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‘Anticipate Growth In Startup Ecosystem To Be Pretty High’

Sruthi Kannan, Head at Cisco LaunchPad, spoke to BW Businessworld on the current state of startup ecosystem in India, Cisco's approach with startups and Indian Government’s role in enabling the ecosystem

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Sruthi Kannan, Head at Cisco LaunchPad

The latest report by Tracxn indicates that startup funding in India has dropped by 80 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in Q3 2022. The funding has also dropped significantly quarter-on-quarter (QoQ), which settles the long-debated topic of ‘Funding Winter’. But now, fresh challenges await the startup ecosystem as warning sirens go off in anticipation of a possible recession.

On the sidelines of Cisco Startup Summit 2022, BW Businessworld’s Rohit Chintapali caught up with Sruthi Kannan, Head at Cisco LaunchPad. During the interaction, Kannan talked about the current state of startup ecosystem in India, Cisco Launchpad’s approach with startups and her observations on the Indian Government’s role in enabling the ecosystem.


With the looming recession and the current funding winter, a lot of startups are streamlining and getting back to the basics. How is the startup ecosystem doing?

In startup terminologies, pivoting is a natural pathway. Startups tend to pivot to newer business areas, commercial models, technologies and use cases. Pivoting is a critical aspect of being in a startup ecosystem. This is especially true during the current funding winter and the potential recession. The core fundamental theme that Cisco focuses on while working with startups is value addition. And for this, we look at how technology can act as an enabler. 

Of course, now the buzzword in the ecosystem has shifted from unicorns to cockroaches and we are looking at how we can build resilience along with the startups. Our focus remains on building value towards use cases, which are intended to make an impact. 

As we build up to the recession, how has Cisco's positioning changed on how to work with startups? 

Times like these help us narrow down our vision and lay very structured pathways. It helps when we have a good trajectory to tread on. So, today at the Cisco Startup Summit, we are launching the Cisco Startup Playbook. Through it, we are laying out a clear pathway of engaging with the startups through the exploration phase, discovery phase, going onto building and scaling phase. When you have a clear pathway of engagement, you are not carried away by the many distractors. It helps us tighten our engagements within and accelerate our pace of co-innovation with the startups.

How hands on are you with the startups when you are working and enabling them? How do you help them?

Our engagement with the startup starts with giving them an overview. It's more of an evangelism of sorts where we take them through some of the options and opportunities that Cisco has in its realm. Once they are convinced or if there is some synergy, we get to talking very closely with the startups, deep dive into their offering, find mutual intersection points and then we start building together. Cisco Launchpad is an active co-innovation space, where we offer mentorship to the startups and offer our technology platforms. 

How does the Indian startup ecosystem rank in comparison to other countries for Cisco?

India has risen up by several points to become one of the top five startup innovation ecosystems in the world. This means that as we grow by leaps and bounds, we have over 75,000 startups in the country. A majority of them are using technology as well. And this is quite at par with other countries which are now ramping up in the startup space. I see the boom from India's perspective is quite high and anticipate the growth to be pretty high in the coming years.

How have your engagements been with the Government of India with respect to the startup ecosystem? How are they doing according to you?

We have had a fantastic relationship with ‘Startup India’. They have been quite a pioneer in this field, rolling out the startup-related insights and enablement across the country. We have also gone ahead to sign an MoU with MeitY’s Startup Hub to work with incubators across the country. I see a shift now and it is not just restricted to one ministry or another, but across all ministries. We are seeing that there is an increased interest to work with startups. 

We were recently part of the ‘India Water Pitch-Pilot-Scale Start-up Conclave’, where they are now looking to make a whole difference in the water space, in partnership with startups. We are seeing this panning out in all directions, not just concentrated in pockets. 

I have also had the pleasure of being the only industry representative to be part of the executive advisory committee of Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS). Through this, we are rolling out funding for incubators across the country, which is in turn fueling startups irrespective of the location.

Also Read: Startup Funding In India Dropped By 80% In Q3 2022 YoY: Tracxn Report