Moneycontrol
Sep 15, 2017 05:33 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Modi Government has great slogans; no success story in Startup India: Priyank Kharge

Social media is a very dangerous tool when it comes to propagating the wrong things. But yes it is important as well. So we are also quite keen on that and both parties the Congress or BJP are trying to leverage that, says Kharge.

While the current BJP government claims to be focusing on the digitisation with initiatives such as demonetisation and Digital India programme, the opposition led by Congress Party feels that most of the initiatives are just ‘optics’ which in reality have hurt the country’s small businesses.

In an exclusive interaction Priyank Kharge, the information technology minister of Karnataka, talks about the negative impact demonetisation and GST has had on the Indian small businesses. He also shares how Karnataka’s Startup program is much more ahead in its strategy compared to the Centre’s own program.

He speaks about the online army of BJP and shares how the Congress Party is working on using artificial intelligence and big data to get a better picture of the perception about a candidate before giving him a ticket for the 2019 General Elections.

Edited excerpts:

On BJP’s social media strategy

“It is a strategy of theirs which worked for the 2014 elections but you cannot fool people all the time. All their ‘sanskriti’ (culture) goes for a toss when they are attacking women journalists online.

Their social media talk is backed up by their offline rules that is again backed up by a certain section of media. So it is a nice vicious circle that they are running,” he tells Moneycontrol.

Social media is a very dangerous tool when it comes to propagating the wrong things. But yes it is important as well. So we are also quite keen on that and both parties the Congress or BJP are trying to leverage that.

Whether it is us or anyone else, the narrative matters. The narrative that the Congress government tried to give is a very balanced and a positive one.

The BJP uses social media extensively. It is curated and it is also very dangerously used. For example, in the Kaveri riots, they started sending messages that some Kannadiga got hit by some Chennai guy.

After journalist Gauri Lankesh's murder, they took only a piece of her Facebook post on free sex and posted that. And then asked, "do we have to mourn her death?”

On Startup India Programme

Apparently, they have come up with a new definition. My information is that out of Rs 10,000 crore only Rs 15 crore is being taken out only for operational expenses, salaries etc.

I haven't heard a success story from them (Startup India). We are a little ahead of the curve I would say.

Politically speaking, I think the Government of India has great slogans and great acronyms.

But I don't see it reaching anywhere. If you see the champions of change programme which they had recently, it was more of great optics, great campaign, great traction, great social media traction but at the end of the day, you are only talking to established champions. It was a great photo op with the PM.

They gave Ideas for India, but I as a citizen still don't know when and how it will be implemented. But what we did with Elevate, or what we are doing with our ecosystem, is we're teaching them how to fish, not giving them a fish.

We're trying to ensure they succeed.

On collaboration of the Startup India program with Elevate

Elevate was an experimental thing but we have something (since past few years) called the Startup Cell where we have relationship managers. Close to around 4,000 startups are registered with us.

Elevate 100 was a programme which we tried and did on an experimental basis to identify 100 most innovative companies, in Karnataka, and for the first time we went outside Bengaluru - we went to tier 2 towns, we went to villages, we got their innovation showcased.

Out of 1,700 registered companies, we had around from 350 a rural background. We had over 300 women entrepreneurs in the program.

I think Startup India programme can learn a lot from us.

On demonetisation impact on Indian economy

The govt's own policies like the GST or demonetisation adversely impacted the SMEs and startups...

Demonetisation had a larger impact,  a more negative impact than what was thought - whether it was for SMEs, startups and other industries as well. So there was a dip in investments, in employment.

And by their own admission, they saw more than 94 percent or 98 percent of the money come back.

The black money myth was blown, the counterfeiting myth was blown, the terrorism myth was blown, so they've been shifting goalposts.

Now we kind of see that whole focus on digital transactions also coming down.

At that time they didn't have a choice. That time you didn't have money. so you saw Paytm everywhere, all the digital transactions were on a high, but now it has come back to what it was before demonetisation. We are talking (about this scenario in) less than a year.

The rhetoric around it has also come down. You would see full page ads of these digital payment gateways, now I don’t even see a quarter page.

In Bangalore, the people who use Swiggy, Zomato, Uber or Ola, so basically it (digital payments) was used for the ease of things (payments).

And because we have a very high population of the services industry, so maybe the transactions were higher in that time, but yes, in digital, we are way forward.

Karnataka is also ahead of the curve, whether it is farmer incentives, subsidies, we directly link it to their bank accounts.

Day before yesterday (Tuesday) we paid 10 lakh farmers within two minutes we gave their entire crop loss insurance right to their bank account.

So digitally we are ahead of ‘Digital India’.

