Will Ramesh Abhishek Maintain Momentum? Ramesh Abhishek is on a mission by Modi government to execute startup India and Make in India - would it work?

By Sandeep Soni

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Abhishek has been able to fill former Secretary at Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and top bureaucrat Amitabh Kant's shoes so far quite well. He has been chipping away with preparing for the ground work for two schemes to really fly.

Rising Hopes

Ever since taking charge of the office at DIPP in February this year, 1982 batch IAS officer has announced and launched initiatives including the website and app for government's Start-up India initiative, Make in India Action Plan and State Level Business Reform Action Plan dashboards for different ministries and departments to update their respective progresses under it, e-commerce marketplace guidelines, FAQs on tax benefits for start-ups, Indian IP Panorama - an online portal for information and guidance on matters related to intellectual property for start-ups and SMEs etc.

Under DIPP, Abhishek has been also mobilizing for the government's Rs 10,000 crore "Fund of Funds' announced in January this year and start-up fests for them to showcase their innovation. "For Fund of Funds, Rs 1,100 crore has already been given to Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), which is also conducting the India Aspiration Fund. So, it will take equity in venture funds," says Abhishek adding that, "We are also going to organize fests for start-ups nationally and internationally this year."

PM Modi has in its Start-up India Action plan announced of setting research parks, tinkering labs, start-up centres, bio-technology incubators among many other things for which Abhishek already has set a target this year. "Two research parks, 16 tinkering labs and 10 start-up centres are going to be operational this year, while 25-30 new innovation centres has been envisaged to be launched in the current financial year. Moreover, the guidelines have been drawn for scaling up existing 15 bio-technology incubators," adds Abhishek.

Securing Innovation

Among other verticals where Abhishek has been quite categorical in his approach is intellectual property rights (IPR) for start-ups which lie inherently at the centre of all government initiatives promoting entrepreneurship either through manufacturing or digital. This is because there has been a critical lack of awareness among start-ups towards IP which has a cascading impact on foreign investments too. However delays in clearing IP applications have been discouraging start-ups and innovators to protect their ideas. "

A strong IPR regime would create a suitable climate for foreign investors and would give them the much-needed assurance that their patents, designs and trademarks were being protected.

India had received a record foreign direct investment (FDI) last year; hence, a resilient IPR regime would attract more
investors to the country," said Abhishek. India saw maximum FDI worth $51 billion during the April-february Y16, according to Abhishek. DIPP has set the target for clearing pending IPR applications to 18 months from the current five-seven years. Also, it is currently adding 458 new examiners, currently under training, and 263 examiners on contract to the current lot of 130 to expedite the clearing process. It has also proposed 80 percent rebate in the IPR application fee for start-ups and has appointed a panel of around 80 lawyers to offer free legal consultation to start-ups. However, there are macro economic pressures that the government and DIPP have to come over with which includes inflation and current account deficit as per Asian Development Bank. The reforms being undertaken hence would be facing headwinds despite an expected long season of reforms and moderate growth in India's GDP from 7.6 percent to 7.8 percent. Certainly, it won't be a smooth sailing for Abhishek and more so for Mr Modi.

(Article first appeared in Entrepreneur May edition magazine 2016)

Sandeep Soni

Former Features Editor

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