GUSEC Startup ‘Alagrand.com’ Raises Seed Round at a ₹20 Crore Valuation

(The following news was announced by Dr MN Patel, Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat University, along with Mr Mitesh Shethwala, Founder & CEO of Alagrand.com, at a formal media briefing on December 13, 2016 at the Vice-Chancellor’s office.)

AHMEDABAD, December 13, 2016 – Alagrand.com, a startup incubated at Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC) last week raised an undisclosed seed round of investment at a valuation of US$3 million (~₹20 crore).

The investment round was led by a local investor who has previously invested in several business ventures. Alagrand.com is currently in its second year of operation.

The e-commerce market in India is projected to cross a value of ₹2,00,000 crore by the end of 2016, with apparel and footwear contributing to roughly 35% of that market. India has more than 50 fashion e-commerce brands including the largest players Myntra and Jabong – both currently owned by the Flipkart group – but Alagrand.com is the first such fashion e-commerce startup from the state of Gujarat.

Alagrand.com, started with the vision to localise fashion e-commerce and uplift local brands and designers, currently sells more than 10,000 product across 20+ categories featuring prominent Gujarat-based brands such as Jadeblue, Asopalav, Viva N Diva, Chashmish, etc.

“E-commerce is considered to be a crowded space in India, however there wasn’t a single leading fashion e-commerce marketplace from Gujarat when we started 2 years ago. We started with the clear vision to capture this opportunity,” said founder Mitesh Shethwala.

Alagrand.com team with other incubatees at GUSEC

Applauding the milestone, Dr MN Patel, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat University said, “Startups are quickly becoming the growth engine of the country, boosting the economy as well as creating jobs. With the gross enrolment ratio increasing every year, it becomes a key to support startups and innovations right at the early stage so the education system also brings out some job creators – and universities can play a very pivotal role in this. Through GUSEC, we today support more than 30 startups and innovations and the work done by Mitesh with Alagrand.com has been commendable. We shall continue to find and implement new ways to support our startups and innovations in every way possible.”

Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC) is a university initiative sanctioned in late 2015 by the university.

In April 2016, GUSEC in association with Gujarat CSR Authority, awarded ₹40,000 as pre-seed fund to 12 of its startups, one of which was Alagrand.com.

According to Shethwala, the seed fund will be utilised to scale the backend and develop mobile app platforms of the service, as well as influx more human resources to grow the company. “Our goal is to have at least a million sellers selling on our platform in the next 3 years,” added Shethwala.

Also read: The story of Mitesh Shethwala on Chaaipani, another startup incubated at GUSEC, where Shruti Chaturvedi writes about Mitesh’s battle with depression

Check out: Alagrand.com

Gujarat’s Hon’ble Education Minister Appreciates Efforts of GUSEC

In a letter on December 9, 2016, Gujarat’s Hon’ble Minister of Education and Revenue, Shri Bhupendrasinh Chudasamaji, appreciated the efforts of GUSEC under the aegis of Gujarat University.

The letter reads:

In August 2015, soon after the Hon’ble Prime Minister announced the “Startup India” mission in his Independence Day address, I chaired a meeting of Vice-Chancellors of all universities of Gujarat, hosted by Gujarat University, to discuss the importance of universities in building and advancing the state’s startup ecosystem.

Later in February 2016, I inaugurated the co-working space of Gujarat University Startup Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC), and it is noteworthy that GUSEC – in just 10 months – today supports over 25 startups and innovations, and is developing the country’s first institutional mechanisms and policies for supporting student startups and innovations in the research sectors.

The role of universities in supporting startups, entrepreneurs and innovators is of utmost importance and the efforts of Gujarat University in this regard have been key in our state of Gujarat.

I congratulate the university for their efforts and wish them continued success.

We thank the Hon’ble Minister for his kind remarks. The copy of the letter can be viewed below:

Openings at Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC)

As advertised on Gujarat University’s website on October 14, 2016, applications are invited for the following positions at Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC):

  1. Head of Operations
  2. Operations Associate

Interested applicants should apply via email. Please mention the position you’re applying for, include a descriptive cover letter highlighting why you’re well suited for the position, and attach a copy of your latest CV. Please email your applications to coordinator@gusec.org before 11:59 pm on October 25, 2016. The eligibility criteria and job description of each of the above roles is described under.