On shifting goal posts regarding demonetisation

They have been shifting goalposts. First, they said black money, then they said counterfeiting, then terrorism. Later, they started talking about digital wallets.

The first narrative they gave was not of digitisation.

It was an afterthought and everything they have said after that has only been a knee-jerk reaction.

PM contradicts FM, Mr Jaitley contradicts RBI Governor, after that the central bank goes back and has to defend some kind of numbers which he (RBI Governor) himself is not aware of. When was the last time you had a RBI Governor run from the back door?

On Optics of Digital India & Aadhaar

The Digital India campaign is nothing but the NOFN (National Optical Fiber Network) campaign that we ran under UPA regime to ensure the last mile connectivity for all. They've just made a brand out of it.

This has also divided the IT community as such, like Aadhaar. Some people are pro, some are opposing it, so what is your view?

Aadhaar was something that we conceptualized for people who wanted to take incentives and subsidies and trying to eliminate the middlemen. For that time we had great security which was headed by Nandan Nilekani who had great experience.

But off late what we are seeing is that they have drawn up a larger net and it becoming an issue of privacy is something that we are always against. Aadhaar was by choice before.

So you tell me, even before your mother knows, they know what you're doing.

Let’s say you want to buy a government subsidy, you think it is compulsory (to give Aadhaar) and you give. You want to buy Airtel SIM card, why does the govt want to know which plan you want to take? That will be linked to your retail. It should be by choice, if I want to give my number it should be my choice, but forcing you to give it looks malafide.

On controlling evasion of taxes through Unique ID

There are multiple modes- your GST, PT, everything is linked to that.

If you know how to evade taxes you will evade them, but linking everything to Aadhaar is a privacy issue. I am not saying you should not be linked to your income tax or properties. there are multiple ways to figure that out. But making everything- what you eat, what you talk, what you think- it is nothing but(the book) 1984 that George Orwell had written.

 On need for Cyber Security

So there is a policy in place, but no policy is as fast evolving as a technology. Technology keeps changing everyday. Cybersecurity is a big cause of concern for everyone.

Now all offences have moved online. Before you had eve teasers now you have cyber stalkers, they go on social media like Facebook and stalk you.

Earlier, as soon as there was a bomb blast, somebody would call and take responsibility not they send you an email. There is a lot of money transfer that happens after that. So hacking, phishing all these things are happening now and we are not equipped for that. and that is why the government of Karnataka is building a centre of excellence for this with a two pronged strategy of building internal skill set capacity for e-governance and the department of home number one, number two build skills at large.

So even today when a corporate is hacked they go to a lawyer and not a digital forensic expert, so we are building on that. And that will be done in the next couple of months.

On impact of GST

So any project Modi is inaugurating now is a foundation laid by Dr Manmohan Singh. They blocked the GST for 11 years.

They got country completely into an economic standstill. But the way they did it, was as if we got economic independence at 12 o clock mid night.

We had capped GST at 12-14 percent, this is 28 percent. Tourism is being affected. So even if I have a room of Rs 3000-5000, I have to pay luxury GST that is 18-22 percent.

We are competing against South Asian countries where 7 percent is the highest.

On Centre ‘fudging GDP figures’

The narrative is given from one office and they are trying to fudge the figure, they are trying to conceal the data, all these have never been heard of. They are trying to do a complete mask over this ‘Acche Din’.

What is the Gujarat model of development, they have forgotten, what is ‘Acche Din’ they have forgotten, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ they have forgotten, Skill India they have forgotten. Thing is that these are nice slogans, great looking brands.

Yes of course. It is like Rs 7,000 doesn't really categorise yourself as a luxury category. Hopefully, we will get some data by December on the actual impact.

On organising a Bangalore IT Global Summit this year

Since the past 19 years, we always had this annual event called BangaloreIT.com, then .in was brought in then it became BangaloreIT.biz, so it was constantly evolving because the technologies kept changing so when we first had the IT event, there was only IT services, then slowly biotech came, and we had a separate Bengaluru Biotech event. Then slowly then Electronics gathering a lot of steam so we had to put ITe, and from "Dot com" it became "Dot in", and from there it became "Dot biz" and the whole new perspective on these technologies kept changing.

Now in its 20th edition, we'll just call it the Bengaluru Technology Summit.

Brand Bengaluru or the identity of Bengaluru has grown multifold in the last couple of decades. The agenda of the event is to determine how do we position as a region which is giving an environment or an ecosystem for emerging technologies.

Our sessions will have subjects like  AI, blockchain, aerospace, space, so all these things will be discussed and debated.

The Government of Karnataka is clear that we want to have, to provide an environment for ideation because if there is ideation, there is innovation and if there is invention, it will lead to investments.
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