Meghalaya’s first ever Entrepreneurship Challenge is creating waves among job seekers & is here to stay



"I am of the firm belief that it is only through entrepreneurship that the economy of the state can move
forward. We need participation from all to make the state grow and prosper"—

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma in his speech had stressed on the need for a viable ecosystem for aspiring entrepreneurs in Meghalaya and soon enough, after his speech, for the first time in Meghalaya, the Chief Minister's E-Champion Challenge was launched on August 14, 2019 with an aim to create an ecosystem where people with workable ideas can walk into an enterprise facilitation center or an incubator and get the hand-holding support needed to navigate the complex web of markets, technology and credit.

Speaking to TNT-The Northeast Today, Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Meghalaya, Chief Minster's Secretariat, Planning, Finance, Tourism, Sports and Youth Affairs etc., Dr. Vijay Kumar D (IAS) informed that the youth population of Meghalaya is much higher than other states of India- about 12 lakh individuals in the state are in the age group of 15-29. Entrepreneurship is the only way to engage the talent and energy of this large young population.

Chief Minister's E-Champion Challenge is the first step in systematically choosing the first batch of E-Champs, who will be the vanguard for the enterprise ecosystem development. This will be a regular event and more E-champs will be selected and nurtured in the years to come. The programme is being headed by Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship (MIE) in association with Indian Institute of Management- Calcutta Innovation Park (IIM-CIP) and Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA).

"The CM's E-Champion Challenge is the first step in systematically choosing the first batch of E-champs, who will be the vanguard for the enterprise ecosystem development. This challenge will be a regular event and more E-champs will be selected and nurtured in the years to come", Dr. Vijay Kumar D added.

TNT- The Northeast Today spoke with various stakeholders (Mr. Barnari Mawlong, Director, MIE; Mr. Dikki D. Shira, Director, MIE and Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP) who are spearheading this one-of-a-kind unique initiative and below are excerpts from the interview:


What is your view on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Meghalaya? How do you think this initiative is different from other run-of-the mill government programmes?

Mr. Barnari Mawlong, Director, MIE: Most of the support systems on Entrepreneurship in Meghalaya
right now are running on silos where everyone is doing their own thing. There is a disconnect between
the support systems and entrepreneurs. There is a mentality that one needs to hunt for government
jobs once they graduate but the vacancies are limited. Hence it is high time that people start standing on
their own two feet and entrepreneurship is one field which will turn them from job seekers to employment generators. This is also different from other government programmes in the sense that most government schemes are usually rolled out for free but in this case, the applicants have to prove themselves in order to be part of this programme and derive benefits from it, thereby adding more value to it.

Mr. Dikki D. Shira, Director, MIE: There are many entrepreneurs in the State of Meghalaya, specially the
youth. Since no platform was available that would link them to finance and market access, the
enterprises were run in small scale and often ended halfway. The local entrepreneurs could not
compete with the outside world due to which many became 'benami' traders. However, there are many
business ideas particularly amongst the youth which are yet to be tapped. Introducing programmes like
CM's E-Champion Challenge is an opportunity for the young and budding entrepreneurs while giving
them a platform to come up with innovative ideas to start enterprises. This programme is different from
other run-of-the mill Government programmes since it gives recognition certificate from the
Government of Meghalaya and IIM-CIP, which in return will enable the youth to avail any Government
Schemes within the periphery of the programme.

Speaking of Entrepreneurship, many people in rural areas are not aware of the concept. How are you reaching out to them?

Mr. Barnari Mawlong, Director, MIE: We conducted sensitization programmes in all districts of Meghalaya to not only make people aware of the programme but also to help them avail this unique opportunity. We are also using media as well as social media to reach out to masses on a larger scale in both rural and urban areas. We have also distributed pamphlets to spread awareness on the same. We have tried our level best to ensure that no one is left out. We also personally met various Deputy Commissioners to seek their assistance while also interacting with different stake holders of the district and Block level. Tele calling and mails were also sent to each and every applicant, and also those who had not completed their registration forms to push them to complete their registration process. Our back end team has been working hard to ensure no one is left out.

You have worked extensively in leveraging the startup scene in Assam as well. What potential do you see in Meghalaya's entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– Meghalaya's entrepreneurial ecosystem is currently in a nascent stage, but holds tremendous potential. The Government has identified entrepreneurship as one of the key drivers for the socio economic development of the state and triggered several initiatives which aim at supporting large number of new enterprises. Hence, I am very optimistic that in the next 3 to 5 years' time, a vibrant and effective ecosystem will be available for the entrepreneurs.

Do you think an initiative such as this is enough to kick start the ecosystem? What other suggestions would you recommend for the same?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– The objective of this kind of initiative is primarily to create awareness, encourage the youth to come up with their business ideas, reward and recognize some promising entrepreneurs. This will help create a buzz on entrepreneurship in the state by creating some youth role models.

