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New Delhi, India, 4 October 2019 – “There are 50,000 registered start-ups in India, and there will be 50,000 more by 2024 at this pace,” said Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary at the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade of India. There has been tremendous attitudinal change among government departments, he said, speaking for himself as well as colleagues in different parts of government. He added that this change has been accelerated since 2015-16 when a new policy came into effect. Regulators and officials now see potential in start-ups, and are invested in boosting their size and number.
Indian start-ups have come into their own in the last four to five years, agreed Shailendra Singh, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital India, Singapore. The optimism, the ability to dream, the amount and quality of capital available, the sheer size and scale of start-ups, as well as their ambition and ability to execute globally, are remarkable. “It is exciting to back these companies that have both disrupted existing companies and become full-stack online and offline businesses themselves,” he said, “Technology is intrinsic to these companies, not only impacting them at a superficial level.”
Asian start-ups are significantly different from their counterparts in Silicon Valley, Singh said, where markets are deep and very large, and companies have the incentive to do one thing and do it very well. Companies also need not go outside. In Asia, on the other hand, there are “lots of white spaces” and individual markets are very small, so that companies can and must quickly mutate to related businesses. For instance, Indonesian start-up Gojek started as a bike rental service, and then branched out into logistics, payments, delivery, etc.
Sharing the experience of the fast-growing hospitality start-up, OYO, Aditya Ghosh, the company’s Chief Executive Officer said that OYO realized early on that the best way to create higher margins was to own the entire value chain end-to-end – operations, properties, customer experience and so on. It also grew a diversified portfolio with multiple brands offering hotel rooms, holiday homes, cloud kitchens and co-working spaces, resulting in an “omnichannel presence”.
What business needs from the government is investment in infrastructure and ecosystem, much of which relies on removing ground-level constraints, and providing light-touch but adequate regulation that ensures Indian companies enjoy credibility as they scale-up globally. It is essential for businesses to have regular and deep engagement with policy-makers so they can take steps to pre-empt a full-blown a crisis. They must also nurture and train talent to create innovative mindsets for the next wave of start-ups.
India must also overcome some systemic challenges, such as low participation of women in the workforce, said Ankiti Bose, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zilingo, Singapore, a four-year-old start-up that has brought technology and seamless connectivity to supply chains in the global clothing industry. With adequate data and regulatory support, Zilingo could “bring in capital at an unprecedented scale” to the fragmented, typically small apparel manufacturers and sellers in India, she said.
Mohapatra emphasized that the government is committed to improving women’s participation – by providing preferential access to capital to women-led start-ups, for instance – but the issue is of wider inclusion. “There are large tracts of India untouched by start-up presence,” he said, adding that the government is committed to spreading its start-up mission to the country’s more disadvantaged areas.
The government is committed to providing technology start-ups with room to experiment and develop without setting tight regulatory boundaries, as it did with the IT sector and the aviation sector earlier, he added.
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