SELCO launches incubation centre
Aug 23 2012, 17:10 | By Entrepreneur
By Shonali Advani
After a formal announcement of the same, Ashis Kumar Sahu, CEO, SELCO Incubation Centre, discussed reasons behind it and said, "Two-three years back, we were wondering how to scale our model. We were fairly recognized in our field and we wanted to take energy services to more number of people." The first year will focus on solar lighting and most of the costs associated with incubation will be borne by SELCO. "We are competent in solar lighting. We are getting into it in the first year. Right now, we have no other focus," he added.
The basic idea behind setting up incubation centre is to identify people and enterprises who have entered this space or are struggling-to train, nurture, mentor them, and in the process transfer its knowledge acquired in the last 17 years to them. "So they don't have to go through the same learning cycle or struggles. They can build an ecosystem, and they can grow more easily," explained Sahu.
The decision was taken after considering options of expanding its operations to states outside Karnataka or going the franchise route. However, founders opted for the third option to help people looking to foray into this space. "We will help them scale up and work with them on technology, business model, and help build the eco-system required to run an enterprise," adds Sahu. Once exposed to the SELCO model, entrepreneurs will go back and apply a similar model in their respective regions, he said.
SELCO is currently in the process of identifying entrepreneurs through networks, advertisements and other channels like local workshops. It plans to incubate 25-30 entrepreneurs for the year over two-three batches. Selected candidates will visit SELCO's operational areas across Karnataka for on-site training, spending about 15-45 days over a span of one year. "We will help them in marketing, generating awareness, handling customers, and financing," said Sahu. "It's not a standard incubation program, but a customized one which is operational in nature and not academic," he emphasized.
The selection process for the first batch will take place by August end or early September 2012. Depending on the interest generated, SELCO plans to hold a few identification workshops in the North/East region and the North-east India. The first set of training is planned during the second or third week of October 2012.
"Energy scarcity is more prevalent in North-east India and so we choose to focus on this region first," mentioned Sahu. This was also a strategic decision given that SELCO is present in Karnataka, and will be looking to enter other parts of South India soon. It will also target Jharkhand, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. Post-incubation period, SELCO will continue to support entrepreneurs as mentors on a need basis and will also proactively help in connecting them to investors.
"While there are several institutional and academic incubation centres, I've not come across operational entities like ours. They're mostly classroom-based or theoretical, I believe," Sahu stated.
While it has no plans to invest in the ventures it incubates at this point, Sahu mentioned SELCO's plan on starting social venture fund, to be named Energy Axis Fund, dedicated to social enterprises. Slated to launch in a year, entrepreneurs incubated out of SELCO Incubation Fund can seek funding opportunities from this fund. "Provided certain terms and conditions are made," Sahu said, tight-lipped on further details. SELCO clocked in Rs. 16 crore as revenues for FY 2011-12 on the back of its operations in Karnataka, Gujarat and recently Tamil Nadu.
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