Startup Community Urges Incoming Congress Govt To Work On Bengaluru’s Infra Woes

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As Congress crossed the majority mark in Karnataka, startup founders and investors asked the incoming government to focus on Bengaluru’s infrastructure problems

Heavy rains and water logging had brought Bengaluru to a halt last year, disrupting the operations of startups and tech companies in the city

From startup funds to subsidies and soft loans, Congress made big promises in its election manifesto to promote startups in the state

As the Indian National Congress sweeped the Karnataka assembly elections, the state’s startup community urged the incoming government to address the infrastructure woes of Bengaluru, the state’s capital and India’s Silicon Valley.

Karnataka went to vote on May 10 and the counting of votes is being done today. As per data available on the Election Commission of India’s website as of 7 pm, Congress won 130 constituencies and was leading on another six out of the 224 constituencies in the state. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was a distant second, having won 60 assembly seats and leading on five.

With Karnataka home to a large number of Indian startups, thanks to the country’s startup hub Bengaluru, both Congress and BJP made big promises in their manifesto to promote the startup ecosystem in the state.

With Congress set to assume power for the next 5 years, Inc42 reached out to startup founders and investors to understand their expectations from the incoming government.

Bengaluru’s Infra Concerns

Heavy rains and water logging brought Bengaluru to a halt last year, disrupting the operations of startups and tech companies in the city. As such, it is no surprise that most of the people from the startup world want the new government to address Bengaluru’s infrastructure issues.

“I congratulate the new government. The startup ecosystem would be thrilled to collaborate on driving digital governance and other efficiencies by leveraging digital public infrastructure. As an ask, like every citizen of Bengaluru, physical infra/ traffic/ cleanliness of the public areas are our only asks,” Sanjay Swamy, managing partner of Prime Venture Partners, told Inc42.

Echoing similar sentiment, Bengaluru-based early-stage startup Slick’s founder Archit Nanda also called for strengthening the city’s infrastructure. 

“Bengaluru being India’s Silicon Valley, the government needs to focus significantly on strengthening the city’s infrastructure and (bringing it) at par with the top hubs globally. It’s crucial for the new government to recognise the significant role that startups play in driving economic growth in the state,” Nanda added.

However, T V Mohandas Pai, partner at Aarin Capital and former CFO of Infosys, is not too hopeful and said he doesn’t expect any major changes for the startup ecosystem for at least next one year. Last year, after the water logging in the city, Pai had suggested various ways in which startups can help solve the city’s infrastructure woes.

Meanwhile, Rohit Krishna, general partner of VC firm WEH Ventures, said that while Bengaluru has seen a huge inflow of talent from San Francisco, London, Mumbai across the startup and investor community in the last five years, this period has also exposed the huge gaps in basic infrastructure in the city.

“I believe just fixing this could lead to a meaningful per capita increase for the state in the next five years. The record voter turnout in the state this year is a clear indication that people are expecting better,” Krishna said. 

It must be noted that in its election manifesto, the Congress promised a fund of INR 10 Cr for each constituency in the state to promote startups. Besides, the party said it would offer subsidies of up to INR 25 Lakh to startups and a soft loan of INR 1 Cr at an interest rate of 6%.

It also pledged a support of INR 100 Cr for businesses solving societal issues in the state such as housing, flooding, waste management and zero carbon transport.

Plans For EV Industry

The nascent electric vehicle (EV) industry also found a prominent place in the party’s manifesto. The party laid down plans to promote EV adoption in the state and said it would make it mandatory to have EV charging points in all apartments if it comes to power. Besides, it would also install EV charging stations at all important junctions and highways. 

The party also promised that it would offer 50% exemption in SGST and other subsidies to establish EV charging infrastructure and battery manufacturing units.

Amitabh Saran, founder and CEO of Altigreen Propulsion Lab, said he expects the new government to implement EV policy and give state subsidies for buying commercial EVs like Delhi. 

While the Karnataka government came out with an EV policy in 2017, many industry stakeholders have highlighted issues with its implementation. 

Nanda added that the EV industry expects the new government to reduce SGST on EV components, ensure all fleet owners convert 10% of their vehicles to EV, attract more EV companies to the state, and allow EV charging points at all metro stations.

(With inputs from Suprita Anupam, and Tapanjana Rudra)

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