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Exclusive interview of Arvind Kumar (Director General) with Businessworld

The Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) has taken several initiatives to foster a healthy startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country and give an impetus to the IT sector. The STPI’s new Director General Arvind Kumar, is confident of facilitating startups to acquire more than100 patents in emerging technology domains by 2025.

Excerpts of a conversation with Arjun Yadav of BW Businessworld:

Your current role as Director General, STPI is quite a big shift from the one you played at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India till recently, is it not?
The transition from an advisory role at TRAI to the apex position of a national-level organisation has been a great experience. For half of my professional life, I have been in a regulatory role and was associated with the telecom sector. So, with my new role at STPI, that shift from telecom to the IT sector is a big change. I will build a comprehensive strategy to put this organisation into the next orbital growth apropos the mandate of our ministry (MeitY).

Software services exports had risen in 2020-21 and ITES accounted for 34.7 per cent of these exports, which is among your core competencies. This comes at a time when exports of other services declined. What has been the STPI, contribution to this trend?
The STPI enables the industry to achieve growth levels. Historically, exports from STPI-registered units during ,1991- 92 had been just 17 crore and now after 30 years, it has grown nearly 29,195 times to 4,96,313 crore during , 2020-21. We have always endeavoured to enable industry leaders and companies to scale up their businesses and come out with innovative solutions. During the pandemic we re-laxed norms relating to physically getting any official approvals or licenses.

The pandemic disrupted industries across verticals, but the Indian IT industry has successfully weathered this despite massive challenges. To make this possible, STPI initiated a remote work culture for the Indian IT industry to deliver their projects to global clients in a seamless manner.

Do you see any specific challenges for the startup ecosystem in this post-pandemic phase?
I don’t foresee any such challenges for the startups to prosper. India created nearly three unicorns every month in 2021. We have already built a robust tech startup ecosystem in the country through Centres of Entrepreneurship (CoEs) and Next Generation Incubation Scheme (NGIS) by collaborating with central/state government, industry, academia, industry associations, and funding partners. Our collaborative platform is a first-of-its-kind paradigm that facilitates startups world-class incubation, cutting-edge labs, mentoring, funding, market connect, and I PR facilitation. We are planning to nurture 1900-plus startups and create 100 plus patents in various emerging technology domains by 2025.

The STPI, 62nd centre was recently inaugurated at Meerut. What sort of employment opportunities is being created for the youth and what is your assessment of their enthusiasm for entrepreneurship?
I can tell you that there is a lot of enthusiasm. Meerut, specifically, has a unique advantage. It is well connected now to the capital because of the expressway and the upcoming Rapid Rail Transit. Secondly, it has infrastructure which is more cost-effective than Delhi and a good number of engineering colleges in the vicinity, owing to which there is a lot of affinity for the IT industry. So, Meerut can be an important centre from STPI’s perceptive. I’m confident that whatever incubation space we have created there will be fully occupied within a year. When that happens, I can assure you that STPI through Meerut and other centres in U.P. will be able to bring an IT revolution in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

If we talk about employment opportunities, STPI has implemented India BPO Promotion Scheme ( IBPS) and NEBPS schemes with great success. More than 47,000 youths have been employed in tier-2 and tier-3 cities of India, which demonstrates that with the right policy and focused efforts, the desired objectives can be achieved. Our pan India presence and especially 54 centres in tier-2 and tier-3 cities have played a pivotal role in facilitating world-class incubation facilities for young engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, SMEs and startups to realise their entrepreneurial dream.

Another core competency of the STPI is in the promotion of emerging technologies. How can startups and MSMEs leverage these technologies?
There is no doubt that the future will be driven by technology. The Indian IT Industry is on a hot foot to compete with its global counter parts in delivering solutions and products to address contemporary challenges. We are almost on the cusp of an extreme technology revolution wherein smart players can gain a competitive edge over their laggard peers.

The adoption of these emerging technologies will bring a tectonic shift in the automation of services and product manufacturing. We provide seed funding to MSMEs to give them financial security and also mentorship to help them gain confidence to innovate and tackle the fear of failure. Time is opportune for startups and small companies to leverage and showcase their path-breaking products to the larger world and create enormous value for their organisation and the nation at large, and realise the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The North Eastern states were neglected for years.Tell us about some of STPIs schemes for the region that will help in employment creation for the youth.
To drive tech-entrepreneurial movement in the Northeast we have launched eight COEs and Startup Innovation Zones (SIZs) in the capital cities of eight states under the OctaNE scheme. What’s unique about these centres is that each centre caters to a distinct emerging technology. These centres include loT in Agriculture CoE/SIZ in Guwahati, Emerging Tech (AR/VR) CoE/SIZ in Imphal, Data Analytics and Al CoE/SIZ in Agartala, IT Applications in Graphics Design CoE/SIZ in Kohima, IT Application in Healthcare and AgriTech CoE/SIZ in Gangtok, GIS Applications (including Drone Technology) CoE/SIZ in Itanagar. etc. OctaNE plans to foster 367 startups in the next five years in the region.

CT Bureau

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