As Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches ‘Startup India’ on January 16, to give a fillip to the culture of entrepreneurship, its success will depend crucially on the role played by the state governments. The world is moving from the industrial age to an age of information. It thus makes sense for India to leverage the unfolding policies and exciting opportunities to become an IT powerhouse and join the league of developed countries. The task is enormous, but definitely within the realm of possibility.
Certain factors position India on the cusp of such a possibility. Its young population, an array of engineering and management institutions, a distinct change in the mindset of the youth from being job-seekers to job-creators, their proficiency in English and their penchant for taking risks — all point to a brighter future.
Kerala has already stolen a march over other states by developing an entrepreneurship blueprint on the PPP model that can be successfully replicated by others for faster and productive results. We now need to create conducive startup ecosystems across the country to buttress the ambitions of our entrepreneurs and give a steel frame to a culture of entrepreneurship.
The central department of science and technology has set up India’s first Startup Village at Kochi as the first PPP model incubator in 2012. Last year it won the Centre’s appreciation for being the best technology business incubator (TBI) after it produced hundreds of startups and created a new model for student and youth entrepreneurship.
In a huge endorsement of Kochi’s Startup Village, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has chosen to implement a similar project in Vishakhapatnam. Also, the Gujarat Technical University and Kerala Technical University have designed University Student Entrepreneurship policies.
Many experiments such as the student entrepreneurship policy, which allows 4% grace marks and 20% attendance waiver for student entrepreneurs, have encouraged over 200 student teams to create startups. In addition to the Technology Startup Policy, in 2014, the state also earmarked 1% of its budget for youth entrepreneurship.
Another significant initiative is the setting up of Startup Bootcamps in around 100 engineering colleges. Neyya is a wearable device developed by a member of the Startup Village. It was launched globally with the support of VC funding from Silicon Valley. This is an example of how when given the right opportunity and exposure the youth can create products that can compete with global standards.
The success of Modi’s ‘Startup India’ can be a sterling example of the collaborative spirit of India’s robust federalism. It is, however, incumbent upon the state governments to put in place an ecosystem that fosters and sustains entrepreneurship in the country as a mechanism to address its problems and create durable human and industrial assets.
PH Kurian is principal secretary, Industries and IT, Kerala
The views expressed are personal