Indian Startup Ecosystem has come of age

"Startup-osphere," is the new phenomena gripping the nation.

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By Aniket Deb

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One of the first startups in India to be seed-funded was the revolutionary idea – Sulabh Shauchalaya. In 1970s, when caste system was highly prevalent and providence of basic needs like clean water were the major focus of Parliamentary sessions, this Social Service Organisation managed to receive a funding from the Government of India (GoI). Founder Bindeshwar Pathak was on a mission to propagate the values preached by Mahatma Gandhi – the one with a vision of a clean India.

The founder had the right idea and an innovative design of a sanitised toiletry system, but his mission lacked support. A support which could help overcome the enormous challenge of perceiving basic things like educating the illiterate about hygiene.

There is always a need to administer a positive change in the mindset of the people. On seeing this unique point in Sulabh, the government invested in this endeavour, despite other points of focus.

Today, Sulabh has not only survived, but also became an international platform and created lakhs of jobs globally. The GoI can easily be credited with this phenomenal success.

As of 2015, India is being branded as "The Next Potential Marketplace' for corporations from all over the world. With 100 million users getting connected to Internet last year, there are still a billion who are yet to come online.

What is driving this change?

Let me give you a quick background. Since 1947, India has been struggling to get their grassroots problems straight. With problems like poverty and corruption to handle, investment in innovation was not a very feasible solution.

But today, the government is seeing a whole new potential in our startup generation. Around 3,100 registered startups have already generated more than 80,000 jobs. Some of these companies are in a bid to solve hard-pressed problems faced by our society and receiving great success.

This has given an opportunity to the current government to formulate startup friendly policies, which is going to be a real treat for Indian entrepreneurs.

The fever called - Digital India, has brought along a lot of mixed reactions from all strata of the society. It may have faced a lot of flak, but the incentives are undeniably alluring.

In an attempt to eliminate the technological gap, Indian Railways collaborated with Google, to install Wi-Fi across 400 stations at absolutely no extra cost. Reaching out to millions of Indians through the Internet will soon become a realistic journey.

On the other hand, Facebook is all set to organise its world's second SME Council in India, thanks to a Silicon Valley visit by our Prime Minister. This council aims to empower the local businesses, using Internet, to connect with customers globally.

According to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, "There's nothing small about small business, especially in India, one of the world's most important economies. Small and medium enterprises drive 40 percent of India's exports."

Another strategy, Make in India has encouraged and attracted, a total of 25 sectors, ranging from aerospace, automobile, biotechnology to media, tourism, wellness, and other industries, to innovate. This mission is to make India the largest manufacturing hub in the world.

With the financial crisis in 2013, the Indian landscape toggles between risk and opportunity. But what is exciting is the way the government is successfully marketing it as a favorable ground of lots of possibilities.

Startup India Initiative is a direct proposal by the government to get a feel of the ground realities faced by Indian entrepreneurs today. With suggestions and valuable inputs from the stars of the startup world, like SoftBank President Nikesh Arora, Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl, OYO Rooms Founder Ritesh Agarwal and former Infosys Director Mohandas Pai, the Startup India Initiative is aiming to shift the startup focus from technology to manufacturing and from Tier I- Tier II cities to rural areas as well.

With liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment, startups have become privy to funding and are expanding their innovations for an absolute outreach. An infusion of Rs 5,000 crore, up from Rs 3,000 crore last year, and ease of policies have been approved by the government, attracting foreign investors to fund startups effortlessly.

Five years ago, startups found countries like Singapore and Mauritius a better playground for their incorporation, but today, due to relaxations in these policies, the money stays in India.

To further optimise and guide entrepreneurial efforts, the youngest state of India- Telangana, has opened T-Hub – Technological Incubation Center. In association with Indian School of Business, IIIT-Hyderabad and venture capitalists, this project comes as a relief to the youth bubbling with ideas.

T-Hub aims to transform innovative solutions into profitable products. With the government-funded incubator projects coming up, it really goes to show how seriously the measures are aimed at startups to handle their products with care.

"Startup-osphere," as they call it, is the new phenomena gripping the nation. With media dedicating sections to new-age entrepreneurs, online portals solely for hiring potential founding teams, consumers, embracing these solutions and all this, with a supportive encouraging government, the time is indeed ripe!

Aniket Deb

Founder, Bizongo

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