Local Entrepreneur Launches an Incubator for Eastern India


Rick Pal (center) with Gaurav Kapoor (right) looking at rural innovations in Jharkhand.

HOUSTON: Rick Pal, a Houston businessman, has launched the first private incubator and accelerator in Kolkata to spark innovation and entrepreneurship in eastern India. Known as Innokul with a tagline of “gurukul (school) for innovators”, he plans to incubate 6-10 early-stage startups every year. A program is already underway that will encourage building innovative solutions through a six-month acceleration curriculum that will give them access to co-working space, mentors, industry expertise, access to local and global resources, and seed funding.  The goal is to get selected start-ups validate their ideas, develop a prototype, make necessary adjustments to their business plan, and build a good team – all of which are needed to garner next level of investment.

According to Rick, “due to several political and social reasons, eastern India particularly Bengal was not able to take advantage of the IT revolution. However there is a strong desire within its population to be not left behind further. The level of interest we have seen in younger folks is very encouraging. I am hoping Innokul can jumpstart some of these young folks and put Bengal and eastern India on the innovation map”.

In its first few months, Innokul has already made good progress. They have signed MoU with Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Calcutta and have co-hosted several programs with them including Start-up Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Similar arrangements are in the works with several other institutions in the area. They are also working closely with local government and organizations like Kolkata Angels, Nasscom and TiE.

Gaurav Kapoor, a longtime entrepreneur in Kolkata, is managing the operations of Innokul as its first executive director. Besides keeping an eye on daily activities, he travels all over eastern India meeting potential incubees, mentoring selected start-ups, signing partnerships, and giving presentations to encourage entrepreneurship.

According to him, “the need and challenge is to develop the ecosystem. We need to have solid ideas, people who can execute, investors who can fund, mentors who can help, government that can make things easy, and industries that can support it. Launching Innokul is the first step. Getting all these pieces to work together is the final goal.”