MAURITIAN INCUBATOR HELPS ICT ENTREPRENEURS OVER START-UP HURDLES

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Roshan Kumar Seebaluck’s job is to nurture ICT start-ups and to help them get over the numerous hurdles that prevent so many with business ideas to become entrepreneurs: Roshan Kumar Seebaluck. Together with his team of three staff, he runs the first Mauritian ICT Incubator (http://ncb.intnet.mu/ncb/incubator). It started in 2003 but has already clocked up several successes. And he believes that the existing project is only the start and it should be “cloned”.

"There are a lot of hurdles would-be entrepreneurs have to take. We help them with marketing, tackle the bureaucracy and find venture capital", Seebaluck explains. "But the most important part is counselling, giving advice."

The incubator also provides affordable office space in central Port Louis to ICT start-ups. But it is not only office space, it is an all inclusive package. There's a security guy, some furniture, a meeting room, shared copy and fax machines, internet access - everything you need to do is to bring your PC and start to work. Plus there are several other start-ups on the same floor, whose staff you can meet in the small kitchen and thus make invaluable business contacts.

"We go to trade fairs, universities and local councils to market the start-ups as well as our services", says Seebaluck, "We organize courses for business creation and do technology sessions at the IT University. Also, we try to network different aspiring entrepreneurs with each other as well as with established Mauritian business organisations."

Financed by a grant from the Ministry of IT, the incubator has been started as an open end project in 2003 by the National Computer Board (http://ncb.intnet.mu). The Technology Park in the German city of Aachen functions as a role model. The 17 ICT companies Seebaluck has hatched since have created new employment for 85 Mauritians so far. Six start-ups are international joint ventures, four of them have benefited from an additional Board of Investment Certificate Scheme, which saved them money in the form of fees, taxes and duties. After a maximum of three years the companies are asked to leave the nest and soar into their own, new headquarters. Seven start-ups have so far moved out, only two of which have failed to prosper.

This year, Seebaluck and his team have received grants from the World Bank and the UNDP, which are to be used to improve the incubator project. By the end of the year an evaluation report with recommendations will be finished. But Seebaluck already has ideas what could be done to increase the incubator's success. The new Mauritian government should reduce tariffs for ISP licenses, reduce the cost of international connectivity, abolish municipal fees for commercial projects - and, of course, finance more ICT incubator projects in other parts of Mauritius.