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BITS Pilani Students Making their Mark on the Indian Startup Ecosystem

India has witnessed a commendable upsurge in the number of startups in the past few years. With about 40K+ startups and 38 unicorns recognized by the Indian government, the ecosystem is thriving more than ever before. Right from seed capital to unicorn-level acquisitions, the Indian market is rich with opportunities. And with an aim of fueling this fire, the 17th edition of the program is in motion. What started out as a B-Plan competition in 2004 in BITS Pilani is now India’s first and largest student-run non-profit startup accelerator. Conquest, backed by Canara Bank VC and Icertis, aims to create an impact on the entrepreneurial world by assisting startups to navigate through an already challenging startup ecosystem.

Conquest Demo Day, 2018

Although India stands third in the world when it comes to the number of startups in a country, its ranking in terms of impactful startups significantly falls behind in the international community. The supporting framework required by startups to truly succeed has been playing catch-up to the booming entrepreneurial spirit of the nation. Conquest is determined to solve this problem by connecting these startups with the top industry leaders, mentors, and investors from across the country, thus creating new opportunities and giving them access to an immense pool of knowledge coming from the decades of experience possessed by such a cohort.

Finalists pitching to the Jury

Conquest 2021’s first phase included one-on-one mentoring sessions for the top 40 startups where they got a chance to gather insights from established industry experts. Varghese Mathew (AVP, BYJUs), Mahesh Vandi Chalil (Head of Technology, BookMyShow), Anirvan Chowdhury (Investments, Blume Ventures), and Brijesh Bharadwaj (Director of Product, Dunzo) were among the 70+ confirmed mentors for these top 40 mentoring sessions. Having talked to a pool of sector specific mentors, the startups received individualized feedback and guidance which is invaluable at an early stage. The top 18 startups are currently undergoing a 4-week long accelerator program that comprises mentoring sessions on different verticals like product, fundraising, UI/UX, marketing, sales, design, and growth. This leg of the accelerator program will include AMAs, fireside chats, panel discussions with industry experts like Ankur Warikoo with prominence both as founders and investors.

The top 10 will further go through a week-long accelerator program which will include sessions on fundraising and pitching conducted by Conquest’s investment partners, who have pledged 50 crore rupees in funding for the top startups The six weeks of Conquest will finally culminate into Demo Day where the founders will pitch their ideas to the Conquest Community composed of a jury, investors, mentors, media partners, and other startups. The 16th edition of Conquest featured Padma Shri Mohandas Pai as the keynote speaker in their Demo Day. In addition to the opportunity to raise funding, the startups get recognition by eminent personalities and reputed media houses in the country. The winner will also be granted an equity-less cash prize.

For over seventeen years now, Conquest has been providing aspiring founders a platform to take their startups to the next level. It is the indomitable ambition of the students running the program, aided by the investment partners and the startup community, that has allowed it to reach where it is today and it only seems to be growing stronger every subsequent year. In its past editions, Conquest has accelerated the progress of startups like Trell, a lifestyle social media startup that is currently valued at $45 million dollars, and SocialCops, a data intelligence startup that has been acclaimed by PM Narendra Modi.

While Conquest remains committed to its immediate plan – making sure that maximum number of startups extract as much value as possible from the 2021 edition – there is a lot more in store for the greater goal. As the world recovers from the COVID pandemic, Conquest realizes, now more than ever, the importance of bringing sustainable ideas that have the potential of solving complex problems to the forefront. In the 2021 edition, their cohort boasts of some very interesting startups in various sectors and domains. Ecovia, a packaging-as-a-service company, helps e-commerce and hyperlocal businesses to switch to reusable and returnable packaging – an idea that is simple yet very effective if implemented properly. Similarly, there is Agua, a startup that provides IoT based Smart Water Management solutions to buildings, towns and villages. Conquest will continue on its mission of nurturing and empowering many such ideas and help turn them into successful businesses to create positive impact. The road ahead seems very promising and exciting for startups in India and Conquest is thrilled to help build a better future for them.

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