View: Never a better time than now to build for India

The timing couldn’t have been more apt to accelerate growth. The criticality of technology in a contact-less hyper-digital world, cannot be over-emphasized, and we have seen the exponential adoption growth across India in the last few months.

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When coupled with mentoring support and quick market access, Indian startups can make the nation very proud.
By Debjani Ghosh

“It’s time to build,” said Mark Andreessen in April when the US was grappling with the pandemic. This simple message was a rallying call to get over the inertia and galvanize Americans to build again while paving the path to recovery. PM Modi, more than a month back sounded the clarion call – Atmanirbhar Bharat – with the sole mission that India emerges stronger after the crisis.

As a strong proponent of innovation, I believe, the timing couldn’t have been more apt to accelerate growth. The criticality of technology in a contact-less hyper-digital world, cannot be over-emphasized, and we have seen the exponential adoption growth across India in the last few months.

BUILD for DIGITAL India, is NOW!

Our startups have been exemplary in resilience and adaptability. In early May, when we did a pulse-check, a large percentage could not foresee adequate working capital beyond three months due to the adverse effect the pandemic had caused in core sectors - their end customers. It’s been more than two months and despite the deepening health crisis, they have carried on regardless. It’s inspiring to see how they have battled cash flow challenges, and yet pivoted into new areas to build solutions, requisite of the hour - managing the pandemic, return to workplace solutions, virtual collaboration tools, contactless enablement, cybersecurity solutions, the list is endless.

I was privileged to be a part of the MeitY Innovation Challenge that presented a striking front-row view of how startups had been building video conferencing platforms. In thirty days flat, most had built robust prototypes, and the final selections could easily give international platforms a run for their money, having factored in functionalities that support Indian experience too. The depth of innovative capabilities that lie within our country, hit home. When coupled with mentoring support and quick market access, these startups can then make the nation very proud.

The likes of Freshdesk, Zoho, Icertis, Postman, etc. have done exceptionally well in the SaaS space. Inasmuch, data from Annie app reveals that Indians downloaded 40 billion apps in the last 3 years but relatively fewer Indian ones are dominant. While there is a myriad of reasons why it has not happened and how the playbook needs to change, but it’s equally true that the kind of support we find in India today towards innovation & development is unprecedented.

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India has the wherewithal to be a thriving app and a product builder nation, but with certain imperatives, i.e, the four S’s: Simple, Scalable, Secure & Synergistic. Simplicity is characteristic of user-friendliness with UI that makes life easy even for those who are not tech-inclined. Besides English, regional language variants will build scale, and the back-end tech should support the spike in usage volume.

Earning and keeping users’ TRUST is non-negotiable but it doesn’t come automatically. Being SECURE is about investing in the right tools, adopting best-in-class data privacy practices, and communicating with users about data storage, transmission & usage. The super apps ecosystem ( à la Chinese) rides on the bulwark of synergies and collaboration. The India Vision cannot be architected by a “few” players only.

Funding is a critical area. Continuous innovation is what drives usage and relevance for these companies. Besides foreign capital, we also need greater support from Indian investors. At NASSCOM, we’ve been pushing for a Deep Tech Fund towards creating solutions for Atmanirbhar Bharat. Moreover, government/ PSU procurement norms should enable startups’ participation much more with greater commitment towards paid pilots.

#ThinkDigitalThinkIndia can be a reality if Make in India fuels our manufacturing capabilities and Code for India be the nation’s answer to digital aspirations.

(The writer is President, NASSCOM)

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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