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Increasing Ease Of Doing Business (Part 2): The Problems To Be Tackled

India in all its glorious potential to be a leading economic powerhouse surpassing China and the rest is still very complicated to do business in and with. Corporate leaders and senior government officials get together to discuss how policies should be shaped going forward to further increase Ease of Doing Business (EoDB).

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Ms. Ankhi Das, public policy director for Facebook in India, South and Central Asia, spoke on how Indian telecom policies affected the corporation’s push to promote Facebook’s Free Basics in the country.

“We are in a very fast paced agile economy. A startup will want to get products out fast. But the regulatory environment is creating choke points is crushing and chilling, when it should be providing incentives to nurture fast innovation.

There was not enough clarity given on Free Basics by the regulatory authorities although it is accessible to all broadband operators. Various other sources of free data are allowed, so we need more clarity on what’s allowed and what’s not. Although it was not allowed in India, Free Basics is running successfully in forty two countries at present.”

Mr. P Balaji, director for regulatory, external affairs and CSR at Vodafone India Ltd, said, “It would help to make the legal side of business deals work faster. For example, M&A require so many onerous clearances that by the time all of it is satisfied the acquisition target is missed by about six quarters. It would help to make this process faster for at least companies with a fair track record.”

Ms. Swati Rangachari, chief of corporate affairs at Sterlite Technologies Ltd, said, “Tax refunding at central, state and municipality level is long and complicated. It creates serious cash flow problems, and makes forecasting tough.

With IoT, smart cities and big data coming up, focus on broadband and infrastructure is critical. Revising National Telecom Policy (NTP) and broadband policy must be a priority. Make access to internet a right for every citizen. Currently Right of Way (RoW) is expensive and uncoordinated; operations like laying optic fiber is made complicated due to the number of approvals and high taxation rates. At present it’s a horrible experience. I believe self-certification and reducing bureaucracy while implementing steps to ensure compliance would be a good recommendation.”

Mr. Pankaj Mohindroo, founder and national president of the Indian Cellular Association (ICA), spoke about the reality of policy implementation. About some of the investments that were facilitated for investors by government-related agencies and spoken about in positive terms by the same agency reps, he said, “The outcomes are different in the Haryana venture. They are mostly unhappy. There is a very earnest bottleneck. And uncertainty. Haryana may have overtaken Punjab in state-wise rankings, but that’s very easy competition right there. A few years back we had jumbo jets at Chennai, waiting to ship millions of Nokia inventory. So where did it go wrong?”

Reality once again reared its head when a young entrepreneur spoke about trademark-related concerns unresolved since June, 2016, after submitting all documents online, when it shouldn’t have taken that long if policy and infrastructure is working as expected.

However, the bottom line with policy reform in Mr. Mohindroo’s words is this: “China’s EoDB is not sterling either but what do investors want? Not retrospective but stable policy and that is where India is misfiring. Instead of small tweaks here and there, let’s settle these big issues first.”

A silver lining appears though – sources say that the trademark/IPR issues of the entrepreneur mentioned above were resolved after being directed to the relevant authorities.

These views were shared at the India Telecom conference.

This year’s India Telecom conference ran under the theme, “Transforming India” and took a serious look at what needed to be done by policy makers and all stakeholders to tip India over its prevailing barriers to become an economy and a nation of people ready to tap the best of the digital era. The conference was jointly organized by the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India, and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Experts across the IT ecosystem, both local and international – government officials, regulatory authorities, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and academicians presented their side of the story to reformers and policy makers at India’s leading international ICT dialogue taking place under the theme, “Transforming India.”

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