Channelling Startup Energy and Ideas in India

Reality TV stars about to get some new competition. Startup entrepreneurs compete with Bollywood stars  for media attention. Indian government wants to channel attention onto startup energy and ideas and boost the startup ecosystem. 

Economic Times reports that a reality show for Indian startups along the lines of Shark Tank is in the offing. The unlikely planner of the show is the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), which is in the process of conceptualising the programme it wants to air on India's national broadcast channel Doordarshan. "We will hire an agency to scout for startups and investors to feature on the show. Actual funding will be provided to the winners," a senior DIPP official told ET.   

But the department doesn't want to stop there. Despite fears that India's startup bubble may be losing a tiny bit of air, it feels there's a vast appetite for more adventures in entrepreneur-land. DIPP has written to the ministry of information and broadcasting to consider setting up a channel dedicated to startups. "Just like there is a channel for kisan (farmers) there can be one for startups," the official said. 

DD Kisan is a round-the-clock channel dedicated to farmers that was started last year in fulfilment of a poll pledge by the ruling party.   In the desi Shark Tank, entrepreneurs will pitch ideas to judges who will subject them to an intense grilling before deciding whether an idea is worthy of investment. Such a show would give the government's startup agenda a higher profile besides creating a platform that would encourage innovation and drum up funding for new ideas. 

Shark Tank, modelled on a Japanese show, has been running successfully in the US since 2009. The government plans more platforms on which startups can strut their stuff. It plans a Grand Challenge competition at the national Startup Fest to be held in Hyderabad next month.   Startups will have to find innovative solutions to problems faced by industry and ministries as the government tries to encourage entrepreneurs to look beyond technology. It wants startup energy to be directed toward areas such as agriculture and come up with fresh solutions for drought and soil conservation, among others.   The Startup India action plan announced last year has got off to a slow start. 

Only about Rs 168 crore of funding has thus far been sanctioned by the Small Industries Development Bank of India out of the Rs 10,000 crore fund of funds that had been announced. As for tax exemptions under the initiative, only three out of 793 startups that applied have got them. Companies begun after April are eligible to apply for a three-year tax holiday under Startup India. Of the 793 that have applied for recognition under the programme, 223 have been successful.

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