The Innovation Continuum at IIM Ahmedabad

Prof. Ankur Sinha & Dr. Supriya Sharma

In the winter of 1998 a few faculty members of IIMA came together to discuss new directions in innovation and entrepreneurship research in the country. What they set in motion took the shape of the 'Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship' in 2002, which found its first home in the basement room of a dorm on campus. In 2008, a not-for-profit entity, 'CIIE Initiatives', was registered to meet the needs of the emerging Indian startup ecosystem. The Centre continues to function as an academic centre at the institute. CIIE Initiatives, or 'CIIE' as it is popularly known, has undertaken initiatives across the needs spectrum of innovation-driven startups. It has evolved to become 'the innovation continuum', and in 2018, CIIE was rebranded as 'CIIE.CO' (pronounced see-aai-aai-ee-ko; with the 'CO' signifying the continuum).

CIIE.CO has designed, activated and scaled-up several novel interventions, many of which were the first of their kind in the Indian startup ecosystem. In 2008, CIIE.CO launched India's first accelerator program - iAccelerator, focused on startups in information and communication technology (ICT). Acceleration efforts were scaled up with The Power of Ideas program, which engaged with 55000+ startup ideas between 2010 and 2018. In addition to the sector agnostic programs, CIIE.CO has also hosted accelerators for startups working in sectors with disjointed ecosystems and sparse support, such as financial inclusion, agri and food, water, and clean energy.

Realizing a gap in the investing space for clean tech startups, CIIE.CO instituted a public-private-academia partnership to set up a fund - INFUSE Ventures in 2011. To unlock growth for deep tech startups, CIIE.CO launched a USD 100 million Bharat Innovation Fund in 2017. The Fund has invested in promising startups such as FireCompass, Detect Technologies, and Zumutor, among others. The Seed Fund at CIIE.CO continues to invest in promising startups, working at the cutting edge of technology. Thus far, CIIE.CO has invested seed capital in over 150 startups, investing especially in those with high impact and growth potential, such as Agnikul, Unbox Robotics, Comofi, Nunam and Ubreathe.

To plug a gap upstream in the value chain, CIIE.CO took up catalysing the development of startup ecosystems in lesser-explored geographies to build future startup capitals. In 2013, it set up an incubator - Startup Oasis in Jaipur to set off the development of an ecosystem in Rajasthan. Startup Oasis has many firsts to its credit, including developing and running India's first accelerator for crafts startups - Craft Catapult. Building on the Rajasthan experiment and aiming to extend its incubation efforts to other geographies, in 2017, CIIE.CO launched a virtual incubation platform - Innocity. Thus far, Innocity has touched and impacted over 2500 entrepreneurs through a variety of programs.

CIIE.CO has always endeavoured to fill the knowledge gaps in the Indian startup ecosystem in unprecedented ways. In 2008, it published the book Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, authored by IIMA alumna Rashmi Bansal. The book has been translated into eight languages and has reached over a million readers. In 2013, CIIE.CO developed the 'Handbook for Non-Profit Incubator Managers' as a reference resource for the growing pool of incubators in the country; it was then published by NITI Aayog. In the last few years, CIIE.CO has published deep dive reports into emerging sectors and themes such as civic tech, farming as a service and financial inclusion. In partnership with IIMA faculty, CIIE.CO has contributed to the development of high quality cases on Indian startups. Some of the recently published ones include Eko, Kaleidofin and MHFC. CIIE.CO also researches several themes relevant to the Indian and global startup ecosystems, including incubation, interplay of gender and entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial education, among others. Some of these papers, recently presented at EURAM and AoM Specialized Conference, are to be published soon.

In 2018, CIIE.CO instituted the Bharat Inclusion Initiative to push the needle on financial inclusion. This program is a continuum of initiatives, including research, incubation, acceleration, and investments, aimed at startups seeking to solve the hard problems of financial inclusion and generating livelihoods. In about two years, the Initiative has accelerated over 30 startups, invested in three startups and supported 12 research fellowships. The program also awarded three grants to faculty for research and development of cases on financial inclusion.

CIIE.CO continues to engage closely with IIMA faculty, alumni and students along the innovation continuum. CIIE.CO often partners with IIMA's Executive Education department and faculty members to deliver accelerator programs. It continues to run the IIMAvericks program to inspire and support graduating students setting off on their entrepreneurial forays. In the past, it has run incubation and accelerator programs for alumni founders as well. It supports and collaborates with IIMA faculty members in running courses on innovation and entrepreneurship. Faculty members and alumni closely support CIIE.CO's strategic functions, for instance, by serving on the board of directors and investment committees. To further the faculty-startup connect, CIIE.CO is working on instituting a faculty-equity policy. The policy is aimed at creating mechanisms for faculty members to engage with startups in various capacities, thus opening channels for founders to draw more from the faculty members' experience and knowledge.

CIIE.CO started as an experiment in the basement room of a dorm, found its feet as a pathfinder and now continues to push the needle along the innovation continuum. With a 60+ strong team spread across the country and encouraging support back home at IIMA, CIIE.CO is unlocking the power of innovation and entrepreneurship for a better and more inclusive future.

About The AuthorS

Prof. Ankur Sinha

Prof. Ankur Sinha

Ph.D in Quantitative Methods (2008-2011)
Aalto University School of Business, Helsinki Finland
(Former Helsinki School of Economics)

B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering (2002-2006)
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur India

Dr. Supriya Sharma

Dr. Supriya Sharma

CIIE.CO, IIM Ahmedabad

[ GO Back ]