Home / Companies / People /  India needs an innovation agenda: Google’s Eric Schmidt

India needs to develop the right funding ecosystem for start-ups along with having government policies that remove barriers for such companies to develop its Silicon Valley equivalent, said Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google Inc.

“In Silicon Valley, around 40% of the start-ups are headed by Indian entrepreneurs," Schmidt said in New Delhi on Wednesday. He’s on his first trip to the country as Google chairman.

Statistics show that Indians in the Silicon Valley have the right skills and education, which had been acquired back home, to become successful entrepreneurs.

For India to have a start-up culture like that of the US, it needs to “make sure that you have venture capitalists who understand strategic investment, portfolio investment".

He also said that the government needs to fix a few things as part of an innovation agenda.

“For example, the intermediary liabilities. If the intermediaries are liable for the acts of users then the start-up itself can’t get there," said Schmidt, who also unveiled lobby group Nasscom’s programme to incubate 10,000 start-ups in the country.

Under the programme, which is supported by Google, Microsoft Corp. and Verisign Inc. along with the Indian Angel Network, Nasscom aims to enable easier access for budding entrepreneurs for both technology as well as funding.

“Currently, there are too many scattered initiatives and efforts towards promoting start-ups. We aim to connect most of them," said Som Mittal, president of Nasscom.

Rajan Anandan, vice-president and managing director of Google India, added that currently there were only 100 start-ups funded in India every year compared with 15,000 in the US. “Even if we are able to promote 10,000 start-ups over the next 10 years, the number will be much higher than what it is today," he said.

Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India, added that while companies are contributing in terms of “hard cash", the assistance will also be in terms of providing access to ongoing initiatives such as the Microsoft Accelerator programme.

Neither Pramanik nor Anandan gave details about monetary commitments for the programme.

Saurabh Srivastava, founder of the Indian Angel Network, said that the initiative was similar to what Nasscom did to promote the Indian software services industry when it was in its infancy.

“India, of course, dominated the BPO outsourcing market very successfully for many many years, but India is not the leader in web services even though it has the opportunity to do so," said Schmidt.

Lack of Internet connectivity, which is as low as 10% currently, is one of the factors holding the country back.

“Imagine what will happen in the next three-five years when the next 600-800 million Indians join the conversation, start programming, start doing health and medicine e-commerce in their own languages," he said. “So to me, it’s an opportunity for Indians and for the world."

Schmidt met President Pranab Mukherjee, Union minister of communications and information technology Kapil Sibal and Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

On Thursday, Eric Schmidt will interact with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and speak on Technology in Politics at the Google Big Tent Activate Summit 2013. Sibal will give the keynote address.

Others who will participate in the summit include Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of British newspaper The Guardian, and Stephanie Cutter, who served as the deputy director of US President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

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