Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an important message for India’s burgeoning startup community. “I have a special message for [Indian] startup founders. Do not limit yourself to only valuations and exit strategies. Think how you can create institutions that will outlive this century,” he said while addressing the Nasscom Technology and Leadership Forum virtual event on Wednesday, January 17.

“Think how you can create world class products that will set the global benchmark in excellence. There can be no compromise on these twin goals…for without them we will always be a follower and not a global leader,” the Prime Minister noted, adding that India will celebrate its 75 years of independence next year and it is the right time to set new goals and aspirations and try and achieve it.

Last year, India saw a dozen startups reach unicorn status—privately-held companies valued at $1 billion—but it was a rough year for business overall. However, Budget 2021 seems to recognise this and offered a slew of incentives to mitigate the problems faced by startup founders. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements were welcomed by the startup community and they are believed to provide some relief to the sector during an ongoing pandemic.

To become a global technology leader, Modi urged the Indian tech companies to focus on innovation and enterprise and build a culture of excellence and institution building.

He pointed out that today the world is looking at India with a lot of hope and trust. “During the pandemic, the science and technology sector in our country has evolved greatly. Today we are providing made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to several countries across the world. The solutions India gave during the Coronavirus pandemic are an inspiration to the world,” Modi said at Nasscom’s first virtual leadership forum.

Despite the global economy being in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian information technology (IT) industry is projected to grow its revenue by 2.3% year-on-year to $194 billion in FY21, the IT industry trade body had said earlier this week. According to Nasscom, revenue from software services exports is pegged to grow 1.9% to $150 billion during 2020-21.

The Prime Minister also applauded the role played by the IT industry in helping companies across sectors to ramp up their digital platforms and allowing employees to work from home during the pandemic. “When the chips were down, your code kept the world running,” he pointed out at the virtual event.

Today, the Indian IT industry accounts for 8% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) while it has a 52% share in services exports. The Nasscom report released earlier this week further pointed out that the IT industry is expected to add over 1.38 lakh new jobs in FY21, taking its total employee base to 44.7 lakh.

At the online summit, Sridhar Vembu, founder and CEO, Zoho, a maker of cloud-based business software, applauded the Prime Minister’s vision for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which translates to self-reliant India in relation to economic development. Vembu pointed out that the private sector should participate more to carry forward the vision.

“We in the private sector need to build products and technologies to rely on in our homes, businesses, in the government sector, healthcare, and national defence. And all of it has to be built in India,” Vembu said, adding that the private sector should go from the trader mindset to the maker mindset.

The three-day virtual summit organised by Nasscom is likely to host 1,600 participants from over 30 countries across 50 sessions.

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