In a free-wheeling conversation, the INC President Rahul Gandhi took questions from the crowd on the contentious Angel Tax, GST, job creation, and much more.Dipti Nair
The heat and dust of an Indian election season is well upon us with major political fortunes at stake at the upcoming 2019 General Elections. It’s the time to woo, win over, and work it out.
Startups and entrepreneurs have, especially in the past five years, become an important constituency that political parties cannot afford to ignore.
The Indian National Congress (INC) organised a session, ‘Conversations with Entrepreneurs’, with its party president Rahul Gandhi in Bengaluru on Monday with the objective of exchanging ideas and sharing the party’s position on a few contentious issues that the startup ecosystem is battling.
At the packed amphitheatre at Manyata Tech Park, Rahul Gandhi made pronouncements on the two important subjects that have become conversation starters of late among the entrepreneur and business community -- one was on Angel Tax and the other on Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“Hold me to it. We will abolish Angel Tax,” Rahul proclaimed to a question by Aprameya Radhakrishna, who started TaxiForSure (that was acquired by Ola) and is now the Founder of Vokul, an Indian language question-answer platform for users who are not conversant in English.
Commenting on GST, he said, “We came up with it and were very clear that GST had to be tested and be put into process slowly by running pilots and so on. We will reform the present GST, which is meant to be one tax but as of now is five different layers of taxes, and is counterproductive. We are going to work to give you a simple GST and the lowest tax possible.”
Rahul Gandhi did not miss an opportunity to hit back at the ruling NDA government, especially when the topic of job creation and employment came up.
The fast approaching age of automation with new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have started to throw up new challenges. India needs 20 million new jobs every year, and we are only creating five million new jobs a year. How will this gap be bridged?
“This government is disastrously failing on the jobs front,” Rahul said, focusing on the urgency of the issue. “Look at the entire conversation around the topic, it is always about growth. We do seven percent, six percent, whatever we do...but nobody says this quarter this is the number of jobs that were created. Nobody is focusing on the critical metric of jobs. And there is only one group of people who can solve the jobs problem and that is Small and Medium Businesses. The second massive disconnect we do not talk about is that there are traditional hubs of skill all over India. We have an attitude where we do not value them and do not link our system to those hubs,” he added.
Giving the example of China, and making a point that India can take over its giant neighbour in terms of industrial growth, Rahul said, “If we look at China, what they have done at scale with their traditional skills networks is connected them to their financial network and to their infrastructure. We have to think in terms of breaking monopolies and also have a single-minded focus on creating more jobs otherwise we are sitting on a disaster.”
Dressed in white khadi kurta, pajama, and branded sneakers, Rahul seemed comfortable on the turf, and fielded other questions, including those on social entrepreneurship and bridging the urban-rural divide. He did not sit on the chair provided at the podium, but rather walked the ramp making himself accessible to the crowd.
Accompanying the INC President were senior Congress leaders from Karnataka, including Priyank Kharge, Krishna Byre Gowda, Deputy CM G Parameshwara, and former CM Siddaramaiah among others.
Rahul Gandhi also had a few minutes of one-on-one conversation with some entrepreneurs and investors from the Bengaluru startup ecosystem, including Aprameya Radhakrishna, K Ganesh and Meena Ganesh, Naganand Doraswamy, Ravi Gururaj, Madan Padki, among others.
(Below: Watch K Ganesh, serial entrepreneur and investor, talk about the issues discussed at the event)