Startups needed to sustain GDP traction and fast-track it

Startups are not just a signal of competitiveness of technology but also a nation on a new growth path. In an exclusive chat with Cybermedia.

Sunil Rajguru
New Update

Dr Omkar Rai

Startups are not just a signal of competitiveness of technology but also a nation on a new growth path. In an exclusive chat with Cybermedia, Dr. Rai underlined how the trifecta of policy, on-ground reach, and incubation have been accelerating many startups in this region of India.


Starting up Startups

“Odisha startup ecosystem has grown to a level of 1800 startups. We serve this ecosystem through 27 incubators including one created by the State Government. This ecosystem is driven by a state startup policy that was created in 2016 and was subsequently revised. It is attracting a lot of investments from all across the space. Some have received attractive equity funding apart from grants from the government (About over ₹6 crore for 22 startups) so there is both internal and external impetus coming in.”

Talking about the ecosystem’s outreach and impact, he confidently shared how it spans across the state – like Startup Yatra and other school-related initiatives. “We have been able to reach over 35,000 students across all districts and over 200 colleges. We have been able to garner 4600 ideas from them which are being processed and then 200 ideas would be shortlisted for acceleration support. Ten from each School Express would be rewarded with incentives and support.”


Reflecting on this space from the STPI experience, Dr. Rai said, “I was there for 12 years. STPI has been instrumental in promoting technology in this country. It has been seen as a successful single-window platform in the government. The IT industry, in turn, has given birth to several movements like India Stack and unicorns in the country. The cost-arbitrage in the startup ecosystem has been enabled by the IT industry. Thus, we are looking at the emergence of a lot of startups in the country, with 110 unicorns already. This pattern shows the growth of unicorns created in the last three years. Incidentally, lockdown was a game-changer. When things came to a halt, the IT industry began working from home and digital adoption became a staple form for many people. Digitisation took off in a big way as people started working with digital platforms. This helped startups to expand their user bases.”

The 2047 Dartboard

As to whether India will be a tech superpower in a few years, as envisaged in Mission 2047, Dr. Rai observed, “The number 47 marks a psychological date for us. We have achieved a lot in the last few years. The pace of change has grown, and we have achieved a lot—in a very accelerated manner. The entire landscape is evolving at a fast rate. Our GDP goals can be powered by a startup ecosystem. As startups start creating wealth, solving problems, and creating ideas—all this is needed to sustain GDP traction and fast-track it.”


“We will be able to grow at the pace set for us and if India keeps up with this pace, we will soon be the world’s third-largest economy. With 1.4 billion people, the world’s largest technology industry, the advantage of R&D, and competencies to serve the entire world—all that helps the country in a major way as a knowledge system. This will put us in a very leading position across the board.” He underlined how UIDAI, India Stack, and other such achievements – at such a large scale – are strong examples of our capabilities. The foundation of IT services and ecosystem as well as MSME and startup ecosystems would help in achieving ambitious goals for India.

Designs on Design

On the significance of ESDM (Electronics System Design & Manufacturing), Dr. Rai explained how this capability will not only create jobs but minimize our import bills and reduce global dependencies. “A lot of initiatives have been taken to create an entire ecosystem. We are becoming the second largest base after China not only for domestic goods but also for exports. India is doing a lot to create electronic system products, beyond manufacturing: Like in areas of patents and design. We are becoming an electronic manufacturing base. We are doing well across the value chain. It is a domestic-demand-driven industry and it will grow at a strong pace ahead.”


Will skilling be a tough nut to bolt in this race? Dr. Rai addressed this part saying, “Platforms for upskilling, reskilling, and manpower are being created at various levels. Skilling is getting a major thrust from State governments and the Central government. We create a lot of STEM graduates but we have to make them strong enough to be deployable in the industry, at large. Skilling has to be made a part of the education system. Educational institutions should produce readily employable resources. Until then we will waste a lot of time between the passing out of graduates and their industry deployment. We should aim at reducing this gap so that there is a scenario where there is no requirement for separate skilling. But upskilling is crucial and I urge all stakeholders to address this requirement. People should get these skills in real-time while doing their actual job.”

On the possibility of a bright future ahead, Dr. Rai said, “All of us – artisans, scientists, artists, technocrats, publishers, etc.- all of us have to work together to make India great again.” The growth path beckons. 

(Catch the complete video interview on the CyberMedia Series YouTube channel)


Dr. Omkar Rai

Executive Chairman, Startup Odisha, and former DG-STPI

By Pratima H

#dq40 years