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Indian iHub Nurtures Domestic Startups as Tech Savvy Middle Class Expands

BY Lisa Goldman | Friday, September 28 2012

A seasoned tech entrepreneur and innovator has established a for-profit iHub in his native India, where a tech savvy, educated and growing middle class is an increasingly valuable market. Based in the southern city of Chennai, The Startup Centre bills itself as an iHub and innovation center that "foster[s] and enable[s] the birth of bold new ideas, and to nurture teams with exceptional potential, helping them move to the next level," or "Helping Entrepreneurs build Kickass Startups." In addition to a work-in space, the Centre provides mentoring, help in creating a business model, introductions to potential clients and some funding over a period of six months. If the startup gets off the ground, the Centre takes a percentage.

The Startup Centre's clean, well designed website includes a long list of strategic parners, clear outlines of what it does, names of the founding partners and their impressive resumes, and a frequently updated blog.

According to Bangalore-based tech analyst Kiran Jonnalagadda, who goes by the name Jace (@jackerhack), the Startup Centre is the only Indian iHub that is funded independently, rather than by corporate money. Founder Vijay Anand, he explained, is an experienced global technology and banking innovator who was formerly based in Madras.

The Startup Centre reflects India's changing technology culture, which is driven by its rapidly growing and increasingly prosperous middle class, explained Jace. Until recently, India's Bangalore-centered IT economy was based primarily on local campuses of international corporations, where the focus was on R&D and production for export. But over the past few years India's substantial middle class has become a market in its own right, rather than a source of educated workers for export-oriented products.

Middle class Indians number over 300 million now. They are educated, tech savvy, enjoying increasing leisure time and they are gadget-and-app hungry. In India, said Jace, the norm is to pay cash up front for Samsung Galaxies and the latest iPhones — despite a 30 percent import tax on electronics.

With innovation and increasing prosperity comes VC money and a start up culture. According to Jace, it is now possible to live off a startup salary in India. Some startups, he says, pay more than the multi-national tech companies that have offices in India. The Startup Centre is taking advantage of the flow of money and ideas, while simultaneously nurturing the local tech environment by hosting frequent community events that attract people like Jace, who says he is quite willing to make the three hour drive from Bangalore to Chennai to hear what the bright minds at the Startup Center are thinking and discussing.