In a world of innovation and entrepreneurship, Dr Manisha Acharya stands as a guiding force for aspiring start-ups and women-led businesses. Her journey from a Senior Research Fellow to a renowned CEO and Founder Director reflects an unwavering dedication to fostering an inclusive and thriving start-up ecosystem. Interview Times had the privilege to sit down with Dr Acharya for an insightful conversation, exploring her impact, achievements, and commitment to driving positive change.
Q: You have an impressive background, from a PhD in Botany to becoming the CEO of Indigram Labs Foundation and many more leadership positions. Could you share a bit about your journey and how it led you to the world of entrepreneurship and start-up incubation?
A: Thank you! My journey has been quite dynamic and filled with learning experiences. As a PhD in Botany, I was passionate about research and scientific pursuits. However, my interests evolved, and I realized that my true calling was in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. It was during my time as Head of Start-Up Ecosystem Development at the Indian STEPs and Business Incubators Association (ISBA) that I got deeply involved in incubating and nurturing start-ups. This ignited my passion for creating a supportive environment for aspiring entrepreneurs, and I haven’t looked back since.
Q: Your contributions to incubating start-ups are commendable. What motivated you to establish two incubation centres, and what impact have they made on the start-up community?
A: The driving force behind establishing two incubation centres, Indigram Labs Foundation and Centre for Innovation and Incubation (CII), Utkal University, was a firm belief in the potential of innovative ideas and a desire to provide the necessary resources for their growth. These centres have not only facilitated a collaborative ecosystem that nurtures creativity and innovation but have also collectively generated over 2000 jobs through the supported start-ups. Moreover, they have conducted 400+ events, reaching over 5000 entrepreneurs, and have particularly empowered more than 300 young women through entrepreneurship education. Additionally, managing high-value funds for seed investments has allowed early-stage start-ups to flourish, amplifying the overall impact on the start-up ecosystem by fostering innovation, job creation, and entrepreneurial empowerment.
Q: Your book, “SEED TO SAPLING – The Incubator Way,” is a valuable resource in the start-up ecosystem. What inspired you to write this book, and what key messages do you hope readers take away from it?
A: The book “SEED TO SAPLING” was born out of a desire to provide a comprehensive guide for all stakeholders involved in the incubation architecture. From aspiring entrepreneurs to mentors, investors, and policymakers, I wanted to create a ready referral material to demystify the incubation process. My primary message is to emphasize the significance of incubators in shaping successful start-ups and building a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Q: As the Founder Director of WEneurs Forum, you’ve been a champion for women-led start-ups. Can you tell us more about this initiative and its impact on empowering women entrepreneurs?
A: WEneurs Forum is a passion project close to my heart. It’s a platform designed to empower women entrepreneurs, providing them with mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to resources. By fostering a supportive community, we’ve seen an increase in the number of women-led start-ups and their overall growth. Empowering women in entrepreneurship creates a positive ripple effect on society and the economy.
Q: Your list of awards and recognitions is truly impressive. Which award holds the most significance for you personally, and why?
A: Each award has been an honour and a testament to the hard work and dedication of my team and the start-ups we support. However, the recognition as one of the 75 Women in STEAM in the “She Is” book series supported by the Government of India is significant. It symbolises the commitment of our nation to promote women’s leadership and innovation.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women, who are hesitant to take the leap into the world of start-ups?
A: My advice would be to believe in yourself and your ideas. Surround yourself with a supportive network and seek out mentors who can guide you on your journey. Remember that every challenge is an opportunity to grow, and the world needs diverse voices and perspectives. Don’t be afraid to take the leap; you never know what incredible possibilities lie ahead.
Dr Manisha Acharya’s story is one of determination, passion, and dedication to building an inclusive start-up ecosystem. Her efforts in empowering innovators, especially women entrepreneurs, have made a lasting impact on India’s entrepreneurial landscape. As she continues to be a beacon of inspiration, we eagerly look forward to the positive transformations she will bring to the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.
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