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Saturday, 10 December 2016 00:00
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Shobhana's edit

Startups score in IT Awards, some old-timers reinvent

India’s IT sector may be facing some strong global headwinds and the start-up space may be struggling to get going, but there is no doubt the country’s technology ecosystem remains as fertile as ever. If the 400-odd entries for the fourth Express IT Awards reveal something, it is that innovation is alive and kicking; more new ideas are being thrown up than ever before, and young, agile minds are coming up with solutions hitherto not imagined.

To be sure, not all of these solutions may be scalable and many probably cannot be turned into a workable business model, but a knowledgeable jury comprising the best minds in the business has cherry-picked the best of the lot. While the larger firms are expected to continuously innovate to be able to stay ahead of the pack, it is wonderful to see the good work done by boutique firms. Indeed, in several of the categories, fledglings have taken on giants to come out victorious, proving there are many bright minds in our midst. These include Practo and Lenskart, both of which have become very popular with users. The very useful work done by government departments, both at the Centre and in the states, has also been recognised.

Our Newsmaker of the Year, Kavin Mittal, is one such youngster who is passionate about building a platform—where buyers and sellers will also converge along with those wanting to share their daily lives—which started off looking like just another messaging app. In a short span of time, Mittal has been able to convince investors his model is a viable one and his business is now valued at $1 billion. The jury has also recognised the tremendous achievement of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in delivering the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform which promises to be a game-changer in the area of electronic payments.

The timing for the launch couldn’t have been sweeter, coinciding as it does with the government’s push for cashless transactions. There are other winners in the e-commerce and payments space, all of whom have put their ideas to work—Paytm, for instance, which is becoming a way of life and already boasts more than 100 million users. Indeed, if the IT giants did the heavy lifting all these years putting in place the basic infrastructure, newcomers are using this base to build newer technologies. They know the customers better and are thus able to create products which are user-friendly. While flow of funds into the e-tailing space may be slowing down given how very few businesses have actually become profitable, there is nevertheless enough support from angels for a good idea. At 74, our lifetime achievement award winner, Ashok Soota, is a great example of how to create and recreate. The sprightly Soota has helped build three businesses and has to be an inspiration for thousands of start-ups across the country. It is really never too late to start.


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