Digital India was launched along with Make in India in 2015 as a new IndoGenius-delivered programme. Both new programmes took inspiration from Indian government initiatives and were conceptualised to engage students and young professionals with essential features of re-emerging India. The programmes were meticulously planned to maximise participants’ experiences of varied perspectives regarding culture, education, development and more in India while also fostering relationship building and developing participants’ knowledge of Indian markets and work culture as applicable to their studies, professions or businesses. The Digital India Programme was delivered for the first time from 30 September to 13 October 2015 under the British Council’s Generation UK-India cultural immersion placements.
Digital India two-week cultural immersion took 40 UK entrepreneurs to Mumbai, Bangalore and Mysore to showcase India’s incredible role in the global information technology industry and status as the world’s third largest and fastest growing startup ecosystem.
Dialogue with top Indian investors, consultants and startup founders as well as students and faculty at Indian institutions hosting their own startup incubators and accelerators gave context to visits and contributed to the identification of opportunities for mutual collaboration with UK entrepreneurs at all six stages of the startup business development process. Meetings and networking events with expatriate startup founders working in India offered insight to participants looking to collaborate or base themselves in India. These activities were woven together with cultural site visits, events and performances; reflection sessions, culturally immersive challenges and activities and classes in Hindi, Yoga and Bollywood Dance.
Over a dozen visits to information technology companies, startups, workspaces, and accelerators and incubators took place with startup founders, consultants and administration offering sessions and fielding questions from participants. Highlights included: Zone Startups with presentations on accelerator and incubator programmes, meetings with incubatees and participant pitches and demos at Bombay Stock Exchange; Infosys Bangalore campus; IBM; Microsoft Ventures; Twitter, an overnight stay at Infosys Leadership Institute, Mysore and participation in National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) Product Conclave, a conference and networking event for Indian startup companies including professionals linked to all aspects of startup business development.
The programme also included an iterative pitch and demo process for participants to present their work a number of times amongst themselves and with Indian peers to integrate programme learning and optimise their business pitches and demos. On day two of the programme a participant pitch and demo session took place at Bombay Stock Exchange and four days later participants presented pitches and demos alongside TechHub Bangalore incubates at UK India Business Council (UKIBC), Bangalore. After these sessions as well as group peer mentoring sessions, a final round of pitches and demos took place at Microsoft Ventures, Bangalore, where the expert panel included Mr. T.V. Mohandas Pai, India’s largest angel investor, Ashwin Raguraman, CEO at India Innovation Fund and Tej Pochiraju, Director of Jaaga Startups.
The International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Bangalore, served as the primary institutional partner for the programme, hosting a three-day workshop with student entrepreneurs in their innovation centre. The workshop included India – UK student networking sessions as well as presentations and Q & A sessions with entrepreneurs, investors, consultants and authors. Institutional visits with student and faculty interaction sessions also took place at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and the Nadathur S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore.
Feedback from participants was phenomenal, with the Digital India Programme receiving an approval rating of over 95%. Vincenz Klemt, M.A. in International Business from University of Strathclyde and co-founder and COO at Connect-in Ltd., had this to say: “Thank you for bringing us closer to the Indian culture and making us understand what is really happening. You have taught us so much on the country, its people, start up ecosystem and myself. I have made incredibly useful connections through you. I want to give back to India in the future.”
The immediate outcomes of the programme have been incredible, with 90% of participants reporting an increase in their interest in living and working in India and 100% reporting that they had met someone with whom they have the potential to work with in their businesses going forward (this includes potential co-founders, mentors, strategic partners, investors, freelancers, internships, developers, clients, employers, contract services providers and more).
Post-programme, participants’ conversations with these potential collaborators have continued, with some collaborations made official less than one month following the end of the programme. Some participants achieved major outcomes during the programme itself, developing prototypes, software and more.
One of the other early outcomes from the programme is obviously the participants’ improved demo and pitch presentations and increased confidence delivering these presentations to a wide variety of audiences. The various information from the programme integrated into these presentations is an inspiring testament to participants’ enthusiasm to apply their programme learning.