8 Years to Start-Up India

Eight years ago, a vision ignited a revolution. In 2016, the Indian government launched Start-Up India, a flagship initiative announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The program aims to transform India’s business landscape by fostering a vibrant ecosystem for startups.

This article delves into the initiative’s remarkable journey, its intricate link with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), and the pivotal role played by dedicated IAS officers in making it a reality. But first, let’s recall the Start-Up India initiative.


Start-Up India

The Startup India initiative promoted and coordinated by DPIIT, offers a comprehensive support system, empowering startups to thrive. Here’s a glimpse into the key benefits:

  1. Tax Relief – In 2016, the union budget highlighted Startup India’s tax incentives. Under this initiative, startups enjoyed a remarkable boost. More specifically, 100% tax exemptions and simplified angel tax compliance.
  2. Simplified compliance – Startup India’s plan emphasised efficiency, with a faster registration process, self-certification of compliance, and reduced regulatory burden.
  3. Funding network – Spearheaded by dedicated DPIIT’s IAS officers and backed by the Indian government, Startup India facilitates networking and connections and DPIIT-recognised funds.
  4. Faster Clearance – This includes, faster patent registration, easier IPR protection, and streamlined exit options. DPIIT’s IAS officers championed these initiatives, ensuring startups could navigate legal processes seamlessly.

With these advantages in place, the onus fell on the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to shepherd the initiative and create a supportive ecosystem for startups to flourish. Let’s explore how DPIIT and Startup India have evolved together over the past eight years.

Evolution of DPIIT and Startup India: Leadership and Impact (2016-2024)

2016 – Laying the Foundation

Under the visionary leadership of Amitabh Kant, then Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the core framework for Startup India was established.

Startup India’s framework included simplifying registration processes, introducing tax benefits, and creating a network for funding, as mentioned in a DPIIT press release. For instance, KPMG, a leading consultancy firm, partnered with the DPIIT to streamline registration processes and reduce regulatory burdens. The active involvement of DPIIT’s IAS officers ensured effective implementation and seamless coordination with external stakeholders.

2017-2019: Streamlining and Growth

2016 marked the year Mr Ramesh Abhishek, yet another accomplished IAS officer took over the position as the new Secretary for DPIIT. During his tenure, Mr Ramesh Abhishek implemented the start up action plan vigorously and targeted specific sectors like fintech, e-commerce, and healthcare, and saw a continued focus on streamlining processes and promoting growth. He also introduced faster patent registration and easier IPR protection for startups.

All of these efforts by the team of Mr Ramesh Abhishek eventually led to a surge in number of recognised startups.

2020-2023: Adapting to Challenges

Building upon the strong foundation laid during the tenure of Ramesh Abhishek as DPIIT Secretary (2016-2019), the focus of Startup India shifted towards navigating new challenges and ensuring long-term sustainability for the program under Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra’s leadership in 2020.

A key concern that emerged was the difficulty startups faced in securing funding beyond the initial seed stage, crucial for scaling their businesses. Recognizing this bottleneck, DPIIT prioritized solutions to bridge this funding gap. Furthermore, the program acknowledged the growing importance of a skilled workforce within the startup ecosystem. Initiatives were launched to promote skill development programs tailored to the specific needs of startups, ensuring a readily available pool of qualified talent. Notably, DPIIT’s IAS officers played a pivotal role in implementing and overseeing these initiatives, fostering collaboration between startups, investors, and educational institutions.

This multi-pronged approach aimed to not only nurture groundbreaking ideas but also encourage a dynamic and thriving ecosystem for startups to flourish in the long run.

2024: Way Forward

And now, with Mr Rajesh Kumar Singh at the helm of DPIIT as of 2024, Startup India continues its journey of fostering innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Building upon the successes of the past eight years, by Amitabh Kant, Ramesh Abhishek, and Guruprasad Mohapatra, the focus remains on addressing lingering challenges. Efforts to bridge the funding gap beyond the seed stage are ongoing, with new initiatives and collaborations being explored. Equipping the workforce with relevant skills through targeted skill development programs remains a top priority.

Looking ahead, DPIIT, along with the wider startup ecosystem, is committed to propelling India towards becoming a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. And as of 31st December 2023, a total of 1,17,254 startups have been recognized under the Startup India initiative.

Wrapping Up

As Startup India embarks on its ninth year, the journey forward is paved with both opportunities and challenges. Maintaining the momentum achieved in fostering innovation across diverse sectors remains a key objective.

While the first half of 2024 witnessed a positive uptick in funding compared to the latter half of 2023 (as per the India Tech Semi-Annual Funding Report), ensuring long-term funding solutions for scaling startups requires continued focus.

The leading sectors in terms of performance in H1 2024 were retail, enterprise applications, and fintech.

– India Tech Semi-Annual Funding Report

Here’s where the leadership of DPIIT plays a crucial role. Building upon the groundwork laid by previous leaders like Ramesh Abhishek, who championed specific sectors like retail, enterprise applications, and fintech (sectors that continue to show strong performance in H1 2024), Rajesh Kumar Singh, the current DPIIT Secretary, is spearheading efforts to address lingering challenges.

A primary concern is bridging the funding gap beyond the seed stage. While India remained the fourth-highest funded country globally in the tech startup landscape in 2023, securing capital for scaling businesses remains a hurdle for many entrepreneurs. DPIIT’s leaders and IAS officers are, actively exploring new initiatives and collaborations to create a more robust funding ecosystem. This might involve fostering stronger connections between startups and venture capitalists, exploring alternative funding mechanisms like angel investment networks, or even encouraging the creation of specialized funds catering to specific growth stages.

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