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Digital inclusion the key word on startup awards night

Spotlight on technology that is transformational and not transactional, and the power of the youth to push the country’s startup movement.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Aug 26, 2019, 11.21 AM IST
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ET Bureau
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Guests of honour: Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal
Digital inclusion, technology that is transformational and not transactional, and the power of the youth to push India's startup movement were the big themes of discussion at the fifth edition of The Economic Times Startup Awards, the most coveted prize for India's thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem.

At a grand ceremony last Friday, attended by over 350 of the country's top entrepreneurs and policymakers, logistics and supply chain services company Delhivery bagged the prestigious Startup of the Year award.

In the presence of the guests of honour, Ravi Shankar Prasad, union minister for law and justice, communications, electronics and information technology, and Piyush Goyal, union minister for railways, and commerce and industry, the who's who of the industry gathered to laud winners across eight categories.

"When we started in this industry, FedEx was a verb, as people said that they would FedEx something to someone. Our mission is to change that word to Delhivery," said Sahil Barua, cofounder & CEO, Delhivery, as he accepted the award.

Following the broader trope of the Awards this year, the elite jury had chosen Delhivery because of the large-scale impact it can create by reaching more than 17,000 pin codes across the country. Delhivery joins a distinguished list comprising hospitality company Oyo Hotels & Homes which won the top prize in 2018, online food delivery startup Swiggy which was the Startup of the Year in 2017, enterprise software maker Freshworks, the winner in 2016, and ride-hailing app Ola, which bagged top honours in the inaugural edition in 2015.

Other top winners this year included Bejul Somaia, managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, who was the pick for the Midas Touch category for his stellar run as an early-stage investor in companies like Oyo and Udaan, a B2B online marketplace.

Technology for Transformation
Ministers Prasad and Goyal spoke extensively about digital inclusion and technology enabling the underprivileged. "Never ignore emphasis on inclusion, digital India will succeed because it was designed to bring in digital inclusion." said Prasad.

The sentiment was earlier echoed by the A-list panelists who discussed 'The Next Frontier: Building digital businesses for Bharat'. Nandan Nilekani, cofounder & non-executive chairman, Infosys, said the infrastructure laid out over the last decade is to reach a billion people.

Facilitating dialogue between policymakers and startups
Ecommerce majors Flipkart and Amazon, represented by Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Amit Agarwal, respectively, said their mission was to transform through technology and reach. "Bharat is not a do-it-yourself market like the top 10 cities are, it is a do-it-for new market. So you cannot just deliver a product, actually you have to service them," said Krishnamurthy.

As in previous editions, this year too ETSA emerged as a platform for facilitating a dialogue between policymakers and the startup community. Multiple ongoing hot-button issues in the industry were highlighted on the sidelines of the ceremony.

Goyal, who made several references to the ongoing spat between restaurateurs and online food-delivery and aggregating platforms, said despite not wanting to intervene, he would like a quick resolution to the situation. "It was good to see this side of the government ministers as well. Since all the top industry executives are here, may be it makes a case for a deeper discussion on issues plaguing the industry right now," said Sameer Nigam, cofounder & CEO, PhonePe, a digital payments platform.

Aside of the bigger unicorns, even early-stage companies found multiple opportunities to not only network but also make themselves aware of the government's stand on technology and startups in the country.

While talking about the ET Startup Awards and its role in the ecosystem, Krishnakumar Natarajan, cofounder and former chairman of Mindtree, said: "You have to keep energising people to innovate so that they think of problem solving. The Economic Times Startup Awards is looking at various stages of startups from bootstrapping right up to scaling which is very important."

The Economic Times Startup Awards 2019 is presented by IDFC First Bank in association with Indorse. Those supporting the event include knowledge partner Tracxn, hospitality partner The Leela Palace, Bengaluru, beverage partner Pernod Ricard and telecast partner ET Now.

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