If in January 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi
offered sops and incentives to entrepreneurs at a mega event to usher in a Silicon Valley-like culture into India, he now wants start-ups
to have a meaningful role in all aspects of governance —from health care to education, sustainable energy to skill development. “Our current team in the Central government is keen to learn new things, which is the reason why I’m asking you all to join permanently with the government,” Modi told more than 200 start-up founders on Thursday.
After his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, promising a New India by 2022, the PM engaged with start-ups
on Thursday to carry the mission forward. The move is meant to draw new ideas from entrepreneurs to bring about a change. Pointing out there is an "app" for filling every gap, the PM said technology and innovation should be harnessed to transform governance.
Along with the PM, Cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats watched presentations made by start-up founders on signature themes such as Digital India, Incredible India 2.0 and New India by 2022.
‘Champions of Change’ — the initiative that kept the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), NITI Aayog
and several key ministries busy for the past few days — brought together 212 start-up founders. Some called it a rebooted version of last year’s Start-Up India, Stand Up India organised at the capital’s Vigyan Bhawan. This time, the venue shifted to Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, a new hub in the capital for major government events.
Last year, the special invitees included marquee names including SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and then Uber chief Travis Kalanick. On Thursday, it was an all-desi affair with Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, MobiKwik’s Bipin Preet Singh, Bigbasket’s Hari Menon, Oyo’s Ritesh Agarwal, BookMyShow’s Ashish Hemrajani, and PharmEasy’s Dhaval Shah leading the show.
In a 50-minute speech at the event, organised by the NITI Aayog, Modi charted plans for the start-up ecosystem in India, while asking the entrepreneurs for active partnership in governance. In fact, ministers and government officials discussed "real-world solutions" to problems with start-ups
who have founded innovative tech platforms for everything from food delivery to mobile wallets.
While the start-up founders made presentations through six teams, the PM said these groups could be permanently attached to their respective line ministries, so that suggestions and advice could be incorporated in policymaking.
He added that the Central government, in the past three years, had made fundamental changes in governance, eliminating the role of middlemen in many areas. "It is the same group (middlemen) which is now crying about low job growth," Modi said.
The start-up bosses indicated that unlike the last event that was more glitzy, this one was more about hearing and registering the ideas of these companies
and using them to find solutions.
“This time around we have been assured that our recommendations would be incorporated. The officials as well as ministers have told us that the feedback would be taken seriously and a forum would be formed. Also, this would turn into a yearly event,” said MobiKwik chief Bipin Preet Singh.
With a view to incorporate digital into every aspect of life, a set of recommendations has been given to the PM on topics ranging from digital payments, digitisation
of processes, digital infrastructure as well as governance.
“Financial literacy is important for endorsing Digital India. Inclusion of financial literacy as a subject or module in school, college, and skill development institutes should be explored. School curriculum, government and private, could also include aspects of financial planning and government schemes. Mobile video platforms could be used as an effective and cost-efficient way to promote literacy,” according to a joint report by start-up founders and the government.
Health care is another area where the government wants to digitise a host of services. “As a provider of affordable authentic health care, we are pushing for regulations for e-access to health care services like medicine and consultations, clarity on remote health care solutions and regulations around digital prescriptions,” said Dhaval Shah, co-founder of PharmEasy.