As PM visits Silicon Valley, techies want govt. to think digital

Technology start-ups in India are reiterating their long-standing demand for a fundamental rethink of how the government looks at their sector.

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:11 pm IST

Published - September 26, 2015 11:43 pm IST - MUMBAI:

On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley, the world’s Internet innovation hub where he is likely to make a pitch for India’s digital future, technology start-ups in India are reiterating their long-standing demand for a fundamental rethink of how the government looks at their sector.

Indian start-ups have been voicing their views on excessive red tape in investment processes. A group of Indian entrepreneurs even told Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his visit to Silicon Valley in July about how young ventures were shifting out of India as a result.

Ravi Kiran, co-founder, VentureNursery, a start-up accelerator, told The Hindu : “The start-up ecosystem is not properly understood by the government.”

Techies want innovation, fewer regulatory hassles

Techies cite the low ranking of India in the Global Innovation Index while speaking about the state of innovation in the country in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley.

Ravi Kiran, co-founder, VentureNursery, a start-up accelerator pointed out that India came 81st (behind Trinidad and Tobago) out of 141 countries in the latest Global Innovation Index, a leading benchmarking tool for anyone seeking insight into the state of innovation. “At the moment, the government does not distinguish between a start-up and an SME [small and medium enterprise]. There are so many Indians working in Google. Why are they not setting up their own Google here?” His list of to-dos for the government includes changing the intellectual property and innovation scenario, and tapping into the new wave of tech entrepreneurship to create large global software product companies (India is known for IT services companies, not product ones). “Without focussing on fundamentals such as these, this trip becomes only symbolic,” he said.

Sudarsan Ravi, founder and CEO, Ripplehire, which is into “social recruiting”, said: “The Valley is a very progressive ecosystem. They already believe in the India growth story; so it is not about the sales pitch. It would help if the government’s focus is on removing the regulatory hassles so the believers in India can take action and contribute investments to the country.”

One regulatory intervention that Indian tech entrepreneurs seek is the abolition of the capital gains tax that would “allow successful Valley-based entrepreneurs to invest early in Indian start-ups and help them build global businesses.” The idea is they would bring with them their highly valued expertise, knowhow and informed risk-taking ability, ingredients that are in short supply to this first generation of product companies in India.

Ranjit Nair, CEO, Germin8, a social media intelligence firm, said: “The other hope, of course, is that they imbibe some of that Silicon Valley culture that makes entrepreneurs there feel empowered and uplifted. There is a sense of urgency in the Valley in terms of both decision-making and execution. The Indian tech community’s big hope from this trip is that the government’s gap between talk and action, in terms of time, is reduced.” He said: “This time, the reaction is quite mixed. Unlike his last trip, Mr. Modi is not being treated like a rock star. Instead, the tech community is taking a wait-and-watch outlook to his trip.” A high number of positive mentions among U.S. users has to do with themes relating to governance reforms and the ‘Make In India’ campaign, while an overwhelming 55 per cent of the negative mentions has to do with Facebook’s internet.org effort, displaying concerns about Net neutrality and the future of a fair and accessible Internet in India.

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