Innovation, investments, energy the way forward for Indian start-ups, feels Amitabh Kant

A fireside chat between Shivnath Thukral, Public Policy Director, India & South Asia at Facebook and Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, took place during the Facebook India Startup 2018 event

e4m by Apeksha Mishra
Published: Oct 10, 2018 8:09 AM  | 5 min read

Facebook recently announced that it is devoted to foster the growing tech ecosystem in India and reaffirmed its commitment to offer valuable and meaningful support to more entrepreneurs & startups through its key programs.


At the Facebook India Startup 2018 event, in a fireside chat between Shivnath Thukral, Public Policy Director, India & South Asia at Facebook and Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, discussion was held on the changing face of India’s ecosystem and if policy makers and startups were able to experience a common goal.


The chat commenced with Thukral raising some pertinent questions on the social impact of startups in India and what was the next big thing for startups in their journey from here. To which Kant replied saying, “It’s great to see Facebook associate with start-ups and provide them with a platform for further growth. India is a very active start-up ecosystem with Government focusing on its objective to expand and enhance this ecosystem. Without getting into the business aspect of it, we aim to be able to act as a catalyst to blossom the startup domain.”


Applauding today’s youth for their energy and vibrancy, Kant said that a large percentage of students graduating from IITs todays were joining startups or venturing into their own new businesses. He added, “Within the tech sector AI and Virtual Reality are widely being used by several startups today. They are using cutting edge technology to enable India to re-build technology. A lot of work is also being done in social evolution with respect to education, health and quite a bit in advertising where real innovation is needed. We are trying to push the limits of these areas and bring in growth and innovation as much as possible.”


Speaking on the common goals that can even out the playing field between policy makers and startups, Kant said that regulation would always be far behind innovation. Policy makers and regulators would find it difficult to keep abreast of the innovation and disruption happening in today’s society with upcoming start-up firms. Kant was of the opinion that it’s important for policy makers to really draft regulatory regimes, which would help stay ahead of all innovations happening today. This would require clarity, a fresh and innovative mindset to interact with startups and innovators in order to study the challenges that they are facing and help them scale up accordingly.


With moderator Thukral picking up on the key areas that can be taken back to the regulatory fraternity, Kant said,  “Firstly, rules and regulations are drafted to achieve growth and progress. Quite often in bureaucracy we make rules and regulations that end in themselves. For India to expand and grow one will need to change these rules continuously with time. Secondly,  for start-ups the vision should always be about penetrating the global market, while they continue to scale up their business in the domestic arena. India certainly has a large domestic market but then no country in the world has ever expanded without penetrating the global market.”


If we continue to think global while we are looking for solutions addressing 1.3 billion people in India, we could actually use the same methods and instead serve 7.5 billion in the world, thereby, moving people from poverty to middle-class in the next 10 decades, claims Amitabh Kant.


While domestic marketers might feel the need to protect their businesses from global markets, discussing the need for a balance as we facilitate global companies in the domestic market, Kant said that Global companies bring in a lot of innovation to the domestic market. Global investments bring in the best of technology, HR practices, cutting edge, new ideas & innovations for Indian companies. Once that happens there will be pressure on Indian established companies to expand and grow globally. He said, “While there are protectionism talks across the world, India has opened up FDI, pension funds, insurance funds, e-commerce, health, construction etc. to enter the domestic market largely.”


Discussing the importance of data in today’s tech savvy world, Kant opined that data belongs to individuals and is of high importance. He said, “Unlike America and China where data is owned by Facebook or Google and Alibaba respectively, in India data is a public entity. We have a very different model.  In India data is owned by GST, UPI, Aadhaar. There’s massive data flow in our country. The biggest health insurance scheme in the world, Ayushman Bharat will help provide insurance to as many as 500 million people, which is bigger than the population of U.S.A, Mexico and Europe all put together. We need to find the right balance between regulation and the way the core issue of data is seen.”


When Thukral asked Kant for one key message that he would like to pass on to startups to build and innovate in India, the Niti Aayog CEO said that India’s innovative spirit must fly with energy and dynamism as start-ups continue to drive the nation. India is a nation of challenges and hence we need to drive innovation amongst us to overcome the shortcomings. Make in India for the world, is the way to go about today. Speaking on the issues that worry him, Kant said, “What bothers me about the start-up domain is ensuring that there is long-term predictability and consistency of policy with time.  I don’t foresee capital shortage. Largely, Indians must invest in good start-ups in India, which will later bring growth and global dividends to our nation as well.”


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