Why India's startups are the shining beacon of 'Atmanirbharta'

The resilience of India's startups was on full display during the pandemic years - they streamlined innovations and revenues, pivoting their business models to achieve success in a tumultuous market.
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Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, once famously said, "Atmanirbhar Bharat is not anti-globalisation. It is about getting the best from the world. It is not about protectionism. It is about enhancing the ability of Indian companies to create world-class products, capture the domestic market, and then use the strength of the domestic market to penetrate the global market. It is about being a global champion." India is staring at the threshold of change, and the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat is one of the key missions guiding this new India. Today, the thought of 'Atmanirbharta' has been a recurring theme across sectors and categories, as a new wave of innovators and entrepreneurs are leveraging this spirit in their startups.

Ninety-five startups have already turned unicorns with nine new ones joining the club in 2022. These startups play a critical role in bolstering the economy by creating employment opportunities and uplifting lives with innovations and technology. The resilience of India's startups was on full display during the pandemic years - they streamlined innovations and revenues, pivoting their business models to achieve success in a tumultuous market. While the country grappled with the challenges of the pandemic, Indian startups played an integral role in reviving the economy. As per the Economic Survey 2022, Indian startups cracked record investments of up to $3.5 billion across 130 deals through January, marking a decadal high amid a downturn in global markets and sustained investor interest. The sector's upward growth trajectory has led to more employment opportunities. Because despite the pandemic, India's startups went on to employ around 14 per cent more employees in 2020 than in 2019. As per government sources, since 2018, startups have generated almost 6 lakh jobs, with 2 lakh jobs generated in 2021 alone - the highest in 4 years.

Atmanirbhar startups: An inspiration for many

The Atmanirbhar Bharat mission offers the opportunity for entrepreneurs to create products and services that Indians are dependent on global leaders for. Hence, the drive to create something of our own that is not just affordable but also world-class. The growth of India's atmanirbhar startups can also be a huge influence on India's mid-market sector.

A collaboration with startups cannot be ruled out as startups have the capability to take MSMEs to great heights on the back of their technological advancements. Unlike the digital native startups of today, MSMEs are slower in their technological adoption and are not agile in their responses. Today, they will have to adopt technology to attract customers, increase revenue, and smoothen out supply chains, delivery mechanisms and more. To this end, startups from the tech ecosystem can be of huge help. Various startups are leveraging new-age technologies like AI, blockchain, IoT and partnering with MSMEs will give them the chance to solve actual problems, while helping MSMEs scale.

Another important lesson that MSMEs can learn from startups is the importance of harnessing the power of data and pivoting their strategies in the face of changes. Pivoting operations in real-time can mitigate risks and ensure the mid-market sector grabs opportunities.

Drawing interest and support

For years, the government has been working towards making India a $5 trillion economy by leveraging startups. Last year, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) aligned their "Make in India for the world" and "Local goes global" visions in a roadmap to achieve $1 trillion worth of merchandise exports and $700 billion in services exports by 2028.

Budget 2022 was also in line with the government's $5 trillion economy vision, and due to their structural, fiscal and infrastructural reforms, India could be well on the road to recovery after the COVID months. This time, the focus remained on leveraging India's manufacturing strengths with incentives to promote solar and new-age manufacturing processes involving 5G technology.

Keeping these trends in mind such as drones, animation, deep and clean tech, and gaming , the government has allocated a sum of Rs 13,700 crores for make-in-india startups in the space sector, while also focusing on creating a growing environment for artificial intelligence. They are also looking at facilitating a Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS) or Drone Shakti scheme. 25 percent of the defense budget has been earmarked for startups participating in defense R&D.

As India looks at standing shoulder to shoulder with the superpowers of the world, with their own innovations across sectors, initiatives such as these are a great sign of the nation's trust in their progress. Even as we chase joint goals for becoming atmanirbhar across industries, or leverage that to become a $5 trillion economy, the main lesson is to not lose momentum and keep growing.


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