India has witnessed an incredible surge in entrepreneurship, primarily driven by its youthful innovators and facilitated by the government’s ‘Startup India’ campaign. This startup boom extends beyond the major metropolitan areas, reaching the suburbs and rural regions, encouraging a sense of self-reliance among the country’s youth.
This topic of “Deep Tech Startups- How can Startup India 2.0 Help?” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
Rising Startup Culture in India
Urban and Rural Entrepreneurs
India’s startup culture is expansive and inclusive, recognising over 100,000 startups from a diverse range of regions, with nearly half originating from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The phenomenon has fostered a sense of empowerment and freedom among the country’s youth, allowing them to shape their destinies.
Beyond Digital Markets
The startup movement is broadening its horizons beyond consumer Internet and e-commerce, delving into deep technology fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, space and remote sensing, biotech and pharma, electric vehicles, drones, defence, telecommunications, semiconductors, and more. These sectors go beyond digital marketplaces, resulting in deeper industrialisation and increased employment opportunities. Additionally, deep tech startups have facilitated the commercialisation of public sector lab discoveries, leading to marketable scientific and technological advancements.
Significant Contributions from Deep Tech Startups
Role in Public-Funded Institutions
Success stories include the IIT Madras’s Research Park, C-CAMP, and National Chemical Laboratory’s Venture Centre, which have collectively incubated hundreds of deep tech companies and facilitated numerous high-quality patent filings and commercialisations. These initiatives exemplify the potential for publicly funded science to reach citizens and consumers via startups.
Faculty and Alumni Involvement
Faculty members have found it relatively easy to transform their discoveries into startups, either through their own efforts or in partnership with their alumni. This has provided an exceptional opportunity to leverage deep historical investments in science and technology within public labs and institutions.
Risk-Taking in Deep Tech Startups
Government and Legacy Corporates
Deep tech startups have emerged as the primary risk-taking entities in India, proving crucial for the nation’s new capability development. Traditional risk-taking entities, such as government departments and legacy corporations, appear somewhat inert due to their stakeholders’ intense scrutiny. Several government-driven programs haven’t produced the expected innovation outcomes, and industrial investment in R&D remains disappointingly low in most sectors.
Industry Investment in Startups
The industry, however, has shown a preference for investing in deep-tech startups and acquiring successful scaled technologies. This is evidenced by the acquisition of deep tech startups by Indian legacy corporates, such as Tata’s purchases of Saankhya and Tejas Networks, Reliance’s acquisition of Faradion, and Hero Motors’ equity investment in Ather Motors.
Startup India 2.0
To support the next wave of entrepreneurship, a ‘Startup India 2.0’ initiative is proposed, focusing on real sectors like artificial intelligence, biotech, electric vehicles, and more. This support should come through two channels:
- Provision of larger risk capital for deep tech startups: Both government and industry should direct more funds towards financing deep tech startups.
- Enabling mass procurement of locally developed technologies: There is a need for increased efforts to kickstart locally-made technologies through co-creation, rapid testing, certification, and procurement at scale.
The first iteration of Startup India sparked the startup boom in the country. It is hoped that ‘Startup India 2.0’ will guide India’s entrepreneurs towards enhancing industrial and public capabilities, thereby supporting economic growth, job creation, national security, and other national capabilities. As such, the rise of the startup culture in India represents not just an economic shift, but a cultural change that encourages innovation and self-reliance among the country’s youth.
Practice Question for Mains
Discuss the role of deeptech startups in India. How can Startup India 2.0 help? (250 words)