By: N. BHADRAN NAIR, Journalist
VivaTech or Viva Technology is an annual event held in Paris, France every year since it began in 2016. It is now Europe’s biggest start-up and technology event to celebrate the power of technology to transform business and society.
The annual exhibition seeks to break traditional barriers between grassroots innovators and global leaders. It is a unique opportunity to preview the future by experiencing new products and demonstrations such as autonomous vehicles, connected factories and shopping experiences.
The 5th Edition of VivaTech, currently underway in Paris saw the participation of several world leaders, albeit virtually, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Besides national leaders, several top business leaders including Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Microsoft President Brad Smith were also in participation.
In his keynote address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s young talents have given technical solutions to some of the pressing problems of the world.
“Where convention fails, innovation can help. This has been seen during the COVID-19 global pandemic, which is the biggest disruption of our age. All nations have suffered loss and felt anxiety about the future. COVID-19 put many of our conventional methods to test. However, it was innovation that came to the rescue,” said Mr. Modi.
India, as any other country, witnessed one of the worst disruptions in its social, healthcare and economic sectors during 2020, which still continues to haunt the people and nations as a whole.
The world was caught unawares as Coronavirus emerged and spread too fast across the globe disrupting social life and economic activities. The world was at loss to mitigate the catastrophe as there was no parallel to it in over a century.
Prime Minister Modi cited how India could come up with solutions to several emergencies with the help of technologies developed by start-ups.
“…innovation for the pandemic refers to how humanity rose to the occasion and made the fight against it more effective. In this, the role of our start-up sector has been paramount,” Mr. Modi told the global gathering.
The Indian Prime Minister exhorted the global leaders for a collective spirit and a human-centric approach to overcome the challenges facing the planet. “For this, I call upon the start-up community to take the lead. These are people free from the baggage of the past. They are best placed to power global transformation.”
Start-up is relatively a new acronym. Start-ups generally are rooted in innovative methods or technologies to address deficiencies in existing methods or products or creating entirely new products or methods to solve problems facing society. It tries to disrupt conventional business, which usually duplicates an existing model.
Most promoters of start-ups are young technologists or innovators, raring to challenge precedents and conventions. They “disrupt” entrenched ways of thinking and doing business for entire businesses. By its very nature, such enterprises tend to be beginning on shoestring operation, with no funds from institutional lending bodies.
Many global business icons like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google have started their operations as start-ups.
Realising the potential of start-ups to address many unresolved issues in the country, Prime Minister Modi had launched a campaign with his announcement in his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2015. The policy entails three focus areas – simplification of procedures and handholding, funding support and incentives and industry-academia partnership and incubation.
With a favourable atmosphere emerging after Prime Minister Modi’s initiative, India witnessed a start-up boom and it is now home to one of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems. Several Indian start-ups have reached Unicorn status – a unicorn company or unicorn start-up is a private company with a valuation of over US$ 1 billion.
Home-grown start-ups have ventured into several areas unique to India, untapped by foreign companies – from healthcare to construction, education and entertainment. They have the home turf advantage to beat the competition and a ready-to tap huge demography.
Prime Minister Modi invited global investors to consider talent, market, capital, eco-system and culture of openness in the country as a favourable ecosystem to invest in India.
“There is a diverse and extensive market that awaits you,” Mr. Modi told the global community.