Proper policy regulations, a separate regulator and an ecosystem that aids funding is the need of the hour for the growth of space startups, says Rakesh Sasibhushan, chairman-cum-managing director, Antrix Corporation. While some private players exist, the number of start-ups in the segment is still less considering the potential for space business in India. This is due to uncertainties in regulations and investments, he said.
In an article published in a peer review journal Indian Defence Review, he said globally the space industry is worth $360 billion, and the industry has emerged in many parts of the world with favourable policies being implemented in those countries. India's space programme is a low-budgeted one with little room for the industries to grow.
He added that the regulatory framework is probably one of the biggest issues for space-related private and start-up companies in the country. The proposed Space Activities Bill is one step towards bringing in more clarity on the regulatory side of the space business and might encourage more venture capital firms to look into the sector for potential investments.
Besides, there is also a need for a regulatory agency, different from the Department of Space, as there could be a conflict of interest considering that these companies are also service providers to the department. He cited the example of the formation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 1997 while Department of Telecom remained as a service provider.
Another hindrance is the lack of technology for them to design, manufacture and supply sub-systems and components to the space systems. He suggests transferring the technology process from ISRO. Antrix Corporation has already started the transfer of technology process for small satellite technology, in order to enable the industry to design and supply technology.
For start-ups, the issue has been the availability of funds and so far, there is no government funding to support these companies exclusively.
"India has got all the essential ingredients to become a major player in the commercial space market. However, we need to develop the eco-system by introducing the right policies and incentives. With the emergence of New Space in India, companies are looking forward to the Government for de-regulation and opening up of the sector. Days are not far for India to emerges as the New Space hub of the world," he said in the journal.