‘Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Skilling’: JKDAF launched to promote start-up culture in UT

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Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Digital Advocacy Forum (JKDAF) was formally launched here on Wednesday with an aim to ‘foster a thriving digital sector’ in the union territory.

During the inaugural session of the JKDAF, several experts shared their insights mainly aimed at promoting a start-up culture in Jammu and Kashmir.

‘India can be the next product nation’

Speaking at the session, Founder HCL Dr. Ajai Chowdhry said the JKDAF should take up a leadership role towards creating a skill force for the future.

Stating that several countries were facing the problem of an ‘aging skill force’ and there was a huge shortage of manufacturing managers especially in the semiconductor sector, he said the academia needed to reach out to the industry. “Academia needs industry as much as the industry needs academia. Unfortunately, the curriculum in our institutions is outdated,” he added.

He said India could take over China as the next ‘product nation’. “China has been the product country for the world. They will give you a product in perfect turnaround time. That has been the situation but India is positioned beautifully and can be the next product nation. India has to seize the opportunity and become the product capital to replace China in the next 5-10 years. It cannot happen overnight. There lies a huge opportunity for the country,” he said.

‘Education system should develop in the ecosystem of innovation’

Vice Chancellor IUST, Prof. Shakeel Romshoo batted for creating an educational system that helped in boosting start-ups and innovations.

“We need to have an educational system that develops in the ecosystem of innovation and the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a step towards that direction. India is known in the IT field and we see Indians everywhere in the IT sector but none of our institutions figure in the (global) top (ranking) list as we do not have a mechanism and an ecosystem for start-ups and innovation. We need to bridge the wide gap between academia and the industry,” he said.

‘We need to unlock Kashmir’

Underscoring the need to ‘unlock Kashmir’, Chief Corporate Affairs & Policy Officer at Inmobi, Dr. Subi Chaturvedi said it was good to see the mushrooming of start-ups in Kashmir.

Pointing to the success story of Kashmir-based start-ups like FastBeetle, she said “We need lots of those where we can create opportunities’.

Batting for the convergence of the traditional Kashmir crafts with technology, Subi said different Valley-based sectors like agriculture, handicrafts and tourism can benefit from digitalisation.

She lauded the Jammu and Kashmir government led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for launching the ‘progressive’ Industrial Policy and other initiatives aimed to attract capital investment in the union territory.

“We see a lot of intent as the government listens to the industry,” she added.

‘A robust and growing digital economy’

In his inaugural address, JKDAF patron Dr MJ Zarabi shared the vision of the forum. Founder and Chief Analyst Techarc Faisal Kawoosa, who moderated the session, also spoke on the occasion.

As per its vision, the JKDAF “is a professionally led group of business leaders in the digital sector committed to foster a thriving digital sector in the UT of J&K. The forum envisions a robust and growing digital economy through vision led advocacy and impacting initiatives in the domains of innovation, startups, skilling and entrepreneurship.”

“JKDAF has the best of the digital ecosystem mentors bringing in diverse rich experience and interest for the benefit of students, startups as well as existing businesses to help them solve complex problems. Through their rich knowledge, domain expertise and invaluable connect, these mentors offer the best launch pad for anyone wanting to create an impact through digital interventions.”

Khalid Wani, Senior Director IMEA, Western Digital hoped that the JKDAF helped in creating a robust atmosphere for the start-ups while adding that he was looking forward to the success of the organisation.

‘Next leg of growth in small towns and cities’

JKDAF founding member and Senior Journalist with Inc42, digital media publication, Bismah Malik said the next leg of start-up growth will be led by small towns and cities.

“India’s next phase of startup story will be written from tier 2,3 towns. In the first phase of digitisation we saw metrics like Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad leading the innovation and tech building. However the next leg of the startup growth is expected to be led by small towns and cities. JKDAF is an initiative in this direction . We are equipped with some of the best talent in the country with the youth of the UT having built their own ventures and working with top startups globally,” she said. “This is the right time to build from J&K for the entire world. In addition to top talent, the need of the hour is to build a holistic infrastructure and provide mentorship , financial support to the budding entrepreneurs who will in turn create huge employment opportunities. It is heartening to see few youth already take a leap in this direction.”

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