Five years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Start-Up India initiative, we are witnessing a golden chapter in the history of Indian entrepreneurship.
India now has 38,756 officially-recognised start-ups –– with 27 unicorns, eight of which achieved this status in 2020 –– and is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally.
According to Praxis Global Alliance, start-ups are growing at an average rate of 12–15% annually. Start-ups have raised $63 billion between 2016–20 in funding, $20 billion of which was raised in 2019 over 1,854 deals. Investments in start-ups are growing incrementally each year ($12 billion, $25.2 billion, $26.3 billion, and $34 billion invested in the last four years, respectively), with $16.7 billion till May 2020. Start-Up India kickstarted an entrepreneurship revolution. Several policy interventions were since announced, giving the entrepreneurial ecosystem a much-needed launchpad. The overhaul of the digital payments ecosystem is being led by State innovation, with Aadhaar, Jan Dhan, UPI, and India Stack. The Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog, has built an ecosystem of 8,800 tinkering labs, 4,000 mentors and over two-and-a-half million students, and acted as a conduit for over 3,500 innovations while supporting 1,500 start-ups.
The National Education Policy, 2020, promotes student entrepreneurs by offering vocational education in partnership with industries and introducing coding for schoolchildren. The National Digital Health Mission presents opportunities for health-tech start-ups. The new farm acts give greater choice to farmers and incentivise start-ups to transform the agriculture value chain in storage, finance, transport, aggregation, and marketing. The recently-released Draft Space Policy states that “Indian entities can undertake design, development and realization of satellites and associated communication systems. They can establish satellite system through their own built satellite or procured satellite”.
Due to these reforms, consumers can now benefit from a range of goods and services, which will elevate their quality of life. FIA Global –– with a network of 26,000 banking agents –– is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to deliver financial products and services such as remittance services and access to credit in rural areas, and has reached over 34 million customers. Digital bookkeeping start-up OKCredit is helping micro-merchants keep paperless and secure transaction profiles, with a multilingual app benefiting 5.5 million merchants. MFine provides an AI-powered health care platform for people to consult over 3,500 doctors. PharmEasy connects local pharmacy stores and diagnostic centres to verify prescriptions and deliver over 100,000 medicines.
BYJU has become a household name by benefitting over 70 million students. Camp K12 is taking coding lessons to children in rural areas. DeHaat’s end-to-end services –– ranging from advisory, distribution of agricultural inputs to access to financial services and market linkages –– in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha has been utilised by 2,65,000 farmers, and resulted in savings up to 15% on agriculture inputs, raised productivity by 20% and farmers’ incomes up to 50%. Pixxel is building a constellation of satellites to detect and evaluate high-quality data, which will use AI/ML for predictive and productivity-enhancing mechanisms in agriculture, climate change, mining. Bellatrix Aerospace envisions making access to space more economical and secure by developing its own launch vehicles, “Chetak”, and electric propulsion systems.
Peter Thiel’s Zero to One notes that successful entrepreneurs know the “secret” opportunity that exists in the market that others cannot see. This opportunity is being realised in India with innovative entrepreneurs riding on resilient policy support. Entrepreneurs today are utilising the unprecedented advances from technology, operating on the demands of our demography, and inadvertently steering citizen welfare.
Amitabh Kant is the CEO, Niti Aayog, and Satwik Mishra is Young Professional, NITI Aayog
The view expressed are personal