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How do we describe a startup in simple terms? It’s a business venture with an innovative business model which is instrumental in scaling it up. Swiggy or Zomato are basically logistics firms that are effectively using technology like geo-informatics, mobile technology and banking to their advantage. A startup identifies a problem, the solution and the connecting dots which could solve it.

The futuristic Industrial Revolution 4.0 has great scope for such innovative, tech-driven scalable startups to emerge across the globe. Industries that don’t catch up to this dynamic are vulnerable to go obsolete. Tamil Nadu government has set up Tamil Nadu Startup and  Innovation Mission in 2018 (TANSIM). Sivarajah Ramanathan, a social entrepreneur based in Madurai, has been appointed as the first CEO of TANSIM and taking charge in the first week of January 2022.

Ramanathan’s Native Lead Foundation has been promoting startup culture and innovation especially in tier II and III cities of Tamil Nadu. He has over 25 years of experience in the field of grooming budding entrepreneurs.

The futuristic Industrial Revolution 4.0 has great scope for such innovative, tech-driven scalable startups to emerge across the globe. Industries that don’t catch up to this dynamic are vulnerable to go obsolete. 

Inmathi talks to Sivarajah Ramanathan on startup culture in Tamil Nadu and his goals and aspirations as CEO of TANSIM.

Question: How do you define a startup?

Answer: Startup is a scalable business idea that could use technology and innovation for its growth. It is a new age phenomena and culture. This is going to be the new industrial revolution as we are growing into knowledge-based industries from conventional agriculture and manufacturing industries.  We have to nurture this new age startup culture in Tamil Nadu.

Sivarajah Ramanathan CEO TANSIM

Sivarajah Ramanathan 

Question: How do you see startup culture in Tamil Nadu?

Answer: We have some catching up to do. Bangalore has turned into a startup hub because of the IT infra which was established a bit earlier there. Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Hyderabad are all ahead of us. Kerala, though considered not so industry friendly, started promoting startup culture aggressively. We do have a startup culture in Chennai and Coimbatore but the state as a whole has to catch up with others.

Question: What do you see as challenges for a bright startup culture in our state?

Answer: First and foremost we have a cultural problem of not taking risks. Now there are plenty of avenues where one can try out his/her ideas and also mitigate the level of risks.  Awareness on the changing scenario for startup growth is very less in the state except in places like Chennai and Coimbatore. There is no facility to bridge this lack of awareness. We also don’t have proper mentoring facilities. We need to connect investors with startup entrepreneurs. The market connect facilities for the startup products or services are required. We have to rope in functional and industry experts from across the country and abroad. There is so much to do.

Question: What are the bright prospects you see in the state?

Answer: Education, we have achieved significant results in this field. Out of 100 premier institutions in our country, 35 are in Tamil Nadu. Our State has a better knowledge base which is an important ingredient of innovation-driven startup culture. We lead in social empowerment as well as women empowerment and these two would give us a real boost. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have achieved greater milestones when it comes to social justice, thanks to the rulers. Another positive factor is the relatively mature industrial culture. When information technology boomed, we did lose some entrepreneurship because it was a larger revenue generation and many preferred taking up jobs than starting enterprises. We have to convince our youngsters that we have to now move towards IT product culture from service culture for creating a fundamentally strong entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Awareness on the changing scenario for startup growth is very less in the state except in places like Chennai and Coimbatore. There is no facility to bridge this lack of awareness. 

Question: What are your plans to scale up our startup culture?

Answer: Broadly, three to four layers of work are required to achieve this. We are going to create a think-tank in the first place. It is a platform for experts and entrepreneurs to brainstorm ideas and possibilities. Next is business model research where we arrive at a workable plan before we take up execution. After execution of this workable plan, we will take feedback and analyze the results.

Question: What is going to be your special focus or how are you going to be different?

Answer: My focus is Inclusive Mass Entrepreneurship. The startup culture should not stop with Chennai or Coimbatore. It should be spread in all tier II and III cities. The incubation centres at educational institutions should be shaken up. We have more than enough investors but finding correct scalable ideas is a challenge. I am going to address that in the first place.


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