Pradeep Pattanayak

Was the previous BJD government discriminating against young Odia entrepreneurs? Were these entrepreneurs being treated differently? Was the government showing undue favour to MNCs? 

OTV has access to an allegation made by a young entrepreneur that answers ‘Yes’ to all the above questions. 

Subrat Kar, a young entrepreneur from the Jajpur district, had applied for space in the O-Hub building for his start-up MotorFloor .com. The O-Hub building was constructed by Startup Odisha to support the start-up ecosystem in the state. 

But the Startup Odisha authorities allegedly didn’t provide space to him, citing one or the other reasons. To his utter dismay, a large portion of the building was handed over to multinational companies like IBM and E & Y. 

“I had applied for space in the O-Hub building. But my application was rejected and the ones of companies like IBM and E & Y were entertained. Had I received space there, it would have been at a subsidized price. It is obvious that the objective for which the building was constructed was far from meeting it,” rued Kar. 

The multi-storey O-Hub building was inaugurated in Infocity-II, Bhubaneswar in 2021. This building with space measuring 4 lakh square feet was constructed at a cost of Rs 350 crore. The objective was to provide space to Odia entrepreneurs for their start-ups at a subsidized price. However, contrary to the objective, Odia entrepreneurs were denied and MNCs have been provided space in the building. 

There are allegations that the then IT secretary Manoj Mishra provided space to MNCs in the O-Hub building, treating it as his own building. He was doing this despite the fact that Startup Odisha is under the MSME department. 

At the same time, the previous BJD government had appointed ex-STPI chief Omkar Rai as executive chairman of Startup Odisha, allegedly showing undue favours. He is receiving salary and other perks at par with the Chief Secretary. 

Questions are being raised as to why the government has provided such facilities to Rai, who has hardly any knowledge of Startup Odisha. 

“I am an entrepreneur. Why should I go looking for space for my office elsewhere when we have 4 lakh square feet of space? Why I can’t get 1000 or 10,000 square feet of space there? The building was constructed with our money but MNCs from outside Odisha are getting space there and we are being denied,” alleged Sakyasingha Mahapatra, managing director, Sak Robotix.   

When asked, MSME Minister Gokula Nanda Mallik said, “If there are such allegations, we will launch a probe into it to find out why space in the building has been provided to them (MNCs) and why the start-ups of Odisha have been neglected.”

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