(This article was originally published in ‘The Economic Times’ on March 10, 2016. It is accessible here.)
Entrepreneurship has now taken centrestage in India. But in trying to find the next big innovation, we are erring by largely aping Silicon Valley startups. A country with varied socio-economic conditions, diverse needs and culture, needs to find a different breed of innovation that caters to its unique problems.
Clean technology is one such area. The growing population puts enormous pressure on our natural resources and environment. India at the Paris Climate Summit, had committed to reducing emissions intensity by 33-35 % by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. India has also proposed to create 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. Our greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to rise 90% by 2030. We do not have a choice but to address these issues and cannot rely on existing solutions alone. We need newer business models and disruptive technological innovations that can help us achieve a fine balance between growth and sustainability.
We need to reduce and reuse water and develop cost-effective filtration techniques to address ground water contamination problem. Waste management is another serious problem plaguing our country. The pace of obsolescence of technology is resulting in huge dumps of e-waste which is a health hazard. Reuse and recycling need more attention. Private vehicle ownership is growing exponentially leading to increased air pollution levels. Again technology innovations and newer business models like carpooling, which are already seeing entrepreneurial interest, can be a great way of addressing this issue. Industrial effluents are putting immense pressure on our water resources. Process improvements in industries and developing new chemical replacements are important to secure this lifeline. Clean technology can and should therefore become one of the hotbeds of entrepreneurship. It is a myth that only governments can make an impact in this space. These are huge market opportunities waiting to be tapped and given how key the problems are to an individual’s daily life, finding paying customers and creating viable and scalable business models is not difficult.
To promote entrepreneurship in the sector, it is important to build an ecosystem to bring greater attention to this space and attract more talent. Grant assistance, acceleration and incubation support, low-cost working capital loans and regulatory support including easier compliance norms and faster issuance of permits can boost the sector. This support is required as many negative externalities are not priced into the conventional products, solutions and services that use public goods or negatively affect public resources.
India has the opportunity to lead and disrupt innovation in the clean-tech sector. Who knows, the next Google or Facebook of the sustainable development sector could emerge from India.
(Amber Maheshwari is the Vice President of CIIE’s clean technology fund Infuse Ventures. Read more about Infuse Ventures on our website (www.infuseventures.in) and follow us on Twitter @InfuseVentures.)