As an entrepreneur with an experience of having run over 22 startups himself, and now pivoted to a political career as National Head, IT, Bhartiya Janta Party and CEO of Digital India Foundation, Arvind Gupta in a dialogue with Ritu Marya, Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur India Media, shares what it will take to build the start-up culture in India. While many are questioning the need for a start-up policy, Gupta feels that everything is going digital.
How is government’s Digital India mission linked to entrepreneurship?
The digital empowerment movement in India has become a mainstream movement, and it is really a start-up movement. By creating the biggest consumer base ever, it is linked to the start-up India initiative. More than 100 million new smartphone users are expected to join the digital world every year. From around 300 million mobile Internet users, India is expected to have 500-600 million such users in the next three-four years, which is the biggest. What this digital movement has really done is boosted local entrepreneurship, local language content with devices being manufactured in India and used in India at both operating system level and applications level.
What is the government’s stance on start-ups being left alone?
I feel Start-up India policy is remarkable for the fact that first, it recognizes start-ups and second, it says that it doesn’t want to interrupt startups’ journey. From a policy perspective, it implies there would be least intervention by the Indian Government and case in point are self-certification, selfcompliance and single portal/roof for registration. Our PM feels we need to remove obstacles for start-ups so they don’t worry about compliances but focus on more pertinent areas like hiring talent and bringing disruption, which will change the ethos of business ecosystem. Personally, I am extremely excited about the change in the procurement policy, which has been notorious for questioning the business turnover, age of company, etc. However if a start-up says it has a great idea for cyber security, the Indian Government will be its consumer. As a solution consumer, we encourage start-ups.
What is the government’s dictate for start-up failures?
Failures are a way of life for startups. Of 18,000 start-ups India has, we would be happy even if 1,000 start-ups succeed and approximately 500 become unicorns. That will be our KPI for start-ups. Nine out of 10 companies on an average would fail but from a business model or a market perspective, they wouldn’t. And in that sense, they have not really failed. It will be the biggest learning for those who are creating the next wave of entrepreneurship. Even Travis Kalanick, Founder, Uber, had 100 ‘Nos’ before a ‘Yes.’ Those who have tasted the blood will venture out to build new companies. As an entrepreneur, the nightmare is not about creating a company, but exiting it. Fast tracking of the bankruptcy and insolvency clause would make life easier for start-ups.
Do you see policy and technology going hand-in-hand to boost entrepreneurship?
Policy can never catch up with technology. It can only be one of the enablers to technology for boosting entrepreneurship. But without right policy, entrepreneurship can be an uphill task.