The biggest missing piece in India’s startup story is the lack of communication and inadequate connect between industry and academia. The deadlock between these two will hurt the country’s tech startup ecosystem, which is the third largest in the world, Nasscom, cautions industry apex body.
The industry-academia stalemate is nothing new. It has been there since 1970s when the first generation tech startups like TCS, Infosys and Wipro. It continued when the internet era began in 1999-2000. And it continues even when the country is poised for dream-run in deep technologies like artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain, machine learning, 3D printing and internet of things.
KS Viswanathan, Nasccom vice-president (industry initiatives and head of startup), told Financial Chronicle it’s not that industry and academia are not doing anything in deep domains. “In fact, they are actively incubating and accelerating tech startups and supporting their growth, but all in silos. The issue is the no-taking scenario is continuing even when the mutual interaction between industry and academia is critical for growth of the digital economy. It’s the only sad side of India’s startups story. Industry academia partnership and dialogue is a must for startup to get funds, flourish and scale up,’’ he said.
Nasscom on its own has been working to bridge the communication gap between industry and academia. It has set up centres of excellence in Bangalore (IoT & data sciences), Hyderabad (data sciences & cyber security), Gurgaon (IoT), Gandhi Nagar and Visakhapatnam (IoT).
“We have created these centres of excellence as a common platform where all stakeholders – industry, academia, entrepreneurs, students and funding agencies – can come together, interact and understand each other’s requirements. We are seeing some improvement in communication,” Viswanathan said.
According to Nasscom, advanced technology startups were growing at a compounded annual rate of 30 per cent, with artificial intelligence (AI) being one of the key growth segments. Nasscom has a mandate to help create 10,000 startups by 2023. India has over 5,500 tech startups. Every year as many as 1,400 new startups are happening of which 27 per cent are in Karnataka.
Last year, Indian startups received $3.8 billion investments. A major chunk of it came from China and Japan. Startups in northern states received 34 per cent of these funds, south 31 per cent and the rest of investments were shared by startups in other states.
“The startups revolution is a different kind of a tsunami. If the first generation tech startups took decade to clock their first billion dollar revenues, many of these new generation companies are capable of going unicorn in the first 3-5 years. It’s purely internet driven, ramp up is extremely rapid and the market is also favouring them with a large population of consumers already gone online to buy things,” Nasscom vice-president said.