PM Narendra Modi at the launch of Startup India in New Delhi in January 2016. The event was attended by the likes of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son Image: Mohd Zakir / Hindustan Times via Getty Images
The startup India Programme was launched amid much fanfare in January 2016 with major investors like SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and entrepreneurs like ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rubbing shoulders with Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal and Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl. The final session of the event was presided over by PM Narendra Modi, who has been at the forefront of his government’s push for startups. This June, the NDA government launched the Startup India Hub, a portal that would enable startups gain access to knowledge, mentors, resources and other services.
“We are here to help you… we are now running at pace with all of you and you can expedite us further,” said Minister of State (MoS) for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, adding that the government also plans to organise a startup summit for Saarc countries to facilitate exchanges between nations.
While the government has allocated sufficient funds—declaring the setting up of a `10,000 crore fund—to help fledgling companies tide over the lack of capital, a quickening of the pace of action may be in order. Consider that it took it almost a year-and-a-half to amend the definition of startups and broaden its ambit to include companies that have been set up seven years ago, instead of the earlier five (with biotechnology startups getting a 10-year window). Since last January, the scheme seems to have largely just handled queries—over 52,000, as per the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP).
Says Rajat Tandon, president, Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, and former head of Nasscom’s 10K Startups. “The Start-up India journey looks to be on track with promises made at the January event being delivered (recognition, registration, definitions, IPRs, Fund of Funds for Startups, incubation, tax issues, etc). It will be good to see the scorecard in 2018 as Indian startups focus on local issues and bring in social innovation. But the train has to catch speed like the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet trains run in Japan).”
Startup India’s role in generating employment is crucial as layoffs in the IT sector continue, but the programme can only bridge this gap if the overall business environment is healthy. “Unless environment for entrepreneurship is conducive, our nation cannot tap the full potential of our talent and wealth creators,” says Madhur Singhal, founding partner, Praxis Global Alliance, a new-age analytics-led advisory firm. When Singhal relinquished his role as partner in Bain & Company to register his own company in Delhi, it took him five days to get the incorporation certificate and the tax numbers. “While the pace of thought is fast, the pace of implementation could be faster,” he says.
International perception, too, is in favour of greater speed of implementation. Tal Catran, accelerator guru and expert startup hubs builder from Israel, feels that the key is educating people about entrepreneurship. “The initiative is important, the will of the government is vital. I would like to see conferences; I would like to see an agenda, and see the government lead it, and come up with plans like incubators, push more into studies,” says Catran, who is collaborating with Indian technology company Collaborative Intelligence to launch its Innovation Accelerators.