1) Head of Operations

Eligibility criteria for the role of Head of Operations

  • Applicants must have at least 2 years of middle- or top-managerial experience in the field of marketing and/or communications and/or non-profit organisation development
  • Applicants must have a clear understanding of local, national & global startup ecosystems
  • Applicants must possess strong communications, interpersonal and social skills in order to forge, build and maintain relationships with significant individuals across startup ecosystems as well as maintain relations of GUSEC with other significant organisations and institutions
  • Applicants must also possess a strong command on English language with vocational competency
  • Experience in the field of entrepreneurship development and startup support is a plus
  • A Bachelors’ degree is required

Job description for Head of Operations: The Head of Operations will be responsible for micro-managing all operations of Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC), the scope of which includes, but isn’t limited to, incubation management, IPR support, sensitisation, expanding GUSEC operations at university’s affiliated institutes, and forging relations with external stakeholders. The Head of Operations shall lead the day-to-day operations of the council and report directly to the CEO of GUSEC.

Salary for the position of Heads of Operations: Rs. 30,000 per month, fixed and consolidated

2) Operations Associate

Eligibility criteria for the role of Operations Associate

  • Applicants must have at least 1 year of experience in research / non-profit industry verticals
  • Applicants must possess strong communications, interpersonal and social skills
  • Applicants must have a clear understanding of local, national & global startup ecosystems
  • Experience in the field of entrepreneurship development and startup support is a plus
  • A Bachelors’ degree is required

Job description for Operations Associate: The Operations Associate will be responsible for micro-managing particular assignments and initiatives undertaken by GUSEC, and assist the GUSEC office bearers and staff for effective functioning of day-to-day operations.

Salary for the post of Operations Associate: Rs. 18,000 per month, fixed and consolidated

Note: All the above positions are on contractual ad-hoc basis subject to necessary approvals from Gujarat University. All selected candidates will have to obey the rules and regulations of GUSEC and GU.

See advertisement on Gujarat University’s website

Announcing the Roadmap for GUSEC

On May 5, 2016, Vice-Chancellor Dr. MN Patel presented the following overview of the roadmap for Gujarat University Startup And Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC) to members of the media, incubated startups, senior faculty members of the university and other stakeholders of the startups ecosystem.

Brief background regarding GUSEC

  • Since July 2015, Gujarat University has taken efforts to support startups, entrepreneurs and innovators at university campus, as well as taken efforts to build a cohesive startup ecosystem in the state of Gujarat
  • In August 2015, the administration constituted GUSEC officially under the university system
  • Education Minister Shri Bhupendrasinh Chudasama chaired two pivotal meetings for the Gujarat startup ecosystem in August-September 2015, including a roundtable of all Vice-Chancellors of Gujarat
  • Between November 2015 and January 2016, Gujarat University partnered with Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) to carry out sensitisation of students across several GU affiliated colleges in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar
  • In February 2016, education ministers of Gujarat inaugurated the GUSEC Building which includes the co-working space of GUSEC
  • Since March 2016, more than 15 startups have been incubated at GUSEC Co-Working Space, most for any incubator or co-working space in Gujarat, making GUSEC the fastest growing incubator and co-working space in Gujarat
  • More than 30 qualified startups have thus far applied to join GUSEC and soon, the centre will operate at 100% capacity

GUSEC objectives

  • GUSEC is the first incubator and co-working space in India that’s taking efforts for supporting non-tech startups and innovations
  • GUSEC has been instituted to play the role of a top-notch facilitator in the startup world, and is accepting applications from not only GU students, but also from entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and industry verticals, thus helping the Gujarat Startup Ecosystem
  • GUSEC is providing hand-holding support to each entrepreneur associated with it
  • GUSEC is also building a Mentor Board that will have hundreds of industry leaders and subject experts from across India. These individuals may not be easily accessible by entrepreneurs or innovators, but GUSEC will help its incubated startups have direct access to such subject experts for mentorship
  • Today, GUSEC is a completely community- and student-driven institution. The inputs of students and entrepreneurs at GUSEC will be of paramount importance to the university and the system will continuously adapt to the needs of the end-users

