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Google ‘Launchpad Accelerator’ India chapter to nurture desi startups




New Delhi, July 10: In a bid to nurture Indian startups working in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Google on Tuesday announced to open the India chapter of its global “Launchpad Accelerator” mentorship programme.

The three-month “Launchpad Accelerator” India programme has been designed to grow the AI/ML ecosystem by helping desi startups build scalable solutions for the country’s unique problems.

The programme, based out of Bengaluru, will provide a cohort of 8-10 Indian startups mentorship and support from the best of Google in AI/ML, Cloud, UX, Android, web, product strategy and marketing, along with up to $100K of Google Cloud credits, the company said in a statement.

“India has the appetite to build entrepreneurs of the future and we are proud to announce a focused programme for the next wave of Indian entrepreneurs, who are using new technologies to solve the country’s needs,” said Roy Glasberg, Global Launchpad Founder.

Over the years, Google has worked with some incredible startups across India who are using advanced technologies such as AI/ML to tackle everything from agri-tech to language web, healthcare and transportation.

“With the dedicated India-only Launchpad Accelerator programme, we will be able to build a bridge between startups and the industry ecosystem and support them to drive innovation in the India market,” Glasberg added.

Applications for the first class is open till July 31 and the first class will start in September 2018.

In an effort to mentor emerging start-ups, Google India hosted a four-day boot camp for the first 10 Indian startups as part of its ‘Solve for India’ programme.

The India-focused accelerator programme is building on Google’s “Solve for India” roadshow from last year.

Ten Indian startups were shortlisted from across India which underwent four days in one-on-one consults with experts from Google and mentors from the industry to solve critical product and growth challenges.

“We shortlisted 10 startups from 160 home-grown start-ups by travelling across 15 cities in India, and are now ready to scale this pilot as a dedicated programme for India,” Karthik Padmanabhan, Developer Relations Lead, Google India, said at that time.

The participants were the founders of startups including Nebulaa, Slang Labs, PregBuddy, LegalDesk, PaySack, Vokal, FarMart, Meesho, Pratilipi and M-Indicator.

“Launchpad” regional accelerators are tailored specifically to their local markets, helping startups build great products, Google said.



Time now to breathe life into the country’s languishing business environment



business environment

In a refreshing change of pace for the government, which has been reeling under challenging economic circumstances of late, the release of the World Banks Doing Business report last week provided some respite.

India found itself among the top 10 performers of the Doing Business rankings for the second time in a row. The country has moved up 53 places in the last two years to be placed at 77 among a total of 190 economies that were taken into consideration.

In 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power, India, at rank 142, was the worst-performing BRICS economy and sixth among the eight South Asian economies on the Doing Business Index. It has now become the median economy among the BRICS nations and the highest-performing South Asian economy on the rankings. These are significant improvements in a short span of time, especially for a country of India’s size and complexity.

The Doing Business Index aims to assess countries around the globe on their business climate based on 10 broad categories that are integral to starting, sustaining and winding down a business. The World Bank relies on four sources of information to determine these assessments: The rules and regulations of the country, experts well-versed with the local business environment, national governments, and World Bank staff.

For most major economies, the World Bank relies on two major cities for its data; Mumbai and Delhi for India. Such a narrow focus of survey has often been subject to a fair share of criticism. Nevertheless, the Index is considered to be a vital barometer for the ease of conducting private business in the country by providing a sense of the extent of red tapism and administrative hurdles present in the economy.

It proves to be a handy tool for investors who require a comparable template to make cross-border investment decisions. This explains the persistent efforts of the government to improve India’s performance on the rankings, which have been successful to a large extent.

India has improved on six of the 10 parameters over the last year with the highest improvement coming in “Dealing with Construction Permits” where the country has jumped 129 places to be placed at 52. This has been the result of persistent governmental efforts to clean up its notoriously corrupt land sector by improving transparency and streamlining procedures in obtaining a permit.

As a result, the cost of completing all procedures to build a warehouse have been reduced from 23.2 percent of the warehouse value to merely 5.4 percent and the number of days to obtain the permit has fallen from 143.9 to 94.8.

Similarly, “Trading Across Borders” has become much easier with India witnessing a surge of 66 places to reach the 80th spot. Among other things, this has been the result of a slew of digital initiatives undertaken by the government that has eliminated inspection requirements for about 80 per cent of the products. All of these improvements have been along expected lines owing to recent government efforts to this end.

But the unexpected occurred in the categories of “Paying Taxes” and “Resolving Insolvency”; two areas where the government has initiated landmark reforms. With respect to the former, India has slipped two places to 121, despite the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Quite contrary to the intent of GST, the number of hours in a year taken to file taxes has inched up from 214 last year to 275.4.

A possible explanation is that the World Bank has not been able to capture the entire benefit of India’s tax-related reforms as the data taken for the indicator was only incorporated until December 2017 when GST was merely six months old and the glitches in filing had not been ironed out.

