TheNFAPost Podcast

Karnataka  Minister of Higher Education, Information Technology & Biotechnology and Science & Technology Dr C N Ashwath Narayan is working on a mission mode to make Bengaluru Tech Summit 2021 a grand success. Besides the flagship IT event of India and Karnataka, BTS2021 with its “Driving the Next” mantra has become a unique assembling point of industry stalwarts, technocrats, innovators, researchers, etc. from all over the world. In an interaction with N V Vijayakumar from NFAPost, Dr C N Ashwath Narayan shares his thoughts on BTS and giant strides Karnataka is making in the space of innovation-led economic development.

How do you summarise the uniqueness of BTS2021?

Bengaluru Tech Summit is conducted every year to promote the latest innovation and technology advancements made in Karnataka and provide a platform for collaboration for various global innovators, industry partners, startups and academicians.

This year, the 24th edition of Bengaluru Tech Summit will take place from 17-19th November, with the theme “Driving the Next”. During the Covid pandemic time, Bengaluru kept the world moving and emerged as the next headquarters to the Global MNCs driving their businesses across continents. That’s why the central theme of BTS 2021 is chosen as “Driving the Next”. The event will be hybrid, and will see the participation of industry stalwarts, technocrats, innovators, researchers, etc. from all over the world.

I am delighted to inform you that, BTS 2021 will be inaugurated by Shri M Venkaiah Naidu, Hon’ble Vice President of India and will be graced virtually by His Excellency Mr. Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and His Excellency Mr. Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel.

We are expecting participation of 30 countries, 75+ conference sessions, 350 speakers, 5000+ startup attendees, 300+ exhibitors, 20,000+ business attendees in BTS 2021 and reach out to half a million tech enthusiasts.

Bengaluru Tech Summit is a unique platform in several ways. We continuously ensure that we bring in great representation and participation from industry, academia startups and policymakers. Aside from the sessions, panel discussions and keynote speeches, we also have several initiatives during this 3-day event to further accelerate and promote the exchange of ideas, encourage collaboration and bring various stakeholders together.

These initiatives include:
* India-US Tech Conclave in association with US India Business Council (USIBC) will be hosted for the first time under BTS 2021. This programme will consist of two sessions focused on IT, Technology & Startups and Biotechnology addressed by stellar speakers from East Coast, West Coast and Mid America as well as India opening the new avenues of international cooperation in the areas of innovation and technology. 

* India Innovation Alliance will bring together heads of 8 innovation centres from Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhubaneshwar, and Panaji to exchange learnings and explore areas of cooperation and collaboration to accelerate innovations for the public good.

* CEO Conclave under Bengaluru Next on 17th November will witness top 100 CEOs from IT, ESDM and AVGC sector deliberating on strategies to be the significant contributors in the vision of 5 trillion Dollar economy of India by 2025. Hon’ble Shri Rajeev Chandrashekhar Minister of State for Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Electronics &IT, Govt of India will be the Chief Guest.

* Bengaluru Impact Awards, one of the initiatives under Bengaluru Tech Summit, will be recognizing and rewarding these technology-based start-ups, that have built innovative products and solutions in IT services, deep tech and health tech among others, with high potential of employment generation and wealth creation.

Karnataka being the tech hub of the world. Can you review the steps taken by the government in the last two years?

The role of our government has been to that of a facilitator – to bring together all the right stakeholders to develop the State’s ecosystem via domestic innovation, along the lines of Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision for Atmanirbar Bharat. 

* We have adopted a multi-faceted approach to ensure Karnataka remains the national leader in innovation and enhances its place in the global economy. This includes – focus on skilling, incubating startups, developing global alliances, focus on Beyond Bengaluru, sector specific engagement and providing a legal framework for supporting innovation

* Government of Karnataka is committed to create an enabling environment for growth of IT/ITeS industry in the State and retain its position as destination of choice. Information Technology Policy 2020-2025. The policy gives thrust to creation of investment & employment opportunities and foster a holistic digital economic growth across the State.

Karnataka envisions to retains its leadership position in innovation & technology and paces towards sustainable and holistic economic development, with specific focus on Beyond Bengaluru. With this Policy, we hope to create 60 lakh direct and indirect jobs while ensuring Karnataka remains the leader in technology and innovation.

* With the vision to promote Karnataka as the ‘Engineering R&D Destination of Choice’ and transforming the State into a vibrant ‘Knowledge Economy’, Government of Karnataka launched the Engineering R&D (E R&D) Policy in March 2021. The policy envisions Karnataka’s contribution ~45% to India’s Engineering R&D during the policy period by creating a conducive environment for the industry. Development of a research-oriented skilled talent pool, greater encouragement to women, augmentation of capacity by bridging the gap between engineering/ research talent and industry’s technology needs, are some of the key potential benefits of the policy.

