As US election results come in, Pune start-ups calibrate future business environment

At stake is the future business environment of the world or, in case of enterprises, the future environment of the world.

On Wednesday, start-up leaders in Pune kept their eyes on the results of the US Presidential elections, as the vote counting continued and no clear winner emerged for hours.

At stake was the future business environment of the world or, in case of enterprises such as the agri-tech Sense it Out, the future environment of the world. “In the coming four years, Joe Biden, the Democrat candidate who is challenging Donald Trump, has a plan to bring green economy to the US. I foresee that the world will follow that model and help fight climate change in a big way. This would mean that a lot of start-ups will come up in the near future that will adopt the green ecosystem, especially the Indian ecosystem, which is already green-leaning and will receive a boost,” says founder Jasveer Singh, who also campaigns widely for a clean environment.

Singh, who is among those who are surprised at how close the election results are, feels that the last four years have resulted in “a lot of uncertainty in businesses, decision-making and duality in decisions that businesses are already invested in”.

Amit Mishra, founder and CEO of iMocha, says that the US is a major customer for a lot of Indian SaaS (skills assessment solutions) companies like his. “Just that there is an election this year and it has meant that we have seen a slight demand drop as customers are busy exercising their right to vote. As for the results, of course there will be an impact. The policies and outlook of a second Trump term vs a Biden term could mean completely different scenarios for us,” he says, adding that he has been following the election, but not that closely.

“We don’t have any control over it. But a solid recovery in the US is important for the rest of the world to start coming back from the pandemic. At iMocha, we would love to see a quick, decisive transfer of power so that the stability that has made the US such an economic powerhouse helps the rest of the world too,” says Mishra.

Giving a wide perspective, Ninad Vengurlekar, CEO and Cofounder, Utter App, says that for four years, when Trump was in power, US venture capital has pumped in billions of dollars into Indian start-ups. “There has been a 10-12 per cent YOY growth in their investments and I see this continuing irrespective of who comes to power. I am personally not pro-Trump, but that has nothing to do with his economic management skills, but more to do with his divisive agenda within and outside the US. On the economic front, Trump has not done badly at all, barring the post-Covid challenges. Right-wing politics is on the rise the world over and we need to experience this shift among voters and address their concerns, without putting them down as racist or communal,” says Vengurlekar.

Trump’s relationship with India makes Ashutosh Gawade, founder of tech-startup Eadicct, hopeful that India will benefit under him. “Biden leans towards the left, obviously it won’t help us as much as Trump’s strategies,” says Gawade. He adds that FDI flows where political and economical stability is maintained. “For that, the biggest threat is from terrorism and intellectual terrorism, which destroys culture and promote an expansionist ideology. Trump showed a resolution to fight these and, in this action, he is with India, so his victory certainly will help us,” he says.

According to Akshay Poorey, co-founder of DINGG, a queue management startup, the US election results will have little impact as “technology-wise, we are the primary partner for the US and nobody can replace us as the technology partner”.

“Trump has made changes such as in the H1B visa cap that, if Biden comes to power, might be reversed. My personal opinion is that Trump is harsh with China… which opens a door for good investment in India as a lot of the US companies are shifting from China to India. So, that will be a larger chunk of the business — a positive sign. If Biden, a Democrat with a liberal policy towards China, comes to power, it might affect us,” says Poorey.

Not only industry members, even a number of experts stayed glued to the results. Public policy researcher Varun Sardesai was among them. “The 2020 US election is unprecedented in many ways. Despite the pandemic, the country witnessed record early voting, the in-person voting in key states favoured the incumbent, however, the real toss-up comes while counting the postal ballot, considering the Democrat blue skewedness. But anything can happen, with states flipping from red to blue and vice versa in key swing states. No matter what the outcome may be, the country would battle with issues like healthcare with preexisting conditions and racism, ” he said.

For Prashant Girbhane, director-general of MCCIA, the US is important as one of most important trade partners of India. “It is also increasingly gaining strategic depth and, hence, the US Presidential elections matter to India. I have been checking headlines every few hours. Its also great to watch one-off panel discussion of thought leaders, to hear about insightful perspectives on the candidates and their thought process, especially related to India,” he says.

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