After US, faculty startups are now finding their feet in India

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The startup fever has now gripped faculty members of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) who are now, independently or collaboratively, coming up with their own ventures and turning entrepreneurs.

Faculty members of IIT from across India, including Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur and Hyderabad, are leading the trend. Nineteen startups were only from IIT Madras in 2014-15.

An Economic Times report quoted Ravikrishnan Elangovan (33) who joined IIT Delhi's department of biochemical engineering and biotechnology as assistant professor in 2010 where he met Vivekanandan Perumal and Shalini Gupta, both of whom had also joined the institute as faculty members after their post-doctoral degrees from the US. The trio wanted to develop a solution for typhoid diagnosis, for which they put up a proposal with the department of biotechnology in 2013 and got funded.

Faculty forming new companies is an integral part of the academia-entrepreneurship intersection in the US, especially in places like Stanford and MIT. But the trend is slowly gaining momentum here in India as well.

As per the report published in the financial daily, IIT Madras has so far spawned 16 startups that have been founded or co-founded by its faculty members. Thirty of the 89 tech start-ups birthed at the institute have faculty members as founders or minority shareholders.

IIT Madras Incubation Cell CEO Tamaswati Ghosh said, "We are witnessing an increasing trend of joint collaboration between faculty members and their current and graduated students, with research being translated into commercial ventures/companies."

At IIT Kharagpur, the first such registration for a joint venture between a faculty member and a student happened way back in 2007, such instances have gained momentum recently. "For the past two to three years, we're getting registrations from three to four such companies each year," says PP Das, head of Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship at IIT Kharagpur. One more such company — in the Internet security business — is likely to get registered next month.
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