Government Mentor Program
The Government Mentor Program (GMP) is an initiative started by the Government of Telangana, India, envisioned to build familiarity with the Government by bringing officials from relevant departments to mentor startups. The organisers believe that startups work on innovative solutions that have the potential to reform existing processes and services that bodies provide. The goal of GMP is to assist entrepreneurs eyeing the Government as a client to establish connections and seek mentorship from relevant Government officials.
The Government Mentor Program (GMP) is currently inviting start-ups from all over India to venture out their services for the state of Telangana. This ambitious initiative, which was curated to bridge the gap between Government and start-ups in the country, aims to create an innovation-driven economy and foster a culture of innovation across Telangana.
Start-ups which work for a social motive or with a fundamental aim to solve the problems of society often struggle to find the necessary mentorship to potentially help them in streamlining their solutions. Additionally, start-ups that start off with a different motive, tend to be blind to their potential in solving problems that are usually dealt with by the government. Reasonably, the Government alone cannot achieve solutions to all its problems, making it even more important to involve the growing private sector.
Start-ups work on unique and innovative solutions that have the potential to entirely re-write the existing processes or services that Government provides. However, the approachability to the decision-makers within the Government system may not be as easy as it might sound and the goal of GMP is to bridge this gap.
Objectives of the programme:
1. To help innovative startups by providing mentoring from Government Officials;
2. To provide an opportunity for government to assess the capability of startups;
3. To build rapport between startups and government;
Currently, the programme has been rolled out for the Municipal Administration and Urban Development departments and is further set to support other departments, such as Agriculture, Education and Transport. The purpose of this is to have a substantial amount of startups connected with the government and to have wide-scale, implementable solutions. It also allows startups to receive work orders from the government and for them to start to consider government as a client.
The programme is implemented through the following process:
1. Startups fill an online registration form and select the respective focus area.
2. Shortlisting of startups evaluated is done by an incubator & the Government official.
3. Shortlisted startups will make a pitch to an esteemed panel of Government officials, Incubators, Experts from industries and academia.
4. Finalist candidates will go through the intensive 3 months mentorship program.
1. Unique Value Proposition.
3. Sustainability and Scalability.
4. Social Impact.
Eligibility for startups to apply:
1. Should be incorporated as a private limited company (as defined in the Companies Act, 2013) or registered as a partnership firm (under Section 59 of the Partnership Act, 1932) or as a limited liability partnership (under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008) in India.
2. Should have been incorporated/registered within the last seven years (in the case of startups in the biotechnology and/or social sector, the period shall be up to ten years).
3. Shouldn’t have exceeded a turnover of Rs. 25 Cr (approximately EUR 2.9 million) in any of the financial years since its incorporation/registration.
Furthermore, startups must have a “minimum viable product” and be ready to demonstrate “proof of concept” (Idea-stage ventures shall not be considered at this point).
4. The product generated should be assisting the Government in some shape and form.
Mentors are often referred to as the secret to success behind most startups, and who better than people in the public sector, such as the government to share what sort of solution would work for society? This was the thought behind the genesis of the Government Mentor Program.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The GMP organisers have found that there is a communication gap between startups that have potential solutions for the Government and decision-makers within the Government system. Three months of mentorship with relevant senior Government officials will help startups understand the Government requirements and the system better and give them the necessary support to land Governments across the country as clients.
Governments across the world are keen on helping startups grow by becoming their customer. Given that humungous number of startups reach out to them on a daily basis, Government officials typically take the easier way out by engaging with large and established companies. However, by connecting on behalf of the officials and ensuring that they mentor the selected startups for 3 months, senior Government officials will get a deeper insight on the capabilities of the founders and the startups and can take a decision. In the long run, this will also open up the mindset of Government department towards startups.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Innovation Cell recently launched 2 cohorts of the Government Mentor Program (GMP). GMP organisers have received over 350 applications from startups of which 10 startups have been selected to be part of the first cohort with the Information Technology Department and 12 startups have been selected with Hyderabad Police Department. The program has been rolled out for departments focusing citizens’ problems by using Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Media, Content and several other emerging technologies; which are potentially useful for solving various problems for the Government. Currently, the program has been rolled out for the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (GHMC).
Collaborations & Partnerships
Collaborations in the Government Mentor Program largely take place over the selection, evaluation & implementation process (of the startups).
Incubators - To help shortlist the startups by looking at their product innovation.
Industry - To help understand the longevity of the product and its potential in the market.
Academia - To provide knowledge for improving the product, based on research that is being done in a specific sector.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Government officials will get sensitised with startups and the current trends in Technology through this effort. Startups, on the other hand, will be exposed to insights on how they can work with large entities like the Government.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
1. Mr S.M Vijay Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Cyberabad Traffic Police - mentored RHPD- a young start-up founded by two young men who quit their highly paid jobs to make the life of commuters easy by reducing the ever-congested traffic using a Machine Learning Algorithm on crowdsourced data from Google. The solutions prepared by them- an Adaptive Signalling and Road Anomaly Detection have been piloted, nurtured and are now all set-to-scale up from one traffic signal to cross the Hyderabad City and thereafter across the state, wherever needed.
2. LifeOfGirl, a start-up that intends to strengthen women’s safety and security that is currently planning to train about 10,000 women in Hyderabad in reaction strategies like analysis, self-defence, & similar techniques etc, has received mentoring through GMP, from prominent officials of the Police Department like Assistant Commissioner of Police - Ms Narmada & Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police - Ms Poojitha.
Challenges and Failures
A challenge that the managers of the GMP have faced is mentors following up with their startups. The relationship between the two is so exclusive, that it is hard for a third party (i.e. the GMP managers) to initiate it. Documentation of the progress between them is also quite the task. Another challenge has been aligning motives of the startup to the program, and filtering out people who are only looking to sell and not to learn. Creating and maintaining an alumni network with selected startups is also a hurdle that they need to overcome.
Conditions for Success
3 months of Mentorship, has had startups turning from mentees into opportunities where they work with the Government. GMP organisers believe that, in the future, selected startups get more work orders from the Government. This number can only increase when startups come with more cost-effective and efficient solutions for the state and country.
The Government Mentor Program could be an ideal replication for all those countries and states who wish to have that industry to startup connect. It is a great way to have innovations implemented within society, especially when they are tailor-made for specific sectors; namely 200 departments within the government.
The program could be a base for connecting industry to the startups as well, making it a gateway for quality firms and companies, saving both time and effort for bigger corporates or investors within the startup/entrepreneurship ecosystem.
In the era of innovation and fast track development solutions to critical development challenges, Government surfaces as one of the largest vendors for innovative products and services. Procurement of products and services for citizens is at the core of any government’s operations. While the world is speaking about empowering the youth and youth-led start-ups, the government organisers in Telangana have successfully walked an extra mile to collectively work on Government Innovation and youth-led startups with an experimental approach. The Government Mentor Program (GMP), which is an initiative started by the Telangana State Innovation Cell (TSIC), formed under the Department of Information & Technology and Innovation policy aims at bridging the Innovation gap between the Government and Start-Ups offering products and services that ease the access of the citizens to various government schemes and services. GMP’s focus is to experiment with the concept of having senior bureaucrats as mentors for start-ups, as a value-addition to the traditional approach of mentors from corporates and not-for-profit entities. This could certainly lead to a significant change in Anticipatory Governance and Open data projects which indeed are essential topics in making citizens' lives better. Most of the use cases are indeed giving them a perspective looking at systemic change by creating or changing policies. This could pave a path for other countries to adopt and implement the models with their learnings.