Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G test beds developed by eight institutions with the Central government’s funding of Rs 224 crore. IIT-Madras, already a laboratory for new-age technologies, led the development project of the 5G test bed facilities, which will also be available in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kanpur, and Delhi to help the private companies test their products within the country at an affordable cost.
Robust research and development to incubate and develop facilities and technologies can only ensure a self-reliant India in the true sense, and it’s heartening to note the technical institutions in collaboration with the Central government and also the Atal Innovation Lab of the NITI Aayog have taken the task in the right earnest.
At a time when the global supply chain has gone haywire after the ‘Zero Covid Policy’ of China and the Russian-Ukraine war, India stands at a crucial stage where the country can make a mark by becoming a reliable partner with a commitment to timeliness with zero disruption only if there is a massive expansion of the new-age entrepreneurs who can innovate and incubate the best practices in the world.
It’s encouraging to note that India has incubated over 70,000 start-ups since 2016 when the Start-up campaign was launched while there are 102 Unicorns, each valued $1 billion. The total valuation of the unicorns is in excess of $330 billion. It’s also reassuring that the Indian start-up ecosystem represents not less than 56 diverse sectors, with five percent of them working in the agriculture sector.
Indeed, the credit schemes of the government launched during the outbreak of the first two phases of the Covid-19 pandemic did a world of good for the start-ups in scaling up their operations. There are more than 2,200 start-ups in the country which are supported by the Atal Incubation Centres. There’s no denying the fact that the start-ups led by the youngsters are uninhibited by the scale of challenges while they have innumerable icons within and abroad to pursue their passions and dreams.
But while the government lays down the policy guidelines and creates an ecosystem of easy access to credit, it’s equally pertinent that they have direct and unhindered access to the laboratories in the state-funded technical institutions. It’s true that the research and development centres are coming up in a big way in the private space as India seeks to break free from the age-old dependence on fossil fuels, imports of technologies in space and defence sectors, besides Artificial Intelligence.
The state governments have to be proactive in promoting research and development activities in their areas and particularly encourage the incubation of solution-oriented start-ups in the tier II and III cities and also rural areas. There are success stories about the women-led Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the southern states and Bihar, but the time has come for their rapid scaling up in other parts of the country, particularly the eastern states.
The government can help by ensuring their rapid skilling and also linkages with the marketplace to make their enterprises viable while also putting in place a system by which they can access easy credit, which can have incentives from the state governments. Emphasis has to be more on the women entrepreneurs while there is one such platform at the NITI Aayog.
There is enough evidence that the people are taking to entrepreneurship as 12 lakh companies were incorporated in 2020-21 when the country faced the worst phase of the global pandemic. A year later eight percent more companies were incorporated in the country. This augurs well for the country. An entrepreneur-driven economy is a sign of a healthy economic environment which is buzzing with youthful energy.
It’s noteworthy to mention that 13,387 companies were formed in 2020-21 in agriculture and allied activities. This gives hope that agriculture, which had been a no-go area for entrepreneurs, is now becoming acceptable for incubating enterprises which can give India too many solutions in the rural areas in the next few years. This should be seen in the context of the proliferation of technical institutions in all parts of the country in recent years.