Deepak Bagla, managing director and chief executive officer, Invest India

India’s startup ecosystem has been playing a vital role in raising the level of digitalisation in the country. Startups in the digital communications space have been playing an instrumental role in the rapid digital transformation of the economy. At the digital dialogue on “Digital Communications Startups Success Stories” organised by the Broadband India Forum, Deepak Bagla, managing director and chief executive officer, Invest India, shared his views on the emerging startup ecosystem in India and the government’s role in promoting its growth. Excerpts…

It is a pleasure hearing all the startups and entrepreneurs discussing what they have done. Just think about the solutions they are bringing and the kind of transformation they are bringing, not just for us in India, but globally. Step­ping back to January 16, 2016, when the prime minister launched Start­up India, nobody knew the definition of a startup at the time. In just a short period of 70-72 months, we have come a long way.

In many ways, we are the youn­gest startup nation on the planet, and in such a short period of time, we are number three in the world in terms of number of unicorns. We are number two globally in terms of number of startups and number one in terms of adding new startups every day.

Today, out of the 739 districts, we have startups registered with the government in over 650 districts. This is very gratifying because this shows what new India is – the new India, which is emerging bottom up and not top down and which is empowered by digitalisation. I think the central pillar of new India and its transformation is the huge digitalisation initiative.

This transformation is happening very fast. In 2020 and even in the midst of that unprecedented lockdown we added a unicorn virtually every 30-31 days. In 2021, the lockdown continued, and we added a unicorn every 10 days. This year, in just about 50 days of this year, we added a unicorn every five days.

I remember in 2019, during a conference in Goa, we said we will have 150 unicorns by 2024-25. At the time, everybody said it sounds impossible and India will not be able to do it. Well, India surprised them yet again. I think the rate at which we are going, we will have 150 by the end of next year if not before. It is fantastic.

There are four key factors in the policymaking process of the government that have enabled this. One, it is based on very extensive and intensive stakeholder consultation. It is totally based on feedback from stakeholders and new requirements are constantly being revaluated as we are mo­ving up the curve. The second part is the flexibility and openness in approach while creating a policy, revisiting it and brin­­ging in changes as the market progre­sses. The third thing is a clear outcome-based approach on policymaking. Th­ere is an outcome that has been set as a tar­get for each and every stakeholder in the system. The fourth part is being monitored on a regular basis with a clear road­map from the highest office of the country. This is the result when you have a good successful policy and stakeholder in­volvement.

The story has only just begun and it is moving at a fast pace. We have an unprecedented example of a brand-new company, which could access 100 million new customers in 180 days and the cost per acquisition of each of those clients was less than one-fifth of the global average.

The entire Digital India initiative launched by the prime minister is bringing about a transformation that is not only unprecedented, both in terms of scale and pace, but it is also spreading across every aspect of our life, be it business or individual lives. It is bringing in the sense of singularity and momentum, which is fast-tracking India’s move towards a $10 trillion economy by 2030.

This is being driven by policy, by leadership, but most importantly, by each entrepreneur of India and the solutions that they are bringing. I think they form the core of a new India – a new India that is going to add $7 trillion to the bottom lines of all those that partner with it during this decade. I think the leadership that we have established is well acknowledged globally – not just the intellectual prowess of India, but its strength in R&D, innovation and bringing in solutions that are not just changing the lives of those in India, but also have the ability to change lives of people across the globe.