On May 12, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the importance of self reliant (Atmanirbhar) India. Many in South India found it difficult to understand the meaning of Atma Nirbhar during the speech, but Twitter came to the rescue.
The call for a self reliant/dependent India was overdue. But a lot needs to be done on the ground, both by the government and the startup ecosystem.
For the brick and mortar industry (pharma, auto, infrastructure) in India to be less dependent on importing from our friendly neighbour, the government’s involvement is mandatory. Govt has to help with the capital and policy.
“I announce a special economic package today. This will play an important role in the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’. The announcements made by the government over Covid-19, decisions of RBI and today’s package totals to Rs 20 lakh crores. This is 10 per cent of India’s GDP,”PM Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation
Atma Nirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge
In the digital world, a lot has been achieved by the Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem, but a lot more remains to be done. To begin with, we would like to see companies not moving their headquarters to Singapore and other countries. I hope the Govt of India can reverse this trend.
The AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge is being launched in the following 8 broad categories:
- Office Productivity & Work from Home
- Social Networking
- Health & Wellness
- Business including Agritech and Fintech
How Can India Win The Atma Nirbhar Challenge
Doordarshan invited me to be on a panel on this subject. It is a different experience to do it over Skype – network slowness, background noise etc!
We need to follow the EMI mantra to succeed,
- Economics: Pay attention to revenue, profitability and product quality. Valuation will follow.
- Mindset: Challenge the status quo. Don’t be afraid to take up challenges.
- Infrastructure: Build solutions above and using public infrastructure (for e.g. IndiaStack)
Mohandas Pai stressed several times during the show on the lack of capital from India. It is a fact, I have faced that issue during fund raising. Foreign capital comes in scale and they give valuation which usually Indian investors are uncomfortable with.
My worry is not just about capital from our neighbour, it is about what else is happening under the hood which can harm India? That is the true worry.
Anyways, if you build a company just for valuation you are setup for failure. Pay attention to revenues and profitability (unknown terms for most digital startups).
Change your Mindset
We need to change our mindset, a lot. We can’t be afraid of competition. When Govt of India banned 59 Chinese apps, many on Twitter were asking for an alternative to Camscanner. I wondered why not a single Indian company has taken up the challenge to build a CamScanner competition. Were we scared of losing? Note: I heard Kaagaz is worth trying out.
Public Infrastructure in Digital World
Several email solutions have been built over SMTP. Google Maps and other mapping solutions use the public infrastructure GPS provides.
India needs to develop many more public infrastructure rails, such as UPI, eSign, Aadhaar, which are all part of IndiaStack. Volunteers of IndiaStack & iSPIRT have worked on several important projects at no cost (hence they are called volunteers!).
We have seen a number of UPI apps building on the payment layer (UPI) of India Stack. The number of UPI transactions per month has exceeded a whopping 1 billion. Today, UPI payments are accepted literally everywhere – grocery stores, petrol bunk, food delivery apps, ecommerce portals. In fact, due to COVID-19, UPI makes perfect sense in a contactless world.
The consent layer of India Stack, the Account Aggregator throws up many new challenges to the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The account aggregator journey has just started, there are innumerable opportunities for innovation. I hope many will innovate and build companies in the AA space.
To give you a few ideas in Account Aggregator space – we need to innovate on what a Consent means for a semi-literate, illiterate, or a non-English speaking person. If you can solve this problem (which you can), you would be helping India’s financial inclusion journey.
We need many passionate people (in all roles) to be involved in building public infrastructure in India. We need such efforts in health, education, travel etc.
I shared a few thoughts in the DD show. India has to develop a lot more products. We are known for providing IT services, we have excelled in it. Now, we got to transform to be a product nation.
Products must focus on quality, UI/UX and should never forget to support Indian languages in their product. While I do see Indian language support being added to apps these days, the journey started very late. But then, better late than never.
Let us not measure success only in terms of valuation of the company. Also, I strongly believe unless the quality of your product is good, don’t expect people to patronise a Made in India product. We are having the necessary skills to innovate, let’s do it.
Prime Minister Modi introduced Swachh Bharat in 2014, it was on the local govt bodies, citizens to implement his dream for a cleaner India. Again, the Prime Minister has given a BIG PUSH to the digital ecosystem – govt has its part to do, but we entrepreneurs too have a lot to deliver and we will.
In dedication to the 20 soldiers killed in eastern Ladakh, let us build a Atma Nirbhar Bharat in innovation and digital space.
- Google to invest $10 billion in India – Jul 13, 2020