Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team on a whirlwind promotional tour in the US are drumming up interest in what India can offer to start-ups. It is no longer a secret that the Indian start-up scene is hot as evidenced by the throngs of venture capitalists vying for a piece of the next Flipkart or Ola. There isn’t a limitation of people in India with ideas and the talent to build successful start-ups, however there are serious concerns about the difficulties of doing business here. Part of Prime Minister Modi’s mission in undertaking this trip to the US is to reach out to the highly influential NRI community in the Silicon Valley as well as American investors, and making them aware of the measures being taken, to not only attract investments into Indian start-ups but also to keep Indian start-ups in India.
It is estimated that as many as 54% of Indian tech start ups from last year have domiciled themselves in Singapore or the US, as these nations have a more favorable regulatory framework. This number is expected to rise this year. In the 90’s and 2000’s we experienced a brain drain of our top technical talent who sought greener pasture in the west and in 2010’s we seem to be experiencing something similar with our start-ups. However, the exodus of start-ups isn’t due to the lack of business opportunities in India but the difficulties faced in doing business here.
One of the main concerns raised by the many Indian start-ups in the Silicon Valley was the complexity and the amount of time it takes to register intellectual property in India. It is very well know that the IP offices in India are short of examiners, necessary to keep up with the volumes of applications filed each year. In many countries the entire lifecycle of a patent application from application submission to grant is about two year, whereas in India it wouldn’t be surprising if it took double the time. In addressing this issue P.M. Modi’s team has assured that the entire patent process would be streamlined online and that the government would fund 500 lawyers across India to provide free IP services to anyone seeking to file a patent.
This emphasis on IP isn’t misplaced. If the idea is to encourage dynamic homegrown start-ups to stay in India, contributing to reverse innovation, the need for a strong IP regime with a straight forward process for its protection and commercialization, is a big part of the solution. We’ve quite well know the value that a robust IP system can play in the success of start-ups, that’s the reason why Mr. Modi has gone knocking on Silicon Valley’s door. If the proposed solutions are implemented and succeed, there is no reason why India cannot produce the next Facebook or Google.
This article was contributed by Sanjeeth Hegde, Partner – BananaIP. He can be reached at [email protected]