Association with GCSRA

  • Last week, 20 GUSEC startups pitched to receive seed funds from Gujarat State Seed Corporation via the Gujarat CSR Authority in an event organised by GUSEC and EDI, and 12 startups received grants of Rs. 40,000 each. 7 others have qualified for the 2nd round
  • Through an integrated MoU that has been signed between Gujarat University and Gujarat CSR Authority, the university expects more collaboration with GCSRA for promoting entrepreneurship and innovation activities through GUSEC

Outreaching to 3 lakh students

  • GUSEC, from the next academic term of 2016-17, will also start outreaching to all 300+ institutes affiliated to Gujarat University, where a student team and a faculty coordinator will execute GUSEC’s objectives
  • All 300+ institutes affiliated to Gujarat University will be provided support to build startup centres and co-working spaces in order to provide support systems directly where students are. This will directly benefit over 3 lakh students affiliated to the university. At least 50 best campuses will be provided extended hand-holding support in order to take entrepreneurship straight at students’ doorsteps
  • The university will also usher in several other interventions across its academic, co-curicullar and extra-curicullar platforms, some of which include providing grace marks and grace attendance for well-performing student entrepreneurs and innovators, option for deferred placements, options for students to take “gap years”, introduction of practical modules of entrepreneurship learning in syllabi, ranking affiliated institutes based on how well they support entrepreneurs and innovators, etc.

Research to Revenue & patent support

  • GUSEC has introduced the concept of “Research to Revenue” where the university hopes to convert at least 5% of research done by university students into commercial, profit-making startups
  • Already, Gujarat University is supporting student innovators for patent funding and allied processes through support from agencies such as GCSRA and NIF, but GUSEC will soon constitute its own patent and IPR support group to provide a direct, single-window support system for young innovators. GUSEC aims to facilitate filing of at least 50 full patents in the first year

Internal seed funding from university & external funding facilitation

  • GUSEC will also help its incubated startups take benefits of the Startup Assistance Scheme of the Gujarat Industrial Policy 2015, as soon GUSEC will also be a nodal institution under that scheme. GUSEC aims to facilitate funding support from Gujarat government for at least 25 startups through the Startup Assistance Scheme in the first year
  • By the end of this year, GUSEC is also keen to establish a DST-supported TBI
  • Most importantly, the university is also considering allocating a startup seed-fund of up to the tune of 1 crore for startups from university’s corpus funds

Startup & Innovation Policy

  • The university, to formalise and document all its efforts taken under GUSEC will also introduce an inclusive and broad Gujarat University Startup & Innovation Policy to support new-age entrepreneurship, innovation and startups. The core aim of the policy will be to usher in processes and systems to make at least 1% of all students affiliated to the university as job creators by means of entrepreneurship or innovation

The broader objectives of GUSEC

  • Through GUSEC, Gujarat University wishes to play a crucial role in building the startup ecosystem of Gujarat and the country
  • The university has a keenness to engage as many external stakeholders as possible contribute to the startup ecosystem of Gujarat and India to build processes, systems and policies at the broad level that are scalable and replicable
  • Youth of the country today requires to be independent and self-sufficient. It is very crucial that universities play their part in helping students become “job creators” instead of “job seekers”

Gujarat University Aims To Nurture 3000 Entrepreneurs In The Next 5 Years

1% of university students will be encouraged, nurtured and supported to become entrepreneurs and innovators through university’s Startup and Innovation Policy

May 5, 2016, AHMEDABAD – Today, Gujarat University Vice-Chancellor, Dr. MN Patel, announced the roadmap for the recently initiated Gujarat University Startup And Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC).

GUSEC was constituted by the university late in 2015, and the co-working space situated within a dedicated building for GUSEC at the University School of Sciences, was inaugurated on February 26, 2016. Since then, 15 startups have already been operating from the co-working space, where as over 30 have applied to join the startup council.

“GUSEC is the first incubator and co-working space in India that’s taking efforts for supporting non-tech startups and innovations, and it has been instituted to play the role of a top-notch facilitator in the startup world; we are accepting applications from not only GU students, but also from entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and industry verticals, thus helping the Gujarat startup ecosystem,” said Dr. MN Patel, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat University.

A mentor board, comprising industry leaders and domain experts, is also being formed under GUSEC to help startups get mentorship from the best in the business.

