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PM Narendra Modi calls startups “backbone” of new India, declares Jan 16 as ‘National Startup Day’


New Delhi: The country will celebrate January 16 as National Startup Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a virtual gathering of over 150 entrepreneurs on Saturday as he termed startups as the “ backbone “ of new India and the engine that will power the nation’s economic growth in the run up to the 100
th year of Independence.

The current decade, Modi said, is being referred to as the “techade” of India and his government will usher in massive changes to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and the startup ecosystem.

“The first is to liberate entrepreneurship and innovation from the web of government processes, bureaucratic silos. Second, is creating an institutional mechanism to promote innovation. And third, is handholding young innovators and young enterprises,” the Prime Minister said at the event, a part of the
Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Pointing out that the number of startups in India had grown to over 60,000 from less than 500 just five years ago, Modi said these ventures are working across nearly 55 industry sectors and are “changing the rules of the game.”“I believe the golden era of India’s startups is starting now,” the Prime Minister said as the country is “rapidly moving towards hitting a century of unicorns,” which are the hallmark of self-reliant and self-confident India.

Noting that 42 unicorns—startups valued at over $ 1 billion– came up in India last year, the Prime Minister said this is stoking an exponential rise in innovation. In 2021, India granted 28,000 patents compared to 4,000 in 2013-14, while 2.5 lakh trademarks were registered in 2020-21 compared to 70,000 in 2013-14, a government statement revealed.

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PM Narendra Modi calls startups "backbone" of new India, declares Jan 16 as 'National Startup Day'

Meanwhile, the country’s ranking in the
Global Innovation Index has moved to 46 from 81.

Unicorns and startups are messengers of India’s diversity, a keystone of the country’s global identity, according to Modi who exhorted startup founders to not “keep your dreams local, make them global. Remember this mantra- let’s Innovate for India, innovate from India.”

Founders provide inputs

Startups invited to the gathering were divided into six working groups, with two founders from each cohort, making presentations to the PM on the chosen themes – Growing from Roots; Nudging the DNA; From Local to Global; Technology of Future; Building Champions in Manufacturing; and Sustainable Development.

“Rather than us giving recommendations in writing to the ministry, the PM wanted to listen to the startups directly. I think that is a very big validation,” said Richa Singh, cofounder of online counselling and wellness startup YourDost.

Seeking faster approval on policy matters from the government topped the day’s agenda, according to entrepreneurs who participated in the interactive session. In addition, the startups shared ideas and provided inputs on a range of issues from building a robust data collection mechanism for the agriculture sector and making India a preferred agri-business hub to boosting healthcare through use of technology, tackling issues of mental health and promoting travel and tourism through innovations like virtual tours.

Other suggestions included deepening the reach of edtech, backing the space sector, connecting offline retail with digital commerce, improving manufacturing efficiency and boosting defence exports as well as promoting sustainable means of transport.

In turn, the PM Modi pointed to scope for greater contribution from startups in areas such as chip, drone and defence manufacturing.

The week-long event is being hosted by DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The event also marks the sixth anniversary of the launch of the ‘Startup India‘ initiative.

Expanding reach of startups

Pointing out that there is at least “one startup in each of the 625 districts of the country and more than half of the startups are from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, “the PM said these ventures are “converting ideas from ordinary poor families into businesses and lakhs of young Indians are (gaining employment.”

In July 2021, the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) had
recognised 52,732 Indian startups. Further, the government had added that it had sanctioned an additional Rs 30 crore under the Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS).

Programmes like Startup India and Standup India, measures like removal of ‘angel tax’, simplification of tax procedure, arranging government funding, allowing self-certification for nine labour and three environment laws, and doing away with more than 25 thousand compliances are measures taken by his government to promote entrepreneurship, Modi said.

In addition, to further women-led entrepreneurship, the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) will reserve 10% of the Fund of Funds for women-led startups, while all the Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) where SIDBI takes equity have been mandated to contribute 20% in businesses which are women led, women influenced or employ women or are women consumption centric.

Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD, of edtech startup upGrad said that while the government’s continued push was encouraging young entrepreneurs, startups could benefit with policies that relook at taxation on employee stock ownership plans, which have become a key recruitment and retention tool in the ecosystem.

“One area that I feel that needs to be looked at is to treat ESOPs at par with public market investments, as for many employees ESOPs are a strong wealth creation tool,” he added.

Last year, the frenzied funding saw 42 Indian startups being valued at $1 billion or more up from 11 in 2020, according to data from research firm Venture Intelligence. India, at present has almost 83 unicorns, according to data from the research firm.

India is the third-largest base for unicorns in the world after the US which has close to 487 unicorns, and China which is home to 301 unicorn startups,
according to an Orios report. According to CB Insights, globally there were close to 963 unicorn startups worldwide.

Last year also saw a record number of Indian startups make their debut on the public exchanges, with some eight startups having raised a total of $2.5 billion from public investors.

“The government as well as regulators having active discussions with startups is positive, however, policy can only act as a catalyst. While we celebrate overall momentum, we should also promote agriculture, education and healthcare innovations impacting the bottom of the pyramid,” said Sateesh Andra, managing director, Endiya Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund.

“Nonetheless, having a Startup day is a symbolism towards dedicating more effort towards Indian startups,” he added.





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