As for “Resolving Insolvency”, India’s ranking declined by five places to settle at 108. This occurred despite the adoption of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which has started to show promising results on the ground. When the results of these reforms start showing up in the Doing Business data, India is bound to experience a further boost in its overall rankings.

All said, it is necessary to not over-emphasise the importance of these rankings. The critics are right to point out that the scope of the index is fairly limited. By the World Bank’s own admission, the indicators are not designed to portray the entire macroeconomic scenario of the country or its growth prospects.

It mainly provides a snapshot of the prevalence of red tape in the economy. The government needs to be lauded for making concerted efforts cut these, but a larger part of the job still remains to be done.

The cost of doing business in India may have fallen, at least for the larger firms. But if higher investment is the end goal of these rankings, it is far from being accomplished. Over the last three years, investments in the country have stagnated. This is probably because investment is also driven by a host of other factors like capacity utilisation, bank willingness to lend and project viability; all of which are under severe strain in India right now.

India’s performance in the Doing Business rankings shows that focussed policy efforts can lead to positive results for the economy. A similar intent needs to be shown to breathe life into the country’s languishing business environment. The ranking improvements will not amount to much if status quo prevails.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expessed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, has contributed to the article)

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WhatsApp to organise start-up challenge in India




New Delhi, Oct 31: WhatsApp on Wednesday announced a tie-up with Invest India to promote Indian start-ups and said it would organise a start-up challenge in the country with the aim to invest in the top five participants of the competition.

“WhatsApp will invest quarter of a million dollars as seed funding to the top 5 winners of the WhatsApp Start-up Challenge,” an official statement said.

Also, the company would invest an additional $2,50,000 to a select few firms from the entrepreneurial community to promote their WhatsApp business number on Facebook.

Speaking on the occasion here, Union Minister of Commerce and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu said that the start-up community is the future of India and it will be the platform through which “millions of youth of this country will be gainfully employed”.

Commenting on the partnership, Deepak Bagla, CEO, Invest India – the national investment promotion and facilitation agency – said: “India adds over three new start-ups a day, ranking it amongst the top start-up nations in the world. Through this partnership with WhatsApp, we aim to support the innovative start-ups in India and to create solutions not only for India but the entire world.”

Chris Daniels, Vice President, WhatsApp said: “We are excited to work closely with Start-up India by supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups to become engines of economic growth.”


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Raj Bhavan Mumbai collaborates with Floating Canvas Company to promote upcoming artists




Mumbai, 22 October, 2018: Raj Bhavan Mumbai opened its doors to Floating Canvas Company, an online art subscription startup and one of the winners of Maharashtra Startup Week, in order to bring more art into the historic estate.

Facilitated by the Maharashtra State Innovation Society (MSInS), the authorities at Raj Bhavan allowed the startup to showcase and deploy its service and the work of its partner artists within its premises.

As winners of Maharashtra Startup Week, Floating Canvas Company has a mandate to bring more art into government offices and estates as well as public spaces and Raj Bhavan proved to be the perfect venue to kickstart this project.

Rahul Singh Yadav, Co-Founder and Chief Curator, Floating Canvas Company says, “We work with an exciting set of artists who are constantly pushing the boundaries in ways that are fresh and unique. As an enterprise, we are always on the lookout for spaces that can do justice to their work. And we couldn’t have asked for one more iconic and inspiring than Mumbai’s Raj Bhavan.”

With over thirty artworks installed across two Raj Bhavan heritage bungalows, the project features works of contemporary artists and photographers like Praveen Yarramilli, Janil Gada, Rhea Gupte, Viraj Mithani, Ramesh Nannware, Shraddha More, Sajid Wajid Shaikh, Prashant Chaugule, Suzanne Dias, Pratap Chalke, Isha Pimpalkhare, Rohan Dahotre and Aniruddh Mehta.

Maharashtra Governor CH. Vidyasagar Rao welcomed the initiative and lauded the effort to promote young entrepreneurs and artists. “Art is an essential part of our lives. And it’s heartening to see the younger generation coming up with innovative ways to support artists and their craft. I welcome the initiative,” he said.

Also lauding the effort was Aseem Gupta, Secretary, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Govt. of Maharashtra. “When we conceptualised Maharashtra Startup Week, the idea was to select and promote a group of startups that had the potential to bring about transformational change with their products and services throughout the state and also grow in the process. It gives me great joy and satisfaction to see Floating Canvas Company, one of our winners, making big strides in that direction. We wish them all the best and hope to see more such work borne out of our association,” he said.

Floating Canvas Company is India’s first art-on-subscription service. Based in Mumbai, it was founded by Aagam Mehta, Shakti Swarup Sahu and Rahul Singh Yadav with one simple aim: to redefine the way art is discovered, experienced and shared.



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