Startup India: Might accelerate investments, expect India to be no. 1 economy: Softbank’s Son

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A man looks at his phone as he walks past an advertising poster of the SoftBank telecommunications company in Tokyo October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Japanese telecom and media group SoftBank might accelerate investments in India, said founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son at a government-organised startup event in New Delhi, even as he mentioned the infrastructure hurdles that are holding India back. 

Son said that India’s economy might surpass the US and China to become the world’s largest in the next three decades. “Despite a shaky situation in China, it might surpass the US in GDP in next 10-15 years. And 25-30 years from now, India may surpass all countries to become number one,” said Son, the second-richest man in Japan with a net worth of $9.4 billion, at the Startup India event.

That prospect drives SoftBank’s aggressive investments in the country. It has put in $2 billion in the last one year, in companies such as e-commerce major Snapdeal, cab hailing app Ola, and Housing.com. Son has said that his company will invest $10 billion in Indian startups over a 10-year period.

“I think we would seriously accelerate our investments in India going forward. We are investing into many companies,” Son said. He added that if at all he re-evaluates his investment plans for India, it will only go upwards.

He also pointed out areas where India is lagging behind other countries. “There are two things lacking in India. One, mobile broadband connectivity is too slow, and expensive. More spectrum allocation is needed for better speeds. And two, India lacks electricity. Creating infrastructure requires a lot of capital and startups alone cannot make that investment,” he said, alluding to the government’s role in modernizing India’s largely outdated infrastructure.

He also mentioned that the government should tackle the ‘licensing raj’, which refers to a cumbersome set of rules and regulations that have restricted Indian industry and startups from growing to their potential. “Licensing acts as a bottleneck, because founders are dealing with someone who does not understand technology.”

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