Promote innovation and entrepreneurship to achieve sustainable economic growth

We are at a profound moment in India’s history. We have a young and energetic workforce, a robust macroeconomy and a strong leadership at the Centre. This is our chance to power India forward. A key aspect for achieving sustainable economic growth and providing jobs to our youth is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to do more to enable our young people to think creatively, create innovative solutions, and take them to market and achieve global scale.

The government is committed to creating a supportive environment for innovators and entrepreneurs. Major initiatives such as smart cities, direct benefits transfer and ‘Digital India’ will create a large, domestic market for innovative products and services. Additionally, streamlined policies, new infrastructure and an overall thrust on fast-tracking innovative ideas through public, private and public-private initiatives will see more innovations hitting the market.

Indians are known for their ingenuity. Our creative thinking, when applied to problem-solving using meagre and locally available resources, Jugaad, is universally recognised.

The number of innovations highlighted by the National Innovation Foundation are an eye-opener to the innovative thinking that Indians bring to play while solving problems. Anumber of these innovations are centred on addressing issues in rural India, which can tremendously impact our economy and society.

Over 750 MNCs have their R&D centres in India. Many of these are creating products and solutions for global markets. India is where the zero, cataract and plastic surgery, high quality crucible steel, buttons, ink, and rulers were invented. So, despite such a rich history, why is India today not Innovation Nation?

Our innovations have largely been about affordability and designing solutions for local problems by making incremental changes in existing products and solutions. We have focused on process and price, not enough on product innovation. Examples of innovation abound: cheaper and faster drug discoveries; faster and better ways of creating software to make air travel safer; modifying existing farm tractors as a rural transportation solution; lowering telecom prices; organising over 3.6 million small milk producers in a cooperative movement and creating a global dairy brand; fighting hunger and malnutrition by using technology and forging strategic partnerships; Mumbai’s ‘dabbawalas’ delivering lakhs of meals to people with a home-grown, un-automated process with precision; and more.

But this innovation is often not apparent to the world, because it is usually localised and not scaled up. We need to encourage innovators to scale up their solutions to global levels, particularly in the developed world. The government’s new policies and programmes are designed to make it easier for innovators to find larger markets for their solutions and products.

Today, we need a two-pronged approach: one, encouraging and enabling more product innovation; two, facilitating innovators to scale up their solutions for commercial success or social good. To that end, we require a grassroots-driven movement that will celebrate and inspire entrepreneurship.

Many ecosystem players, such as the Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable (iSPIRT), the Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), the department of science and technology (DST), the tech startup accelerator TLabs, the Indian Institute of Science, the 10,000 Startups initiative of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), Paytm, Practo and the Anita Borg Institute, are coming together in Bengaluru on August 22 at Innofest to jumpstart this process.

In tandem with the just-announced ‘Start Up India, Stand up India’, the India Aspiration Fund and the Atal Innovation Mission are encouraging startups like never before.

Guest Post by Sh. Jayant Sinha, Union minister of State for Finance. This article was first published in ET