India’s commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal sprang a surprise during his California visit by launching the Supporting Entrepreneurs in Transformation and Upskilling (SETU) program on September 6 at an event attended by Silicon Valley-based venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The delegates have been visiting California to attend Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on September 8 and 9.
Venkatesh Shukla, a venture capitalist and former TiE Silicon Valley president and former TiE Global president, who also serves on the Government of India’s Startup Advisory Council spoke to indica about the “start-up focused meeting” with the minister.
The Digital India program was launched in Silicon Valley, when Shukla was TiE Silicon Valley president, and was soon followed by Start-up India launched in New Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Since then, India has succeeded in launching 77,000 start-ups and over 100 unicorns.
“This government is committed to nurturing an environment of growth for start-ups. A lot has already been accomplished but there are some issues that need to be taken care of,” Shukla told indica.
He said the focus of the meeting with Goyal was on making India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as big as that of the United States.
He said simplifying Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPs) is one major concern. The ESOP issue is handled differently in India and the US, he said. “India does not allow you to give company shares to mentors and advisors, or consultants.”
He said another ongoing issue is paperwork and compliance burdens. The issue of incorporation of company is often discussed. It is easy in the US to incorporate a new company but becomes difficult in India.
Shukla added that “single window clearance” is the most abused word in Indian compliance. “Why should it be so complicated,” he said. While Goyal did not talk about single window clearance, Shukla said, he was, however, interested in learning more about an ‘inter-ministerial task force’ that Shukla had proposed to resolve issues and boost start-ups in India.
The commerce department alone cannot effect all the changes. “He will have to go to the RBI, SEBI, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Ministry of Finance,” Shukla said. “I recommended that this task force should be headed by a cabinet minister,” Shukla stated.
Shukla told indica that this inter-ministerial task force should have the urgency and sense of commitment from a higher level and it has to be political, which will help move things faster. “It cannot be headed by secretaries. If headed by a cabinet minister it elevates the stature, it elevates the sense of urgency. It sends the right signal to everyone.” He said bureaucrats look at solutions from their department’s interest. Shukla said the minister liked the idea of an Inter-ministerial Task Force. “We also suggested that regulatory agencies should be putting their proposed regulation for public scrutiny and feedback.”
Shukla, who serves on the Government of India’s Start-up Advisory Council, said at the launch of SETU that India should create a platform where start-ups can be assigned appropriate mentors in the US.
Asked who from the US side would help with collaboration on this issue and whether it would be the TiE Silicon Valley or any organization, Shukla said, “That is still to be decided and frankly it was a surprise to us the announcement was made without prior discussion on this.”
“Most start-ups don’t know where to go for help in scaling globally, be it about marketing, sales, engineering, or how to incorporate changes. Hence this mentoring platform.”
However, he said, he was not aware beforehand of Goyal launching SETU. Goyal during a community meeting sponsored by TiE Silicon Valley, India Community Center, ICICI Bank and SBI Bank shared about the launch the India-US Startup SETU said is a kind of a bridge between Indians and American companies. “The idea is to support entrepreneurs in transformation and upskilling.”