India’s private space sector an unknown quantity
The Indian government should first gather data as to the share of space sector in the country”s gross domestic product (GDP), hold discussions with the industry players, look at the tax structure and resolve possible conflict of interest issue before framing its policies and laws allowing the private sector, said industry experts.
“Nobody knows what the country”s space sector”s share in India”s GDP. Nobody has any clue about the number of jobs the space sector creates in a year. One needs hard data before framing policies and laws while allowing private sector investment,” Narayan Prasad, CEO, satsearch.com told IANS.
Agreeing with him on the aspect of lack of data on the space sector”s contribution to GDP was a senior official in the government owned Indian space sector.
“There is no estimate now. But roughly, since only ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is operating, its revenue (about Rs 2,000 crore) minus ISRO”s budget may be the starting point,” he told IANS preferring anonymity.
“First mapping of the state of space sector services in India should be done and estimate the economic value of those activities,” Prasad said.
According to him, many Indian companies are using the satellite data of the European satellites and providing their value-added services to their customers here.
He said, the Indian space agencies do not release the satellite data on a daily basis.
“Now some Indian states are saying they will be using remote sensing satellite data. The real change will happen only when the government department sources the data from the private sector. Then the sector will really open up,” Prasad said.
“First mapping of the state of space sector services in India should be done and their economic value should be estimated,” Prasad said.
“Market study is essential at this juncture for the private sector to assess the business cases. The Indian space sector is expected to provide a large market where a company can earn sufficient revenues from operations within the country itself unlike many other countries. This is a big advantage for the Indian companies who plan to venture into the space domain,” Rakesh, Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Antrix Corporation Ltd, told IANS.
According to Rakesh, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Space Committee has plans to initiate this study for the benefit of its members.
Referring to the structure of the proposed Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) Prasad said it will be under the Department of Space (DOS).
The IN-SPACe is expected to provide a level playing field for private companies to use the Indian space infrastructure owned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
“With ISRO headed by Secretary, DOS there will be conflict of interest. So, these two positions are held by two different persons,” Prasad said.
However, the Co-founder and CEO of Agnikul Cosmos Srinath Ravichandran does not view the conflict of interest as the show stopper.
The city based Agnikul is in the process of building a small rocket with a carrying capacity of 100 kg to play in the 2-2.5 billion per year global small satellite launch market.
“The proposed IN-SPACe should have technical experts so that valid proposals are taken forward as well as marketing people who understand business,” Ravichandran told IANS.
Private sector officials said there should be a consultative process between the government and the industry before finalising the laws and policies. The government should invite the views of startups, small and medium enterprises.
“The IN-SPACe should have a statistical division and a group of social scientists, economists to quantify the space sector”s contribution,” Prasad said.
For the private players to enter the space sector, tax provisions also play an important role.
“The revenue-tax measures should also be looked at and there should be a level playing field. If an Indian is to launch a satellite from India then the GST (goods and services tax) is 18 per cent on the other hand it is zero per cent for a foreign entity. It will be easy to register a company somewhere else and launch from here without paying GST,” Prasad remarked.
Similarly, the government nod for private sector space projects should be fast and there should be single window clearance.
“The committee that gives the permission to the private sector for space activities, including satellite launches and others should have members from the Ministries like Home, Defence and others so that it is really a single window clearance,” Prasad said.
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