The Vice-Chancellor also announced that the university will recommend and help all its 300+ affiliated institutes to create startup centres along with bringing in necessary academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular interventions. This will directly impact over 3 lakh students enrolled with the university.

“We will implement several interventions across our academic, co-curricular and extracurricular platforms, some of these will include providing grace marks and attendance for well-performing student entrepreneurs and innovators, option for deferred placements, option for students to take ‘gap years’ for pursuing entrepreneurship, introduction of practical modules of entrepreneurship learning in syllabi, etc.”

The university also plans to devise a ranking methodology to rank its affiliated institutes on the basis of how the institutes support entrepreneurship and innovation activities. “Based on the ranking, we will providing extended hand-holding support to the 50 best campuses for building their startup centres and entrepreneurship cells,” he added.

To support innovators and researchers, the university has recently introduced the concept of “Research to Revenue”, where the university aims to convert 5% of research done by its students into startups with hand-holding support and facilitation via GUSEC.

“Research to Revenue is a concept that Gujarat University is pioneering. We will also create a patent and IPR support group under GUSEC and we expect to file at least 50 patents in the first year through GUSEC,” the Vice-Chancellor announced. Support from external agencies such as National Innovation Foundation and Gujarat CSR Authority will be provided to entrepreneurs needing patent support, until the patent support group is formed under GUSEC.

The Vice-Chancellor also stressed on the needs of funds for startups at every stage and announced that the university will participate as a “Nodal Institution” to facilitate Gujarat government’s startup assistance scheme.

“Recently, 12 startups received Rs. 40,000 each as pre-seed grants from Gujarat State Seed Corporation via Gujarat CSR Authority at GUSEC, and we will continue organising such funding events with external agencies,” the Vice-Chancellor said. “But we also plan to set aside an internal budget of up to Rs. 1 crore for startup seed funds for promising startups at GUSEC. This will be a first-of-its-kind initiative by any university.”

A Startup & Innovation Policy will be introduced soon to implement and execute the roadmap across the universities and its affiliated institutes. The policy’s aim will be to support and nurture at least 1% of university students as entrepreneurs and innovators.

“Through GUSEC, Gujarat University wishes to play a crucial role in building the startup ecosystem of Gujarat and the country. We hope to engage as many external stakeholders as possible and not only support startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs at the ground, but also hope to build processes, systems and policies at the broad level that are scalable and replicable. Youth of the country today requires to be independent and self-sufficient. It is very crucial that universities play their part in helping students become “job creators” instead of “job seekers”,” the Vice-Chancellor said and concluded his address.

GUSEC Startups Receive Seed Fund

On April 29, 2016, GUSEC organised Empresario-2 in association with Gujarat Corporate Social Responsibility Authority (GCSRA) and Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI).

A total of 20 startups from varied sectors and verticals pitched, and 12 startups were approved for receiving seed money.

Another 7 startups were invited for a second round to understand their startups in detail before they receive approval for the seed money.

This seed money will be utilised in various ways by entrepreneurs to grow their startups, register their companies, file patents, deploy a website, etc.

Keeping in mind the ‘Startup India, Standup India’ movement declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat University recently instituted the Gujarat University Startup And Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC) for supporting, nurturing and encouraging students to start up, innovate and be ‘job creators’ instead of ‘job seekers’.

“We are going to implement all necessary processes, systems and facilities required for startups, entrepreneurs and innovators to grow quickly within the university system, and by mapping the initiative of CSR Authority of Gujarat, startups can get some initial funding to quickly grow,” said Dr. MN Patel, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat University.

Both student startups and established startups pitched to receive seed money, some of which include Planet Earthlings, Chaaipani, San Burn, Aatap Energy, Alagrand.com, StudentDesk, amongst others.

“Rs. 40,000 may not sound much in the startup domain but it is very useful for a new startup like ours. We will be using this fund to complete our company registration, make a website and build a prototype,” said Jaydev Patel, a research student at Gujarat University at Physics department of Gujarat University who runs a startup called Xitiz Technologies.

Besides the seed money, the startups will also be extended other allied support such as mapping, mentorship and other hand-holding required by them via GUSEC and other external actors in the startup ecosystem.