BENGALURU: Key central ministers pledged the wholehearted support of the Narendra Modi administration for startups and announced measures to help entrepreneurs innovate in areas of national priority and overcome eligibility barriers in government contracts.
Under the new General Financial Rules, the government will give priority to products from startups in official procurement, said Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics & information technology and law & justice, at the ET Startups Awards 2017 on Friday.
The announcement addresses a long-standing demand of startup entrepreneurs, who feel stringent eligibility criteria prevent them from participating in government contracts. This will also help government get access to new innovations and ideas developed by startups to solve critical problems.
"This is just the beginning of the hand holding of the government (for startups); money will not be a problem," said Prasad, who also announced that the government will open 100,000 or more data sets of citizen-related information for startups to use for innovation on a licence but without a fee. The government will also give a Challenge Grant of Rs 5 crore each for companies innovating in the fields of health, agriculture and cybersecurity, Prasad announced. Piyush Goyal, Union minister of state for power, coal, renewable energy and mines, promised all out support for startups.
"Whatever help we can do as government, we would be delighted to do. We would like to partner with your initiatives," he said.
"We would like to support your efforts, be a part of this new ecosystem, learn from you what can be done better; engage with you and your ideas to achieve the vision of a new India," Goyal told a gathering of more than 400 entrepreneurs, investors and others at the glittering ceremony.
"Government doesn't have a monopoly on ideas... We believe that the more youngsters in this country are given an opportunity to engage with the government, we will be able to connect new ideas with the needs of the society," Goyal said in course of a panel discussion. Goyal also highlighted the pivotal role of startup entrepreneurs in creating jobs as large entities alone cannot generate adequate employment in the age of robotisation and artificial intelligence.
Prasad invited startups to adopt 18-20 villages each and provide innovative solutions in areas of virtual health solutions and education. "We are also launching 1,000 digital villages, which will provide solar power, virtual education, virtual health, etc.," he said. Rajan Anandan, vice-president, South-East Asia and India, Google, participating in a second panel discussion at the Awards, said the present government is doing more for startups than any other government. Sachin Bansal, executive chairman of Flipkart, added that from a policy standpoint, the government should ensure that India continues to be attractive for foreign investors.
Naveen Tewari, chief executive, InMobi said during the discussion that as the government is supportive of the startup ecosystem, some of the biggest problems of the country would be solved through technology solutions in the coming years.
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