Author: Eileen Trenkmann,

As Germany, India has seen a significant increase of startup accelerators. It is fair to assume that there are currently more than 70 accelerators being regularly conducted. While some of the big corporates such as Bosch, Autodesk, SAP, Reliance, TATA, Mahindra, etc. run their own startup programs, there are also a number of incubators regularly conducting accelerator programs such as the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), Shriram Institute -Technology Business Incubator (SRI-TBI), Startup Oasis and many more. Many of these incubators are supported by corporates as supporting incubators is an eligible Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity under the Companies Act 2013 which mandated corporates to spend at least 2 percent of their profits every year on CSR. Many companies and big corporates since then have started to use their CSR budget more strategically and support startups through existing incubators.

The startup scene in India is vibrant and there are assumingly more than 700 incubators active in India. The Indian government has realised that startups are important for economic growth and in 2016 launched the Startup India initiative with the objective of supporting entrepreneurs, building a robust startup ecosystem and transforming India into a country of job creators. The platform provides an overview of upcoming programs and events, provides information on the overall ecosystem through studies, and also gives an overview of ecosystem actors. A dedicated team was set up to lead the initiative which operates under Invest India – the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of India. German startups interested to expand to India and understand the startup ecosystem as well as current events and programs, can reach out to the dedicated Germany team. Following the lead of the centre, several federal have developed their own state policies and dedicated platforms that support startups. For instance, the state of Rajasthan has set-up the iStart which acts as a single window for startups in Rajasthan. More information on the state wise profile from a business point of view, can be found on the Invest India website. This listing gives information on upcoming projects, logistics network, key sectors, and major investors / companies in a particular state.

As India is positioning itself as global startup hub, the number of programs and accelerators that are open for international startups is increasing. For instance, Techstars recently announced its first Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator to be held in India. The program is looking for startups from around the world that are applying technologies including AI, Blockchain, AR/VR, Robotics, IoT and Data Analytics. Also, German companies like Bosch India or SAP that are running their own dedicated accelerator programmes are interested in working with German-based startups. While many accelerator programmes do not specifically say that they are open for international startups, it is still worth trying to contact them and to find out whether their programs are opened for international startups. A list of a few accelerators can be found in the market guide PDF document:

More information on current accelerator programs can be found on the F6S platform. Also, YourStory, India’s biggest media platform for startups regularly publishes call of accelerators and incubators.

With the globalisation of startup ecosystems, several Indo-German programs have evolved. First and foremost, the German Indian Startup Exchange Program (GINSEP). GINSEP in its first project phase already conducted a startup tour for four German startups to India and in 2020 a startup tour for Indian startups to Germany.

Another inititaive supporting German startups to enter the Indian markert, is the Next Step Programme by the German Accelerator. Next Step is a market discovery programme that helps German startups validate the suitability of their business in new potential target markets in Asia (India included). Through the programme, startups gain first-hand market insights, explore individual business opportunities within the local ecosystem, and directly connect with potential customers and partners on the ground.

The Indo-German Young Leaders Forum (IGYLF) is another programme that seeks to provide access for German and Indian startups  to the respective other country. IGYLF not just targets startups, but also serves as a bilateral exchange platform for exceptional and brilliant minds from India and Germany. It seeks to foster an exchange between young Indian and German leaders from different areas – be it business, politics, science, or media and culture – and establish long-lasting networks. The Indo-German Young Leaders Forum holds its flagship event on a yearly basis in either Germany or India.

Furthermore, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy has also established the Market Entry Programme to support companies to identify new markets. The Market Entry Programme supports events and projects organised for small and medium-sized companies, in particular in traditional sectors and industry branches. It includes self-employed professionals, technical professions and business-related service providers. It aims to provide concrete support for companies entering or positioning themselves in new foreign markets. In the framework of this programme, the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (AHK India) jointly with other partners conducted a digital tour for German SMEs and startups active in fintech, mobility, logistics and greentech to India in September 2020. Similar trips are also planed in 2021.

Strengthing cooperation between the Berlin startup ecosystem and several Asian startup ecosystem, is the AsiaBerlin platform. The AsiaBerlin platform was established by the State of Berlin in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The platform also regularly conducts delegation trip to several Asian countries, among these India, as well as its annual networking event, called AsiaBerlin Summit, seeking to establish an international startup ecosystem between Berlin and Asia. Further information on upcoming events and delegation trips can be found on their website:

Another important contact for German startups is the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) in Bangalore. IGCC is closely working with the Indo-German startup scene and is partner of GINSEP and the AsiaBerlin network. IGCC also actively helps German startups that seek to explore India.