India’s Unicorn Internet startups Flipkart and Ola are grouping together with peers including travel portal MakeMyTrip to launch a Nasscom like industry body that will be representing their interests and aim to deal with deep pocketed rivals, and sustain their existence in one of the world’s most prized markets for digital commerce.
The lobby group will be called Indiatech.org — and will be led by Sachin Bansal, as its President and Chairman; appointing a former IAS officer as its CEO, said four people aware of the matter.
The former bureaucrat is expected to join in 2-3 weeks. The other founding members include online classifieds company Quikr and messaging platform Hike.
“The group wants to become the Nasscom for the startup space,” said two of the people cited above.
The formation of the lobby group signals an aggressive stance by the country’s top Internet entrepreneurs, who have been insistent in their demand for policy support.
The Board of Indiatech.org
Flipkart’s Bansal and Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal were among the first to raise their voice against what they termed as aggressive spending by overseas companies that distorts the chances of a level playing field for Indian players.
Flipkart, Ola, MakeMyTrip, Quikr and Hike are expected to be a part of the group’s executive committee, with more companies expected to join in. The group is being set up as a non-profit and would have different layers of membership.
“The main thrust of the lobby group will be to persuade the government that homegrown startups should dominate the local Internet ecosystem,” the sources said.
Some the biggest investor and VC firms worldwide have also received invitation, some of which are already backing these startups such as SoftBank Group, Tiger Global Management, Hong Kong-based hedge fund Steadview Capital and VC firms like Accel India and Matrix Partners India.
Only time will tell if these investors groups will entertain these invitations and join the board.
Indiatech.org also expects participation from other bigger players in Indian startup ecosystem such as One97 Communications’ Paytm, online marketplace ShopClues and food delivery and restaurant finder platform Zomato; who have not made any comment yet!
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Apart from lobbying against overseas competition, the group will also look into other development such as- job creation, skills training and providing resources to scale up Internet businesses.
The Current Existence of Group
Indiatech.org has been working for more than a year now, with Bansal as the leading incharge.
The group notions that if homegrown Internet firms do not succeed, India will lose $10 billion of FDI and over $1 billion of tax revenues every year. The country’s chance to create more than a million jobs will also be at stake, quoting the development of Chinese Internet economy.
For sure, there are other lobbying organisations in the country such as Nasscom, which has an Internet, Mobile and Ecommerce Council (NIMEC), as well as the IAMAI (Internet & Mobile Association of India) for the technology industry.
But both these bodies have a significant representation of multinational Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
“This makes it difficult to push the agenda for a level playing field,” said the people privy to the group’s thinking.
The creation of Indiatech.org provides a cohesive voice and structured platform to local players. This sentiment has been reflected by top bureaucrats, who feel there is no clarity yet on what specific measures local entrepreneurs want.
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