The next step of incubation is more critical – handholding the promising businesses and transforming them into sustainable ventures. This requires capacity building, mentoring, networking, funding access and visibility. It typically takes 18-24 months. IIM-CIP would be happy to support Meghalaya Government to effectively implement a strong incubation platform.

What kind of business potentials do you see in Meghalaya?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– The natural strength of the state lies in Agriculture & Food, Music, Fashion and sports. Hence we expect entrepreneurs to leverage this strengths using technology. There is also a big potential to build businesses by providing innovative solution to some of the basic need areas like Healthcare, Education, Logistics.


Since MIE is heading the Meghalaya Chief Minister's E-Champion Challenge, please tell our readers what is so unique about this programme and its objectives.

Mr. Barnari Mawlong, Director, MIE: This unique initiative aims to provide a platform to budding entrepreneurs irrespective of their age or background. We have tried to reduce the language barrier also to encourage more participation from the rural areas of the state and the response has been amazing in terms of participation given the fact that this is the first time that such a programme has been introduced in Meghalaya.

Mr. Dikki D. Shira, Director, MIE: The Chief Minister's E-Champion Challenge is actually a very unique
programme as it will give platform for the young entrepreneurs both for individuals as well as groups in the State of Meghalaya. The programme will enable the youth to come up with innovative ideas. This programme will help not only in spreading the spirit of entrepreneurship in the state but will also provide employment opportunities for the youth.

What is your take on the viability of this programme?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– From our experience of executing various state and national level
programs, we believe this is the right approach to build the ecosystem. Since this involves a change in
mindset and culture, we need to be patient and persistent. It typically takes 3-5 years to create a
supportive ecosystem. It is important that the Government develops a long term plan and stays
committed towards this.

What are the differences you observe in Meghalaya's and Assam's entrepreneurial ecosystem? What kind of approach are you taking as knowledge partners with the Govt. Of Meghalaya for Chief Minister's E-Champion Challenge?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– Currently both the states have identified entrepreneurship
development as a priority and trying to develop an ecosystem for entrepreneurs. Though there are
some broad level similarities in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the North East states, the culture,
natural resources, strengths and challenges of the states are big influencing factors. Hence as a
knowledge partner we cannot adopt a one size fits all kind of approach and need to recognize these
diversities while formulating the implementation strategy. The Meghalaya CM's E-Champion challenge
is not focused on startups only but also aims to support any enterprise that addresses a big need and
has potential to scale up and create jobs.


What kind of handholding activity would you be providing to selected entrepreneurs?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIM-CIP– To build a sustainable business, the entrepreneur needs good
understanding of different aspects of business, marketing strategies, financials and fund raising
processes. IIM-CIP conducts rigorous boots camps and capacity building workshops to help the
entrepreneurs bridge the knowledge gap. This will be supported by continuous mentoring by the
experts, funding connect and networking.

Please tell our readers more about the incubation centres that are being set up in Shillong and Tura. How will these be of help to the state entrepreneurs?

Mr. Barnari Mawlong, Director, MIE: The incubation centres in Tura and Shillong will be the first of its
kind in Meghalaya where ideas will be incubated. Since we will be selecting 50 ideas out of hundreds of applicants, the capacity of the incubation centres will be on these lines. The reason they are called incubation centres is because they are like nests and the ideas are like eggs and when you take care of it, the ideas hatch and ultimately these ideas materialize. Credit and market linkage will also be provided to the entrepreneurs while also giving them technical expertise. They will also be exposed to industrial experts and mentors while providing them hand holding facilities and opportunities to share ideas with each other.

Mr. Dikki D. Shira, Director, MIE: Incubation centres are being set up in Shillong and Tura for the selected
entrepreneurs to groom them in their respective domains. Selected entrepreneurs will undergo training,
focused mentorship, market access, access to credit and funding oppurtunities in a systematic one-year
incubation programme. Working incubation for the selected youth will be adding more value to the
enterprises. Hand-holding the upcoming entrepreneurs in incubation centres to market access, finance
links, etc. will help the entrepreneurs in up-scaling their business.


There are apprehensions from certain quarters about sharing their business ideas. How will you ensure a non-biased approach as well as maintain privacy of individual ideas?

Mr. Subhrangshu Sanyal, CEO, IIMCIP– As a standard practice, the entrepreneurs need to share their
ideas with mentors, experts, investors for getting any support. For any public contest / challenge, there is a general confidentiality clause specified on the portal on application forms and is always on a best effort basis.

The applications will be reviewed by experts from all over India and it will be like a blind evaluation.
Hence the probability of bias is very low. The best way to legally protect one's intellectual property is to
file a patent for the solution.