India’s top startup entrepreneurs urge govt to devise data policy that helps local ecosystem

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“We are at the forefront and cutting edge of a policy environment in India. We need to have discussions on how we can move from data protectionism to data empowerment — that’s the right discussion to have” said Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal

India should remember to devise policies that will work for its own good, rather than “mimicking the West”, Flipkart cofounder Sachin Bansal said at the ET Startup Awards here on Friday.

Bansal was discussing data privacy, localisation and other issues currently being weighed by the Centre, which he said was “directionally positive”.

Bansal was part of a panel discussion on Building to Scale, Building to Last in a Dynamic Policy Environment, which also featured Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani, Ola cofounder Bhavish Aggarwal, OYO CEO Ritesh Agarwal and Kalaari Capital managing director Vani Kola. They were among a gathering of India’s top tech glitterati at the industry’s most coveted award show.

“I think some of these policies, personally, are still at a very early stage,” Bansal said. “It’s not just about supporting Indian entrepreneurs, (it’s) also about creating our local ecosystem around capital and entrepreneurs etc. For the first time, the government is also waking up to the fact that it is a national security issue. Data can be used to create value internally, and if not stored internally, it could lead to harm.”

His sentiment was echoed by Ola CEO Aggarwal.

“In our industry, the government has been very supportive,” Aggarwal said “We are at the forefront and cutting edge of a policy environment in India. We need to have discussions on how we can move from data protectionism to data empowerment — that’s the right discussion to have.”

Infosys chairman Nilekani added, “The western model of privacy is only about data protection. The Indian model should be empowering people through data in addition to protection. The (BN) Srikrishna committee report factors in this aspect of data empowerment in the policy.”

In the recent past, policy has emerged as a key talking point in India’s startup ecosystem, especially in the wake of both the Srikrishna committee report on data protection and the draft ecommerce policy released last month.

Ritesh Agarwal, founder of Gurugram-based hospitality company OYO, said that by preemptively addressing a standoff with the government on any area of regulation, from new policy to taxes, a startup can avoid wrangles instead of a “reactive stance”. OYO won the ET Startup of the Year award.

Elements of IndiaStack in Place, says Nilekani

Entrepreneurs don’t typically bring up policy when they talk to early-stage venture capital firms, said Kola.

“Policy comes into a factor when there is scale,” she said. “The policy will shape itself when the industry is at a certain maturity. You generally cannot create a policy for emerging sectors well before even you know what that sector is all about.”

Nilekani said most of the elements of the IndiaStack “were in place” and the only missing piece “was the infrastructure for data environment”, which he added would be supported by the ministry of electronics and information technology’s electronic consent policy and that of the Reserve Bank of India on aggregators.

The data piece of the puzzle will get scaled up in the next three-five years, especially with financial services, taking it to a trillion dollar market capitalisation, Nilekani said.

Source: ETtech.com

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