Prime Minister Modi lauded domestic startups for their role in the fight against Covid19. The story has just begun.
Delivering his keynote address at the fifth edition of VivaTech, one of Europe’s largest digital and startup events, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke elaborately on the growth of the domestic start-up ecosystem and the role they have played in the ongoing fight against coronavirus.
Intermittent lockdowns that forced people inside their homes provided the perfect platform in India for the digital economy to take off.
“Digital technology helped us cope, connect, comfort and console. Through digital media, we could work, talk with our loved ones, and help others. India’s universal and unique bio-metric digital identity system – Aadhar – helped us to provide timely financial support to the poor. We could supply free food to 800 million people, and deliver cooking-fuel subsidies to many households,” Modi said.
“India’s strides in the world of tech and start-up are well-known. Our nation is home to one of the world’s largest start-up eco systems. Several unicorns have come up in the recent years. India offers what innovators and investors need. I invite the world to invest in India based on the five pillars of: talent, market, capital, eco-system and culture of openness,” he added.
As per the Nasscom Tech Start up Report 2021, currently India has 38 unicorns with a valuation of over $ 1 billion. The number is expected to go upto at least 50 by the end of this year. Already, 10 have been added to the list with half a dozen of them in one week alone in the first half of April. Only the US with 243 and China with 227 have more.
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The increase in the number of unicorns itself reflects the strong momentum in the startup space in the country and the confidence that investors have about Indian entrepreneurs--most of them in their 20s and 30s. The first company to achieve unicorn status in India was InMobi back in 2012 and it took another four years before it hit double digit.
Modi government’s policies have played a big role in shaping and nurturing this industry. To facilitate growth, the Indian government had announced the ‘Startup India, Stand-up India’ initiative. It has so far recognised over 41,000 startups and 4.7 lakh jobs have been reported by more than 39,000 of them. A Fund of Funds for Startups (FFS) with a total corpus of Rs 10,000 crore was also established. Besides these, the ongoing expansion of optical fibre network through the country has created the market for startups to prosper.
“This digital expansion is being powered by creating state-of-the-art public digital infrastructure. Five hundred and twenty-three thousand kilometres of fibre optic network already links our 156,000 village councils,” Modi said. “Many more are being connected in the times to come. Public wi-fi networks across the country are coming up. Likewise, India is working actively to nurture a culture of innovation. There are state-of-the-art innovation labs in 7500 schools under the Atal Innovation Mission.”
The significance of the startup success story for India and its potential for the future was highlighted in this year’s Economic Survey as well. It noted that startups provided the platform for entrepreneurs with the ability to think out of the box and innovate to conceive products that can create a niche for themselves in a dynamically changing world.
“Startups have the potential to be the engine of growth in the medium to long run…The Indian start-up ecosystem has been progressing well, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a myriad of challenges at the onset of the pandemic, the ecosystem defied the odds and had a record number of 12 startups that reached unicorn status,” the survey said.
The aspect of problem solving by startups was something Modi alluded to as well. As a young country with access to 1.18 billion mobile phones and 775 million internet users, consumption of data is not only among the highest but also cheapest in the world. Indian youth as also the largest users of social media platforms.
“The challenges our planet faces can only be overcome with a collective spirit and a human centric approach. For this, I call upon the start-up community to take the lead,” Modi said. “The start-up space is dominated by youngsters. These are people free from the baggage of the past. They are best placed to power global transformation.”