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Provide globally scalable solutions to problems that can be addressed locally: D.S Prashant

Incubees.com in conversation with DS Prashant CEO of Forum for Innovation Incubation Research and Entrepreneurship (FIIRE) on the start-up ecosystem in Goa. Prashant has over two decades of experience in the startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Goa. He speaks to Assistant Editor, Susparsha Gaikwad.

INCUBEES: How has FiiRE evolved since its inception?

Prashant: Forum for Innovation Incubation Research and Entrepreneurship (FiiRE) is a technology business incubator established with the support of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, hosted at the Don Bosco College of Engineering Fatorda.

FiiRE started operations in October 2018 with a focus on product development and manufacturing startups. The initial focus was on identifying and promoting startups. Now that FiiRE has a sizable number of startups in their portfolio, the emphasis is on ensuring investibility of startups. While FiiRE always reiterated the need for creating a connect with the industry, the importance of this was further felt in the two years of operations. Along with assisting startups in building prototypes, FiiRE will actively promote collaborations between industry and innovators. Emphasis will also be given to provide marketing support to startups to enable them to reach the right customer segments.

INCUBEES: How many start-ups have FiiRE worked with, and how have they fared?

Prashant: FiiRE has mentored a total number of 73 startups as of date. Currently, we are actively involved with 42 startups out of which 30 are incubated with us. 02 of our startups have successfully raised funding. The investment process for 02 others is underway.

Many of our startups were actively involved during the lockdown announcement due to the pandemic. Notably, FiiRE startup Decimi Technologies Pvt. Ltd. worked with government agencies and panchayats to ensure minimum movement of people by giving their app free to all retailers/distributors and organizations working towards delivering essential goods to citizens during these trying times.

INCUBEES: Does FiiRE plan to expand in Goa and outside of Goa?

Prashant: FiiRE plans to start an extension center at Don Bosco College Panjim (DBC Panjim), Goa. As FiiRE is located in South Goa, having an extension center in Panjim would enable incubatees/startups/ecosystem players to make use of our services at their convenience depending on their location.

FiiRE also has a virtual incubation program that allows registered startups to avail all the services offered by FiiRE irrespective of their location. Startups from all over India can register for the virtual incubation program and get connected to mentors and receive incubation support. FiiRE has already incubated 02 such startups from Mumbai and Hyderabad.

INCUBEES: Why should a start-up choose to incubate with FiiRE?

Prashant: FiiRE is recognized and funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It is run by an experienced team that has supported over 100 startups and 3000 micro-enterprises in Goa. FiiRE has a structured incubation process. It has a strong association with around 500 colleges and educational institutions through its host institute. FiiRE has developed partnerships with government agencies, PSUs, and corporates. Industry veterans from a part of the FiiRE mentor network. Also, the Board of Governors of FiiRE comprises of representatives from the Government, Industry, Academia, and Investor networks.

INCUBEES: How do incubators like FiiRE contribute to enhancing the start-up ecosystem in Goa?

Prashant: FiiRE holds many events like VHack, The Business Diva Competition, Investor Meet Demo Day to provide opportunities and exposure to startups. We also work closely with educational institutions and conduct boot camps to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to students at a young age. Programs in digital marketing, market research, etc. are conducted to create awareness about the tools and hacks that entrepreneurs can use to market their products and make informed decisions. Connects to industry and business networks are provided to startups along with mentoring and hand-holding support. Interactive sessions with financial institutions and government bodies are also held for startups to enable them to take advantage of the schemes available for the entrepreneur community.

INCUBEES: Do you think the Govt. of Goa provides adequate support to start-ups in Goa?

Prashant: Yes. The Government of Goa has floated the Startup Policy 2017 which has been extended to 31st March 2021 to encourage startups from Goa. Startups certified by the Startup Promotion Cell can avail various schemes for financial support. The various schemes under the umbrella of the Startup Policy are enough to support an early-stage startup to reach its MVP stage.

INCUBEES: What is your advice to young start-ups in Goa?

Prashant: Work on providing a globally scalable solution to an existing problem that can be addressed locally and ensure the problem being addressed affects a large number of people so that it can be converted into a business opportunity in the form of a social or a profit-making enterprise.

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