa, Managing Director of Horivacao Pvt Ltd Company is a start-up that initially developed mobile switch in April 2010, a device that controls electric gadgets using simple mobile phones mainly to switch on and off any gadget through the phone which indeed won him the KBU award. The company got some funding from CIBA which was utilised to develop new innovations.

“There was no funding from any government institute but that was not a drawback to stop the innovations. We managed to run the business with the help of parents funding and hard earned money without any loans from banks,” said D’costa.

He then started innovating other products which included tank level controller (July 2020), coconut tree climber and arecanut climber machine (October 2016), solar switch (August 2017), surge protection devices (October 2020), pole climbers (February 2021) etc. Solar switches are currently installed across Goa along major highways, railway station colonies, bridges, remote villages with low network coverage where the existing street light control panels have failed to operate.

“Recently we have been actively involved in repairing of streetlights which were not supplied by BVG and also engaged in doing repair works of the LED street light fixtures of Goa Electricity department. During COVID-19 lockdown the company was completely occupied to produce products like SPD, solar switches, LED drivers and repairing streetlights as an extended arm of Goa Electricity Department,” added D’costa.

The global demand for herbal plant medicine is increasing and Goan pharma has become part of this new revolution. The company led by Dr Maria Cordeiro started with a single formulation called Denpap is effective in increasing platelet count and helpful against dengue fever. Other research based medicines have been developed since which undergo non-clinical testing along with clinical trials on patients. Each manufactured product of Goan pharma displays evidence of safety and effectiveness before being licensed for marketing. Goan pharma continues to make efforts in increasing their presence in domestic and international market.

“We also provide research and regulatory advisory to other companies intending to develop and manufacture their products or set up factory in Goa. Goan pharma also participated in KBU and in 2019, we were recognised by Orchid Award: Women Achievers in Business category for my efforts as managing director of the company,” said Cordeiro.

SN Dominic, Founder and Managing Director of Nellikuru Innovations Pvt Ltd is one of the early start-up companies in Goa which was recognised by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Founded in 2016 their aim has been to create innovative products in the iron and steel industry which are environment-friendly and cost effective.

At KBU, Nellikuru was adjudged one of the most innovative R&D companies in the field of iron and steel making. Their journey had only started here, however, in the five years since then, they have bagged awards nationally and internationally, like CII and at Innovation & Entrepreneurship International Competition, Shenzhen, China. Following a bootstrap funding model, this start-up now has developed two new patent-pending products, which it caters to steel plants across the country.

“One of our major products is the NKHM-18, a high temperature insulation compound, which can help hold the liquid metal in the ladles (containers) without it solidifying and jamming for longer duration. More importantly, it captures the graphite flakes which are emitted from the liquid metal into the air and majorly helps reduce emissions and pollution in the industry,” said Dominic. 

Dominic has also developed world’s first hot metal insulation compound for hot metal torpedo ladles in bigger integrated steel plants to reduce the drop in metal temperature while filling the ladle. Nellikuru today is a solution provider to the Iron and Steel Industry and Pollution Control Boards too. 

Maria Victor, founder of Make It Happen has a pioneering experiential travel company is Goa. What started with humble beginnings of introducing three experiences - the Fontainhas Heritage Walk, Old Goa Heritage Walk and Chronicles and Echoes of Divar Island, that paved path for a new market for experiential travel in Goa. Today Goa is a leading destination for experiential travel in India.

“We have over 20 unique experiences including Heritage Walks, Village Saunters, E-Bikes tours, culinary experiences, and Art Trails. We are engaged with local storytellers across all age groups contributing to sustainable local economy. We have a pool of hosts and storytellers from the local community from different walks of life-historians, musicians, architects, culinary artists, home chefs, exhibit artists, creating a platform to showcase and nurture local talent through tourism. During the pandemic we launched a virtual experience called the Heritage Hues of Panjim which is conducted through online video conference services like Zoom, Google Meet etc and has been greatly received by educational institutions, architects, brands etc, said Victor.

She went on to add that she received a seed of from the CIBA in 2017. “From there on we have scaled our business by running a sustainable and profitable business model achieving a 10 times growth in three years. Earlier this year we were appointed by Diu Smart City Limited to set up Heritage Walks in Diu. This was a welcome expansion for us though a collaboration with a government organisation. We have launched three Heritage Walks with the aim of promoting sustainable heritage tourism in Diu,” said Victor.