In 2013, Nasscom announced plans to incubate 10,000 startups, kicking off the process by offering up to Rs. 2 crore funding to 500 Indian tech startups. One year later, Nasscom committed to gender equality in tech and participated in Google's $1 million program to bring more women into the industry, and announced its Girls in Technology initiative. In the run-up to the Nasscom India Leadership forum, which is being held in Mumbai from February 11 to 13, NDTV Gadgets spoke to Sangeeta Gupta, VP Nasscom, to get an understanding of how these initiatives are progressing, and how the industry body sees technology startups growing and evolving in India in 2015.
Gupta believes that all industries are becoming increasingly digital, no matter what products they make, this is only helping the growth of technology in India.
"For Nasscom, 10,000 startups is a key initiative," says Gupta. "We have seen a lot of success with this, and India is now the fourth largest base for new businesses, with over 3,100 tech startups. This is a key achievement, and we have seen over 7,000 applications, and partnered and incubated many of them."
"We have been able to connect them to angels, and we have set up our own incubators, and seen great response," adds Gupta. "The important thing to do is to create an investment ecosystem, it can't be just Nasscom. That's what our focus is, to see how we can enable better integration with the industry."
Since the start of the Girls in Technology initiative, Gupta says that Nasscom is seeing many more female applicants, leading to a greater number of women founders and co-founders.
"The percentage of women entrepreneurs is growing slowly, and now, 10-12 percent of all applicants have women founders, or co-founders," says Gupta.
This kind of change is slow to happen, but it creates an environment which opens up more opportunities, she believes.
"As more women become known as the founders of successful startups, more women will look at careers in tech, and think about becoming entrepreneurs," she says. "It's still the beginning, and we have around 500 women who have participated with us so far. It will take time to become something tangible, but we are taking this very seriously."
For these initiatives to continue to succeed, Nasscom believes that the government must bring in some key changes with this year's union budget, which is due to be announced later this month.
"One area that is important is the definition of a startup," says Gupta. "This is something that needs clarity." This is important because in the 2014 budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced large allocations for the startup sector. You have to be a startup to qualify for these funds or other benefits like soft loans, but without clear definitions, access to these benefits can be a challenge for companies.
Nasscom has a number of recommendations that would help the technology industry to grow. For instance, the industry body is suggesting a lowering in royalties and fees on technical services, and the adoption of international practices on foreign tax credit policies to increase competitiveness.
It suggests that information technology and software products should be eligible for research and development deductions in taxes, as should the re-education of employees, which is necessary to maintain competitiveness.
Gupta also says that aside from addressing issues, the industry also needs an incentive structure to be created to help growth.
"We need to make patents simpler, and offer schemes and incentives that encourage startups to take risks if we are to grow," Gupta concludes.