STARTUPS AND THE GOVERNMENT: CHALLENGES TO STANDUP – By IMI DELHI

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Maya Angelou

“Start-up is the action or process of setting something in motion, more often a newly established business”, that’s what the thesaurus experts normally say, but can a start-up be really defined in words, or caricatured into bounds?  One will hardly find any entrepreneur agreeing to that, as each one of them associate their knowledge and experience into delineating start-ups for the world. For them, startup is not just establishing a business or an entity, it’s a dynamic journey, paving a path for entrepreneurs to not only fulfill their ideas but a chance to serve their society as inseparable assets, live their passion and dreams and realise the greater purpose of achieving what they were always meant to be. Though it comes with troughs and boroughs aplenty, and is riddled with failures, the ultimate success that lies at the end makes it the hot property across the globe. “Start-up is the new sexy”, echoes the buzz word all over, and the fever has definitely caught the Central and state governments as well, as they now witness the Indian start-up revolution.

India today is amongst the top 5 countries in the world in terms of the number of startups. With 60% of the demographic between 28 and 35, the country is now at the right vantage point to cash in the entrepreneurial bubble. It becomes important for any government to facilitate an environment serving such a growth as the market is thriving yet under-penetrated, and initiatives like “Startup India” and “Skill India” rightly aim to hit the bull’s eye. It’s rural alias is known as “Deen Dayal Upadhyay Swaniyojan Yojana”. The initiative includes 75 startup support hubs which incorporate premier institutes like IIT’s, NIT’s, NIPER’s etc along with investment from eminent global firms like SoftBank($2 billion) and 9 Incubation centre setups from Oracle. The renewed focus is on the “ease of doing business” along with good riddance from the “license raj” and many hindrances for firms aiming to startup and standup within the economic ecosystem of the country. To help the underprivileged sections also, Standup India campaign has been embarked to cater the SC/STs and women entrepreneurs.

The salient features of this program aim to generate employment and propel next stage of growth, skill mapping to foster regional entrepreneurship, making a pool base of investors, employees and mentors collaborating with VCs and accelerators with 10000 crores of fund and relaxation on myriad of taxation. But only formal paperwork is not going to realise a realistic framework of building a startup ecosystem within the country. India is mired in innumerable business constraints. Although numerous state originated initiatives have taken place during these last years, firms still prefer Singapore or the Silicon valley to operate their workings, lured by the favourable tax structures and friendly investment policies.

The major setback lies in the govt’s approach towards the problem i.e. being top-down rather than bottom-up, as seen by increasing the number of IITs and IIMs rather than ramifications in the lower rungs. People with sales and marketing potential ending up being engineers, societal and peer pressures, less number of incubators and not much success rate in the absence of smooth system of exits and the risks associated with failures are amongst the many lacuna that are plaguing the Indian startup circle. The talent pool within our country lags behind drastically in field of research work. Even if you find a pool of people, hiring them and coagulating a team is a tedious task, as poisonous team dynamics can spell doom for any startup.

No discussion about startups is complete without the mention of Silicon Valley, and it only beckons to understand why is the bay area the knight in shining armour of global startups. The culture, philosophy and industry at the Silicon Valley is starkly different to ours as in they embrace failures, emphasise the WHY rather than the HOW and have a support structure (Universities, research, grants etc) that has moulded the region as the place to be for any startup.

Government’s role in start-ups should be briefly summed up as – be an enabler and do not interfere! The government should not really try to invest as the activity is already there, rather act as an intermediary for the whole process. Most importantly, draft policies that last longer than the governments themselves, setting a precedent for generations to follow, while staying behind them at the same time. Enable the infrastructure, enable tax process, enable the laws, enable is the key, as enabling startups will mean enabling India, empowering India.

Startups are the gems that will make any country soar high on the road to success, development and recognition, and its time to polish these gems till they glitter.

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