* Going forward, Government initiatives will become more focussed on digital and enabling technology tools for operations. The focus going forward will not just be on one particular sector or industry but on the totality as a whole. As we all move ahead in the new age of technology and innovation, it will be important to make the e-governance initiatives more efficient, powerful, and relevant with the emerging technologies where major businesses are focusing as well.

Are you happy with the Karnataka tech ecosystem is ready to capitalise on new opportunities thrown open by 5G, Blockchain and Machine Learning?

Industries, both big and small are transforming thanks to breakthroughs in innovation and technology. Innovation is becoming a central focus of large organizations and especially for start-ups, by their very nature are disrupting existing industries through innovation.

Today, the entire world is facing a unique situation – COVID-19 pandemic not only resulted in a health crisis but has also led to a drastic change in the mode and manner of operating businesses. Digital transformation is now happening at an accelerated pace, making initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and ‘Startup India’ more important than ever before.

Technology and innovation, especially the elements of Society 5.0, have the potential to play a huge role in the nation’s economic recovery, with the major driver being the private sector and government playing the role of an enabler in creating the right policy ecosystem.

The cumulative effect of adopting new digital technology concepts like Society 5.0 helps industries, corporates, and government to meet the nation’s initiatives of digital growth while minimizing carbon footprint, creating a sustainable society and optimization of resources to enhance the quality of life of citizens.
The government of Karnataka has always been amongst one of the first states in the nation to understand the potential impact of technology and take pro-active steps to promote its growth. The role of the Government of Karnataka has been to facilitate the growth of the ecosystem and we have thus adopted a multi-pronged approach to provide the right platform for growth. 
* We created the Karnataka Innovation Authority, headed by Hon’ble Chief Minister, to oversee regulation related to innovation/emerging technologies and to sanction regulatory sandboxes for testing these innovative technologies.

* State of Karnataka has always taken the first step in implementing pioneering policies and initiatives for the technology sector. We have been the first state in the country to launch sector specific policies in IT, biotechnology, startups, AVGC, ER&D and ESDM.

* GoK has been thinking out of the box to not only boost innovation, but also channelize innovation for social impact. Grand Challenges Karnataka is a unique program launched by the Department that aims to facilitate innovative technology solutions with a social impact in sectors such as Urban Development, Health Care, Food Security, Clean Environment and Education and others.

* There are various other initiatives such as Technology Business Incubators, New Age Incubation Networks and Common Instrumentation Facilities that have been created and supported by the Government in partnership with industry and academia to ensure talent, innovation and skills are provided the right path to grow not just in the local ecosystem but to gain global recognition as well.

Bengaluru is the startup capital of India and the third-largest hub of startups. What are the measures taken by government to further flourish this ecosystem?

Bengaluru’s vibrant startup culture has continued to maintain its strong growth momentum, with the city being home to one of the largest startup ecosystems in the world. Our State houses 13,000+ technology startups, several of these startups focused in deep tech and AI.

Our Government has also taken several initiatives to accelerate the startup ecosystem of Karnataka, and we have launched various pioneering startup initiatives for development of the ecosystem.
* Knowing the pivotal role startups play in the roll-out of the new technologies, supporting and hand-holding startups has been a cornerstone of the State policy. Karnataka was the first state in the country to launch Karnataka Startup Policy in 2015, and we will also be launching the State’s new Startup Policy in the coming months.

* ELEVATE 100 is an initiative undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to identify the innovative startups and support innovators who may require early-stage funding – given in the form of grant-in-aid of up to INR 50 lakhs. We provide a comprehensive entrepreneurship platform that includes idea validation, funding, mentoring, pilots with government departments, and incubation space.

* Grand Challenges Karnataka is a unique program launched by the Department that aims to facilitate innovative technology solutions with a social impact in sectors such as Urban Development, Health Care, Food Security, Clean Environment and Education and others.

* To support women entrepreneurs in the State of Karnataka, a programme called Elevate WomEN (Women Entrepreneurship) has been implemented with an outlay of INR Five (5) Crores.

* More recently, the Government of Karnataka has amended the Karnataka Public Procurement Transparency (KTPP) Rules, the state rules governing public procurement, to make it easier for startups to participate in state government purchase tenders.  Karnataka designed a unique and visionary model for public procurement for startups, which is a first of its kind to support startups and extend preferential access to state government projects/ tenders.

* Our Government launched Amrit Start-up initiative comprising of 75 Start-ups handpicked from Karnataka. This is an initiative to support the start-ups with seed funding under the Idea2Poc Scheme of Start-up Policy, to Startups from Backward classes, SC/ST and Minorities.  This will be a special drive under Elevate Unnati Programme to encourage entrepreneurs from all sectors.

