India is rising up to the startup challenge and the seven-sister states in Northeast India, along with Sikkim, are not behind. Slowly but steadily, the youth of Northeast India are coming forward with ideas for starting their own businesses.
In 2017, the Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER) offered the North East Venture Fund, an initiative of INR 100 crore. The ministry offered to help out sixty startups from the region. Recently, at the Skill India exhibition held in New Delhi, Jitendra Singh, the minister for DoNER, welcomed youth from all over India to engage their talents in Northeast India.
According to Inc42, Singh said, “If we are able to move forward with the plan that we have envisaged for ourselves, the day is not far when the Northeast will become a favourite destination for young startups from all over India.”
Among startups that are budding in Northeast India are Awe Rides, a self-drive car and bike rental startup, Feerol Fashion, an Imphal-based online fashion store, CISUM, a Sikkim-based music app, and Arohan, a micro-financial institution working from West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, and Meghalaya.
A startup making waves in Imphal is SuiGeneris Inc. Launched in 2007 by Mr. Ragesh Keisham, SuiGeneris Inc. is an Imphal-based tea company, which offers a herbal tea called CC Tea. According to its website, the company currently owns and manages a large plantation of Cymbopogon Citratus, commonly known as lemongrass, in Imphal. The company uses controlled conditions to replicate ancient methods for producing a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea, that provides antioxidants and health benefits.
Based on the principles of a ‘triple bottom-line organization’, SuiGeneris Inc. caters to people, the planet and profit. A term coined by John Elkington in 1994, triple bottom line or TBL is an accounting framework with three parts, namely, social, environmental and financial. Some organizations adopt this framework make greater business value.
While creating gainful employment for around 2,000 people in Manipur, which includes many underprivileged women, the company claims to use organic farming policies and that their product is without pesticides, fertilizers, coloring agents, flavors or other additives.
The company owns a 75-acre farm where their product is cultivated. It has acquired 250 more acres with the aim of launching four more product lines in the coming year. To achieve their biodiversity targets, the company has taken up the ‘Plant a Million Trees’ campaign. The company has also leased and acquired more than 1,000 hectares of land for tree plantation in different areas of Manipur, where they plant and care for high value species.
The SuiGeneris Inc. won the Most Innovative SME Award at The Telegraph INFOCOM SME Awards 2014. Powered by Reliance, this award is an initiative to offer a platform to Northeast Indian startups. Reliance has also offered SuiGeneris Inc. a partnership deal, so that the company can rise to the next level.
In addition to central government’s Startup India initiative, several state governments of India are now offering startups a stepping stone for continued success in the form of tax exemptions, infrastructure, and funding. So far, states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, have formalized their efforts for startups in their space. With the launch of the North East Venture Fund, eight more states can be added to the list.
People are warming up to the government’s support, and according to a Quora reply, the Northeast India’s ‘creative talent, niche products, and good-natured people’, make it an attractive place to invest. However, issues such as sales tax issues, especially in Assam, logistics, and poor internet connectivity, are discouraging.