Playing host for the 13th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention, the Karnataka government is eagerly showcasing itself as the leading facilitator for disruptive and emerging technologies in the country. Speaking at a plenary session of the three-day event, Karnataka IT, BT and Tourism Minister, Priyank Kharge said that the state was eager to grow beyond its IT and ITES tag to reposition itself as a next-generation technology hub.
In keeping with this desire to reposition itself, he said, the flagship programme of the IT/BT department, the 2016 edition of BengaluruITE.biz was given the theme of “Define the Next”, to focus on, “creative, disruptive and emerging technologies – Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Aerospace, Cybersecurity, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning among various other verticals. We have taken a call to ensure that we emerge as innovation leaders right from agriculture to aerospace,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that Karnataka contributes one-third of the IT exports of the country, employs close to 10 lakh people directly and over 30 lakh people indirectly, and attracted nearly 25% of IT investments in the last financial year from both public and private sectors across the country. Besides this, he added, Karnataka is the second-largest chip-manufacturing, chip-design hub, houses more than 60% of India’s biotech companies and generates close to 26% biotech revenues of the country. The state is also an emerging animation, visual effects and gaming hub and has 22% of the gaming companies in India housed in Bengaluru, he said.
Observing that Karnataka was the first state to draft a multi-sector policy, he added that the state was not only encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, but also acting as an angel investor through the Idea2POC initiative. The initiative had already received 200 applications for funding in various verticals including IT, electronics, agriculture and tourism, and 40 of those were slated for funding, he said.
Stating that Karnataka was focused on disruptive, creative and emerging technologies because it was determined to be the thought leader for the next generation of emerging technologies, Kharge gave the example of an initiative for incorporating technology in tourism.
With the intention to “figure out what are the new technologies available in the sector of tourism and how a traveller can actually benefit from technology,” the Tourism Department issued a call for start-ups in this sector to receive funding for their ideas. “We had the call-out for two weeks and we had to shut it down after ten days. In 10 days, we got 127 start-ups registering with us, saying we have the best idea in the tourism vertical,” he said.
Of the 127 applications received, 51 were curated, 12 were shortlisted, and finally eight companies were given the go-ahead to receive funding for their innovations. “Lot of people think that governments are not accessible. This is how accessible the government of Karnataka is and this is how disruptive we are.”
He added that the government was funding start-ups in multiple sectors in terms of brand or equity, and intends to mobilise Rs 400 crore for this purpose under the Innovate Karnataka initiative. “We’ve also launched a biotech venture fund of Rs 50 crore, and India’s first animation and gaming venture fund of Rs 20 crore. This will also include visual effects, gaming and comics. This is probably the first time in India that something like this venture fund is being floated,” he stated.
He added that while Karnataka is home to 4,900 start-ups according to the Global Start-ups Ecosystem Ranking Report of 2015, “Under our multisector policy we are aiming at stimulating growth of 20,000 tech start-ups, including 6,000 product start-ups by 2020.” The government had also set up a Centre for Excellence in Internet of Things, and was in the process of setting up a Centre for Excellence in Aerospace with funds of Rs 20 crore, and will set up other Centres for Excellence for big data sciences, cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence, he said.