India Needs an Innovation Agenda, says Google’s Eric Schmidt

For those of you who were hiding under a rock last week, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, visited India last week for the first time as part of larger Asian trip. While here, he interacted with startups in both Bangalore and Delhi, as well as policy makers and government officials including the President Pranab Mukherjee, Union minister of communications and information technology Kapil Sibal and Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India. While here, he had several excellent points to make about India’s innovation ecology.

Mint reports:

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.

Eric also pointed out some of the Indian government’s shortcomings with respect to innovation. Indiatimes reports:

When asked to explain why only 150 million out of 1.2 billion Indians had access to the internet, he said that the government had perhaps grown complacent due to the country’s success in producing large software and IT companies.

“My guess would be that having been satisfied with the great success of IT, the Indian government and the leadership has made the same mistake that companies do, they rested on their own laurels,” he said.

Experts say India has enjoyed a telecom revolution that has brought cheap mobile phones to the majority of the country, but fast internet connections remain limited to a small minority in cities.

As well as being slow in rolling out fibre optic networks, internet entrepreneurs also complain that an uncertain regulatory environment has hampered the development of Internet businesses, experts say.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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