The needle has moved for Start-up India

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Jan 15, 2017

New Delhi: This day last year Delhi was awash with slogans promoting Start up India, Stand up India. The mood was euphoric, the feeling there would be a major acceleration in entrepreneurship, and even talk about surpassing Silicon Valley.

A year on, the mood is slightly muted, the momentum slowed a bit and the talk shifted from bombastic projections of crossing Silicon Valley to more realistic targets of making India an innovation hub. But entrepreneurs and investors acknowledge that after the January 16 event last year, the needle on entrepreneurship has certainly dramatically moved. “The cheese has moved. Before start up India initiative, there was nothing happening. Over the last year there was lot of out-of the box thinking and a sense of direction given,” says Padmaja Ruparel, President, Indian Angel Network.

Ruparel lauded steps like start up certification, roping in bodies like CBDT to give tax breaks to entrepreneurs, setting up incubators and tinkering labs. Having said that, she said there was a lot more that could have been done in programming and implementation of start-up India action plan.

“Where I miss a policy step is in the tax breaks provided. Only a fraction of start ups will be profitable in the first three years – so only few can avail themselves of that break. Instead if they had done an exemption on MAT (minimum alternate tax), it would have helped start ups conserve cash, build up the company and actually made them tax generating,” she said.

Gautam Tewari, founder of SmartVizX, a virtual reality start up in the real estate sector, described how buoyed by the clarion call last year, he got his start up registered with DIPP. “We found the process simple though lot of others complained about difficulties,” he said.

However, he said he was yet to see the actual benefits of registering with the government. “As an organisation, start ups should be more focused on getting and retaining customers, and generating profits – and not around things like tax breaks,” he said.

Where he was hoping that Start up India certification could ease things was in the granting of patents.“Admittedly, in the cost of patent filing there is significant reduction for those who have registered, but the reduction we were hoping for was in time of scrutiny,” said Tewari.

SmartvizX, he said, had filed four patents last year. “Give us patents in one year – that’s the speed that start ups need,” he said.According to the Start up India statistics, 84 start ups benefitted in terms of patent filing and IPR protection with 80 per cent rebate given in filing.

Govt initiatives

Last month, speaking to BusinessLine on the sidelines of the TiE Global Summit, Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary DIPP, listed out several initiatives that the government had taken to speed up the start up ecosystem.

Short-listing of first set of incubators in the 100 new incubators proposed had been done, he said these would be outcome based incubators. He also said there had been progress on tinkering labs. “500 is the target, 50 are already approved,” he said pointing out that the government had earmarked Rs50 lakh over three years for same. He also mentioned that within six months of being set up, the Start-up Hub had received over 25,000 queries, and the government was listening.

“We are making some tweaks to make Startup India easier – it’s a learning experience even for us,” he said.

“In terms of openness to ideas certainly there is a dramatic shift,” admits Padmaja Ruparel of IAN. According to her, compared to the 6,500-odd pitches from start ups that IAN had received in 2015, in calendar year 2016 they received over 8,000, showing the growing interest.

Well, a year later, start up India is already standing up, now it has to put on running shoes and become speed up India.

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