* With formation of the Vision Group for startups, we have aimed to bring together the brightest minds in the ecosystem to help set up a robust framework for policy generation and to promote disruptive technologies.

Can you elaborate what all new initiatives to invite Fortune 500 companies to set up their innovation hubs in Bengaluru?

Bengaluru is also home to 400+ Fortune 500 companies. Most companies have a high-quality workforce working here in Bengaluru – focusing on product development, IP creation, and research and development. The presence of such centres makes an invaluable contribution to the city, both in terms of creating technology capability, as well as having a growing pool of experienced tech resources.

Karnataka continues to be a preferred destination for investments. The government of Karnataka has been an enabler of this growth, and we have implemented several initiatives to promote growth and development.
* When it comes to ease of doing business, Government of Karnataka is undertaking comprehensive reforms and simplifying regulatory procedures to ensure seamless and time-bound processes for project approvals, grant of statutory permissions, and license

* Government of Karnataka has sector-specific policies focused on incentivizing industries to promote and enhance growth – IT policy, Bt policy, ESDM policy, AVGC Policy and more recently, the ER&D Policy.

* Government of Karnataka is the first state in the country to announce India’s ER&D policy. The policy has several unique features and will lead to Karnataka emerging as the global Design and Engineering hub. The state government is also in conversation with the Union IT Department in building an equivalent of PLI scheme for the growth of GCC with emphasis on beyond Bengaluru.

* We are also taking several measures to strengthen telecom, electricity, and trunk infrastructure for growth to support the growth of the innovation ecosystems in cities beyond Bengaluru which include – Mysuru, Mangaluru, Tumakuru, Shivamogga, Hubbali-Dharward, Kalaburagi clusters. 

* We actively engaging with Industry and Academia to build and promote the ecosystem. Vision Group for IT, Vision Group for BT and Vision Group for Startups, headed by industry stalwarts, have been constituted to assist the Government in formulating policies and advise on latest industry trends. 

* We have formed a Telecom Coordination Committee to address issues and concerns of Telecom Service Providers, Internet Service Providers and Infrastructure Providers. 

* We have constituted Karnataka Digital Economy Mission to promote digital industry growth and attract investments. The mission will provide hand holding services to companies and suggest policy initiatives for Government of Karnataka.

* Department of Electronics, IT, Bt and S&T, Government of Karnataka established an MNC Engagement Cell to deepen engagement with tech focused MNCs present in Karnataka. Over the last year, the Cell has directly connected with 50+ MNCs through CXO workshops and various one on one stakeholder consultation sessions. As Government of Karnataka, we are always open to hear suggestions from our industry partners to enhance the ecosystem of our state.

Do you have any roadmap for setting up Fab manufacturing facility in Karnataka so that hardware manufacturing will get a push?

Karnataka is the 4th largest electronics manufacturer in the country, accounting for 10% of India’s total electronic industrial output. The State is home to more than 300 manufacturing units. It is the largest chip design hub in India, consisting of 85 fabless chip design houses and is the leading producer of aerospace and defence equipment in India.
Karnataka has demonstrated increase in Gross Value Add / total output share in the last few years, with a focus on high value-added industries, especially in the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector.
Government of Karnataka’s Scheme of Special Incentives for ESDM Sector that offers a slew of incentives to promote and incentivise companies in the ESDM sector. It gives me great pleasure to inform you that Karnataka is the first and the only state in India to have introduced Production Linked Incentive of 1% of annual turnover for a period of 5 years.

We have plans of further accelerating ESDM in the state, by setting up infrastructure and implementing necessary initiatives to achieve our goals, these initiatives will be announced shortly.

Keonics, KITVEN Fund, K-BITS, StartupKarnataka are some of the entities driving your thoughts in IT/ ITeS/BT/Science/Technology space. Can you share some highlight contributions of these entities?

As Government of Karnataka, we continue to undertake initiatives and implement necessary steps to support and promote innovation, growth and development of technology clusters across the state of Karnataka. Our government is undertaking several initiatives in line with achieving the vision set by Hon’ble Prime Minister to make India reach the 5 trillion-dollar economy.

Our Government has taken several initiatives to accelerate the startup ecosystem of Karnataka, and we have launched various pioneering startup initiatives for development of the ecosystem. Some of these include Startup Karnataka, Elevate 100, Grand Challenges Karnataka, Amrit Start-up initiative, among others.

As the Government of Karnataka, we are regularly connected and in touch with our ecosystem partners – startups, academia and industries. We seek expert advice from our ecosystem partners while undertaking and implementing important decisions in the state including policy and regulatory formulation, and other initiatives and programmes.

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