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India Innovation Growth Program develops Indian entrepreneurs

By Tim Green

If you read Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times on Sunday (Nov. 6, 2011), you might have wondered about its reference to The University of Texas at Austin.

The reference was to a program that the university’s IC² Institute operates to help encourage and train entrepreneurs to develop businesses in India. It’s called the India Innovation Growth Program. The IC² Institute operates similar programs in several countries, including South Korea and Kuwait.

In working with Indian entrepreneurs, the IC² Institute draws on its decades of studying entrepreneurs, business building and business clusters to help business people in developing economies. It provides training and assists in developing contacts for investment, partners and customers.

The goal of the program, which the Institute’s Global Commercialization Group has operated since 2007, is to develop a cadre of Indian entrepreneurs whose products can compete in domestic and global markets.

In the column, headlined “India’s Innovation Stimulus,” Friedman highlighted three homegrown Indian businesses in India that provide products and services for a broad spectrum of the society from poor to rich.

One of those companies was Forus Health, which supplies a service to screen people for eye problems that could lead to blindness. Friedman reported that about 12 million people in India are blind and that 80 percent of those cases could be prevented by screening.

Here’s the column’s quote from Forus Health’s chief executive, K. Chandrasekhar.
“We work with a Dutch company on optics, and the University of Texas supports us in business development,” Chandrasekhar adds. “We are talking to a Brazilian company that is interested in manufacturing our technology and selling in Latin America.”

Forus is one of about 160 Indian companies that the IC² Institute has helped find investors, business partners, collaborators, and even paying customers.

Indian businesses in the Innovation Growth Program go through several steps beginning with introductory workshops, to screenings of services and products, to market research and business development. The number of companies is reduced at each step.

Valerie Hase, the Institute’s program manager for the India project, said that more than 2,700 people have attended the workshops in India; more than 2,000 technologies have been screened; and market research reports have been prepared for about 180 companies.

The number of people seeking to participate in the program has increased each year, said Sid Burback, Director of the Global Commercialization Group at the IC² Institute.

The Innovation Growth Program is funded by Lockheed-Martin in partnership with the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST). The IC² Institute administers the program with the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The program fits with a new Indian initiative, which is called the “Decade of Innovation,” said Arabinda Mitra, the executive director of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum. The Indian government has budgeted $250 million to promote innovation over the next decade.

Mitra, who visited The University of Texas at Austin campus in the summer, said India seeks “grass root innovation or affordable innovation that is going to touch the life of people at the village and rural area.”

Read more:India’s Innovation Stimulus” by Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times, November 6, 2011