All unicorns from India are based in metros such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Microsoft is all out to change that. To complement government's initiatives in Tier-II and Tier-III cities and boost the start-up ecosystem, Microsoft has launched a new start-up programme 'Highway to a Hundred Unicorns'.
These events will bring together entrepreneurs, government, industry bodies, investors, local businesses community and start-up ecosystem players.
"There is a strong pool of ideas and talent beyond the well-known start-up hubs of India. Through Highway to a Hundred Unicorns, we will reach out to start-ups in Tier-II cities and support them to achieve scale at their place of origin," said Lathika Pai, Country Head, Microsoft for Startups - MENA and SAARC.
Startups that participate in the programme will receive guidance and mentorship through technology workshops on subjects such as Azure, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
From the participating start-ups, the technology firm will identify ten start-ups from each of the ten different Indian states.
The first event happened in Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Over 250 start-ups attended the event. Among 250 start-ups that attended the event, Microsoft will shortlist the top 10 as 'Emerge 10-Gujarat' start-ups.
They will receive Azure credits and will also be invited to pitch for access to the Microsoft ScaleUp programme.
These programmes will be organised along with the state governments to strengthen the start-up ecosystem in each state. In Gujarat, it was done in collaboration with Industries Commissionerate and Industrial Extension Bureau (iNDEXTb) that have already given grants to over 200 start-ups in the state.
"Start-ups in Tier-II cities get the initial support of funds from the government but the next level of support to scale is where Microsoft will pitch in where it will provide support of latest technology, access to global markets, and mentoring," says Pai.
"It is important to understand what the government is doing and then complement its work," she adds.
Similar programme will be followed in Rajasthan in October followed by Kerela by the end of the year.
The Microsoft ScaleUp program supports Seed or Series A funded B2B and select B2C tech-enabled start-ups to co-sell with Microsoft sales teams and get access to top tech VCs and mentors globally.
The start-ups will be curated by the team from Microsoft and also investors such as Kalaari Capital, LetsVenture, Unilazer Ventures and Ideaspring Capital.