'Telcos remain the biggest threat to net neutrality and, therefore, start-ups'

'Telcos remain the biggest threat to net neutrality and, therefore, start-ups'

Recently the ‘Start-up India’ Action Plan was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This focus on start-ups is important in many different ways, says Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and technology entrepreneur. “As an alternate to big corporates’ lack of investment into the economy, as a way of catalysing entrepreneurship to create jobs, and as a way of tapping the demographic dividend of India as a competitive advantage in the global economy, start-ups are essential,” he adds.

Chandrasekhar interacted with start-up entrepreneurs and young professionals for a session, “Get Offline with Rajeev Chandrasekhar” #Startups #Netneutrality and #ASK at Odeon Social.

With more than 4,100 tech start-ups, India is home to the third largest number of tech start-ups, besides numerous non-tech start-ups. The PM’s Action Plan lays out detailed steps that make it easier for start-ups to operate – from defining a start-up to providing a 80 per cent rebate on the filing of patents; making it easier to setup and run a start-up.

As someone who himself started-up his entrepreneurial career in one of the first cellular start-ups (BPL Mobile) in India, he says, “I can endorse the need for this focus on start-ups by the Government.  Start-ups in India have had two traditional significant barriers or obstacles, one, the apathy, corruption, red tape of Government and its policies to those without ‘connections’.  And second, the destructive power of big corporates in India who, through their political power and influence, can stop a start-up if it attempts to compete with them. I have experienced both first hand, and so, can testify to the power
of both to disrupt the best start-ups.”

According to him, most start-ups focus on the tech sector because of the minimal influence of government and corporates into that space. But it’s necessary for our policy makers to address this issue with deeper structural reforms that broadens the Start-up India appeal to non-tech sectors.

Meanwhile, with the tax exemptions, credit incentives, discounts on patent filing, the Start-up India initiative will try to be a boost to the existing start-ups.

“Funding to the tune of nine billion dollars was pumped into Indian Tech start-ups in 2015 – an amount which is equal to the total funding start-ups received between 2010 and 2014. The self-certification and funding support system, in particular, will help increase the number of tech entrepreneurs and innovators in setting up new ventures,” says

Chandrasekar explains by taking the example of how government policy making is key for start-ups – Tech entrepreneurs’ critical requirement includes affordable access to the Internet for themselves and for their clients. The current debate on net neutrality and the future of the internet in India has a direct bearing on this and tech start-ups.

“In December last year, nine prominent start-ups made it unequivocally clear to the TRAI that they were squarely against any attempt of telcos to stop rationing of channels on the internet,” he adds. Saying that the “telcos remain the biggest threat to net neutrality, and therefore, start ups”, he explains that the Internet of Things (IoT), an emerging area that start-ups are sure to veer towards, for instance, offers avenues for telecom operators and system integrators to significantly boost their revenues. This, in fact, has resulted in their taking a lead in the offering of IoT-based services.

As someone who has spent more than a little time as an independent politician, he says that the government’s policy (Start-up India) too acknowledges the strong interdependence that start-ups have with technology.

“Last July, when the Digital India programme was unveiled, Prime Minister
Narendra Modi spoke at ength about the need for the programme to focus on innovation. The Prime Minister has assured full support to young entrepreneurs who wish to launch start-ups,” he says.

Chandrasekhar also introduced ASK, an initiative undertaken by him in order to promote and encourage citizens to be involved in the political process and demand accountability from the government. He believes that a citizen’s involvement in a democracy does not and should not end at casting a ballot.