Kannur: Kodak Films ruled the photography industry through most of the 20th century. But a lack of innovation and an absurd unwillingness to catch up with the fast-paced growth of DSLR technology led to its shutdown. It remains a classic example of how disruption can run idle and uninteresting product models to the ground. Kannur,
Kannur: Kodak Films ruled the photography industry through most of the 20th century. But a lack of innovation and an absurd unwillingness to catch up with the fast-paced growth of DSLR technology led to its shutdown. It remains a classic example of how disruption can run idle and uninteresting product models to the ground. Kannur, the predominantly socialist hub of Kerala and one of the largest centres of small-scale traditional industries, faced this threat. That’s when Shilen Sagunan and a few like-minded individuals came together to form Malabar Angel Network & Malabar Innovation Entrepreneurship Zone (MiZone), a forum of startup entrepreneurs and software companies in North Kerala. In an exclusive interview with technopolis Shilen, Chairman & Co-founder, talks about MiZone and Malabar Angel Network:
Shilen Sagunan, Chairman & Co-founder, Malabar Angel Network & Malabar Innovation Entrepreneurship Zone shares plans that are in store this year
What is the philosophy that drove the creation of MiZone?
Kannur has the distinction of being the first industrial district in Kerala. Even today, Kannur has a large textile ecosystem though disruptive innovations have sidelined many local industries. Just like the industrial belt from Kalamassery to Aluva, in Malabar too, close to half of the old companies have shut shop. After some research, it was decided to create a startup ecosystem in Kannur and nearby areas to foster long-term employment. That has been the driving force behind MiZone.
The inception of MiZone coincided with the inauguration of Kannur International Airport, which is again an advantage, considering the connectivity it offers. To put in place the right kind of support systems, incubator facilities were also included which is supported by the State government. We refurbished an old factory at Dharmashala in Kannur to establish MiZone. The soft launch of the facility was held on January 30. Some companies have already started operations there.
What’s the nature of startups incubated at MiZone?
There are startups at MiZone that represent different sectors, mainly technology, applied technology and various women entrepreneurships. We also have plans to start Village Knowledge Centres in Kannur. The idea is to create a Smart Village in the model of a Smart City. Two villages have been identified for the same.
How will MiZone manage funding for incubatees?
Funding is a challenge for startups from rural districts. Big ticket investors are never part of the scene there. Startups from rural areas also have a tough time drawing investors from cities. It is a costly affair too. Malabar Angel Network, which was founded in 2018, is a result of this realisation. In a unique model, MiZone and Malabar Angel Network are housed under the umbrella of one ecosystem. There is no other incubator in Kerala which has its own fund.
How will MiZone and Malabar Angel Network function?
Malabar Angel Network has been registered as a non-profit. While investors in the network reap benefits, the framework could continue as a non-profit. Funds for five companies have been provided so far by investors. At MiZone, out of the 300 seats, almost 200 have, in principle, presently filled up. We identified local investors last year.
This year, we will have to scale the model. We started operations to scale MiZone in four districts – Wayanad, Kasargod, Malappuram and Palakkad in association with Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM).