March 2014

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A white knight for Indian digital startups

Digital Media Zone, which aims to provide the right guidance to help an innovative idea to scale into a sucessful online business model, has chosen nine entrepreneurs from across the country

Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, has organized a Digital Media Zone fellowship program for seven innovative start-ups from India. In all, nine entrepreneurs have been selected from elite engineering and business colleges across the country, namely, IIT Delhi, IIT Chennai and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. A first of its kind, this four month fellowship program boasts of providing entrepreneurial education to its fellows.

Valerie Fox, Executive Director of Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ), said “While in DMZ, the entrepreneurs have access to overhead which includes open, flexible workspace, equipment, utilities and services such as plan counseling, mentoring, workshops, networking and industry showcasing. The fellows also participate in and benefit from the DMZ’s energetic environment of collaboration and cross pollination, where gifted media entrepreneurs from various backgrounds learn with and from one another, gaining fresh insights to accelerate their product launches.”

Launched in April 2010, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone aims to provide the right guidance to help an innovative idea grow into a sustainable online business model. Since its launch, the Digital Media Zone has incubated and accelerated 50 companies to. Though the DMZ fellowship program was offered in India for the first time this year, Ryerson University has been involved with a lot Indian colleges earlier, including the IITs, for student exchange programs.

The selection process for the fellowship program was quite elaborate. After collaborating with the three above mentioned colleges in India, DMZ ran its selection process in each of these colleges to fish out its seven winning innovative ideas. Students interested in this program applied by submitting a five minute video pitch and a detailed business plan for their respective companies. After the initial process of elimination that was based on the video pitches, a group discussion was held with DMZ representatives and the short-listed students in their respective colleges. The winners of the group discussion round went ahead and joined the fellowship program in May this year.

The Indian participants who are currently in Toronto, Canada, taking advantage of this program are:
• Sharanya Haridas, Founder of That’s so Gloss, an online magazine and community exclusively for and by young women aged 13 to 25.
• Celestine Preetham, Founder of TravelNet, a mobile app and Internet-based service that aims to reduce traffic congestion and increase the use of public transport and ridesharing in India
• Siddharth Kumar Thakur, Founder of ScanBox, which aims to help students transfer their paper-based notes and assignments onto eNotes by developing a scanning kiosk and web service
• Visweswaran Gowrisankaran, Co-Founder of, a GPS Video Tour service that helps tourists in India get the most out of their travel experiences. By providing detailed visuals of the destination, combined with historical facts, consumers receive an engaging tour at their fingertips.
• Abhishek Gupta & Saurabh Kumar, Co-Founders of Zumbl, an upcoming social network for people to interact, engage and converse with one another without revealing their identities. Using sentiment mining, users create interactive avatars that become enhanced as interests and opinions are revealed.
• Alok Nikhil Jha and Ankur Khera co-founded TicketZone, an online portal where users can buy, sell and gift tickets and passes for movies and public events in India.
• Avnish Gaur, Co-Founder of AskMePrice, an online price search engine that allows consumers to compare prices instantly for a variety of everyday products for sale in India.

When asked how the fellowship program has helped these budding entrepreneurs so far, an emphatic Sharanya Haridas, Founder of That’s so Gloss, said, “The fellowship exceeded my expectations in every way; the DMZ is entrepreneur-utopia. We launched That’s So Gloss! from scratch within a month of joining and now have a practical plan to scale it up.”


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