BITS Pilani Initiates Disruptive Innovation in Indian Start-up Ecosystem
Conquest aims to impact entrepreneurial world by assisting start-ups to navigate through a challenging ecosystem
India has witnessed a commendable upsurge in the number of start-ups in the past few years. With about 40,000+ start-ups and 38 unicorns recognised by the Indian government, the ecosystem is thriving more than ever before. Right from seed capital to unicorn-level acquisitions, the Indian market is rich with opportunities. And intending to fuel this fire, the 17th edition of the program is in motion.
What started as a B-Plan competition in 2004 in BITS Pilani is now India’s first and largest student-run non-profit start-up accelerator. Conquest, backed by Canara bank VC and Icertis, aims to create an impact on the entrepreneurial world by assisting start-ups to navigate through an already challenging start-up ecosystem.
Although India stands third in the world when it comes to the number of start-ups in a country, it's ranking in terms of impactful start-ups significantly falls behind in the international community. The supporting framework required by start-ups to truly succeed has been playing catch-up to the booming entrepreneurial spirit of the nation. Conquest is determined to solve this problem by connecting these start-ups with the top industry leaders, mentors, and investors from across the country, thus creating new opportunities and giving them access to an immense pool of knowledge coming from the decades of experience possessed by such a cohort.
Conquest 2021’s first phase included one-on-one mentoring sessions for the top 40 start-ups where they got a chance to gather insights from established industry experts. Varghese Mathew (AVP, BYJU's), Mahesh Vandi Chalil (Head of Technology, BookMyShow), Anirvan Chowdhury (Investments, Blume Ventures), and Brijesh Bharadwaj (Director of Product, Dunzo) were among the 70+ confirmed mentors for these top 40 mentoring sessions. Having talked to a pool of sector-specific mentors, the start-ups received individualized feedback and guidance which is invaluable at an early stage.
The top 18 start-ups are currently undergoing a 4-week long accelerator program that comprises mentoring sessions on different verticals like the product, fundraising, UI/UX, marketing, sales, design, and growth. This leg of the accelerator program will include AMAs, fireside chats, panel discussions with industry experts like Ankur Warikoo with prominence both as founders and investors.
The top 10 will further go through a week-long accelerator program which will include sessions on fundraising and pitching conducted by Conquest’s investment partners, who have pledged 50 crore rupees in funding for the top start-ups. The six weeks of Conquest will finally culminate into Demo Day where the founders will pitch their ideas to the Conquest Community composed of a jury, investors, mentors, media partners, and other start-ups. The 16th edition of Conquest featured Padma Shri Mohandas Pai as the keynote speaker in their Demo Day. In addition to the opportunity to raise funding, the start-ups get recognition from eminent personalities and reputed media houses in the country. The winner will also be granted an equity-less cash prize.
For over seventeen years now, Conquest has been providing aspiring founders a platform to take their start-ups to the next level. It is the indomitable ambition of the students running the program, aided by the investment partners and the start-up community, that has allowed it to reach where it is today and it only seems to be growing stronger every subsequent year. In its past editions, Conquest has accelerated the progress of start-ups like Trell, a lifestyle social media start-up that is currently valued at 45 million dollars, and SocialCops, a data intelligence start-up that has been acclaimed by Narendra Modi.
While Conquest remains committed to its immediate plan- making sure that the maximum number of start-ups extract as much value as possible from the 2021 edition- there is a lot more in store for the greater goal. As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, Conquest realizes, now more than ever, the importance of bringing sustainable ideas that have the potential of solving complex problems to the forefront. In the 2021 edition, their cohort boasts of some very interesting start-ups in various sectors and domains.
Ecovia, a packaging-as-a-service company, helps e-commerce and hyperlocal businesses to switch to reusable and returnable packaging- an idea that is simple yet very effective if implemented properly. Similarly, there is Agua, a start-up that provides IoT-based Smart Water Management solutions to buildings, towns, and villages. Conquest will continue on its mission of nurturing and empowering many such ideas and help turn them into successful businesses to create a positive impact. The road ahead seems very promising and exciting for start-ups in India and Conquest is thrilled to help build a better future for them.