Notwithstanding inter-ministerial differences, the government on Monday flagged off the second phase of its ambitious e-biz project, an integrated eBiz portal which would make doing business in India a lot easier.
The portal allows potential entrepreneurs to do most of the formalities online -- submitting forms, making payments, among others.
They can also track the status of their requests through the portal.
However, the ministries crucial for clearance of projects like the ministry of environment & forests are yet to become part of the project, raising questions on how the hassles in doing businesses would be addressed.
Launching the project, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said his ministry would soon approach the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure to bring resisting ministries such as the Ministry of Environment & Forests, on board.
The project, which was supposed to have been launched in August 2013, is facing stiff opposition from the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the Central Board of Direct Taxes, apart from MoEF.
Environment is one of the key ministries giving clearances to various projects.
“MoEF is important because we see delays that lead to weakening of our growth and also the cost of projects keeps on rising and exposure of financial institutions to various projects is also enormous.”
The eBiz project, first announced in 2009, looks to improve the country’s ease of doing business quotient. According to a recent World Bank ranking, India stood at 134th among 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business.
“It has been a matter of concern that we were ranked very low,” said Sharma.
A commerce ministry statement said the eBiz platform enables a transformational shift in the government’s service delivery approach from being department-centric to customer-centric.
The first phase of the project, which provided information on forms and procedures, was launched on January 28, 2013.
The second phase, launched on Monday, has added two services from the Department of Industrial policy and Promotion -- industrial licences and industrial entrepreneur’s memorandum – along with operationalising the payment gateway by the Central Bank of India.
The government has inked a 10-year contract with Infosys Ltd, where a total of 50 services (26 central + 24 state) are being implemented across five states -- Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu – in the pilot phase.
Five more states – Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – are expected to be added over the second and third years.
According to Raghupathi C N, head of India business at Infosys, the project is slightly delayed due to several departments’ resistance to change.
“The project is slowly nibbling away at the resistance; some stability in the political environment is also expected to improve the situation."
Raghupathi said the departments are used to running their services in the offline and manual way for several decades now. He said the implementation is “slower than expected” because it is tough to expect departments to completely change their modus operandi overnight.
“While there are some easy adopters, there are others who clearly do not see the benefit of it.”
The portal will not only create a single-window for all registrations and permits, but will also provide investors with a checklist.
So far, there was never a checklist, and people were forced to go from department to department filling forms, never knowing what was remaining, said Raghupathi.
“Only 50-60 per cent of the services were digital, everything else was manual,” he added.
The government hopes to bring online over 200 services related to investors and businesses over the next 10 years on the portal.
Image: Anand Sharma