Industry-academia stalemate may hit startups

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.