Celebrating the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth. That was the stated intention and mission of the ‘Startup India’ programme initiated by the Government of India. If the vigour and the energy at the launch event today at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi were anything to go by, the programme more than justified its billing. The event came through as a landmark convergence of ideas, insights, and decisions, with policymakers, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders across the length and breadth of India’s start-up ecosystem congregating for the event.
The Startup India policy aims to address two strategic concerns of the Government—difficulty of doing business driving successful start-ups out of India, and a compelling majority of start-up funding currently coming from foreign Private Equity and Venture Capitalist entities.
The Government also plans to do away with regulatory hurdles that dampen funding activity. It was also envisaged in many quarters that the Government, as part of the Startup India programme, might even look to infuse funds into early stage start-ups in order to bring down attrition.
Start-ups in India have already altered the business landscape beyond recognition, both in economic terms as well as from a socio-psychological perspective. The numbers speak for themselves. Home to more than 4,000 start-ups, India ranks third in the sheer number of businesses started. More than half of the funding that has come in over the last five years has come in the last year alone. Incubators and supportive ecosystems too have seen a surge in frequency and density. In addition, today it is no more socially self-limiting to be called an entrepreneur. Innovation, in fact, is being rewarded by society with a new sense of pride.
Ventures like Flipkart, Freshdesk, Practo, and BankBazaar have leveraged on these phenomena to deliver real-world solutions to issues that Indian consumers were grappling with not too long ago.
Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the mood and expectations of policy measures to be announced at the launch event matched the scale of the event itself. While the need for faster patent processes and start-up-friendly tax laws were a common refrain, there was also a palpable anticipation of the enablement of paperless financial services, which could truly democratize the access and consumption of such services.
The event came to grand finale with a rousing address to the congregation by the Honourable Prime Minister of India, who touched upon some core issues relevant to the start-up ecosystem in India today. How does individual innovation become an enterprise that creates jobs? How can technology and innovation become more affordable to the masses? Can India become the cyber security provider of the world? These were some of the thought-provoking questions raised by the premier of the country.
The Action Plan unveiled by the Honourable Prime Minister of India covered a swathe of issues that had bogged down entrepreneurial activity of India. The proposed policy measures ranged from handholding initiatives like the Startup India Hub, fast tracking of patent applications, and setting up of sector-specific incubators and Tinkering Labs, to start-up-friendly tax regimes, setting up of research parks, and funding support through a Fund of Funds.
All in all, it was a fitting culmination to the event that promised much and delivered more.