PANAJI: Even as the state government brags about its lofty ambitions to make Goa a startup hotspot, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which operates an incubator, has begun to quietly shut the door to local startups.
The corporation’s Ignite innovation hub has been virtually transformed into an office for Goa Electronics Ltd, and startups and entrepreneurs are being asked to vacate the premises, sources informed TOI.
GEL officials have begun to take over the cubicles and cabins that were meant for startups, while applications from tech entrepreneurs for working space are being rejected, a source said. Even EDC officials told TOI that GEL occupies 75-80% of the desks at Ignite that were meant for startups.
TOI has also learnt that EDC has issued directions that whenever co-working seats at EDC Ignite are vacant, “first give preference to GEL” before offering them to startups.
Former chief minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated the incubation centre in 2018, which was set up at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore. Parrikar and then EDC chairman Sidharth Kuncalienker had announced that the incubation centre would encourage young entrepreneurs to set up their own startup companies in Goa.
EDC Ignite has 90 desks, which are offered at a nominal rate of Rs 2,000 per month to tech companies along with plug-n-play facilities. At present, there are four startups incubated with EDC Ignite, and three firms that have sought co-working space.
Vasant Salgaoncar, the founder of Mechgiri, one of the startups presently incubated with EDC Ignite, applied for an extension after a year, but even though more than a month has passed, he has not received any response.
“The pandemic has sent all early-stage startups to square one. At this point, where revenues have gone down, an incubation-cum-co-working hub like EDC is exceptionally helpful,” said Salgaoncar.
Another startup functioning out of EDC Ignite was asked to “release” the desks that it was using so that they could be offered to GEL.
TOI attempted to reach out to EDC chairman Sadanand Shet Tanavade on multiple occasions but Tanavade was unavailable for comment.
EDC managing director K V Ballikar said that GEL has been recruiting more staff and was looking for office space. “Ignite wasn’t doing too well and because of the pandemic, IT companies want to work from home. GEL, which is our subsidiary, will pay EDC Rs 5 lakh per month as rent so EDC will earn Rs 60 lakh a year,” Ballikar said.
Records show that EDC asked one of the startups which “badly needed two desks” to “release” the work space as GEL was interested in taking them up.