By Sameer Pushp : One of the bedrock of democratic form of Government is the principle of ‘Good Governance’. It entails: to work with transparency, accountability and responsibility. Therefore, ‘Good Governance’ is the thrust area and online medium is a tool which can enforce the principles of ‘Good Governance’ very efficiently and effectively. Taking a lead from this, Ministry of Commerce & Industry announced one such initiative — e-Biz Project. This project aims at creating an investor-friendly business environment in India by making all regulatory information – starting from the establishment of a business, through its ongoing operations, and even its possible closure – easily available to the various stakeholders concerned.
E-Biz project aims to develop a transparent, efficient and convenient interface, through which the government and businesses can interact in a timely and cost effective manner. Over the years, the Government has been making progressive reforms to improve the business environment in the country. While there have been many positive steps since 1991, more needs to be done to make the country a globally preferred investment destination. For entrepreneurs and established companies looking at operating successful businesses in India, the government needs to provide a regulatory environment that encourages and instill faith in investors.
The e-Biz project will leverage the capabilities and potential of Information and Communication Technology to consolidate regulatory frameworks, to re-engineer regulatory processes, and to provide a platform that can be leveraged for enhanced G2B service offerings.
For investors this project will Provide a single stop shop for all business licenses and permits, Eliminate the need to physically interface with various regulatory authorities at the Central, State and local government levels, Provide all information regarding business 24X7 on a single portal and Allow businesses to file various returns, pay taxes and submit compliances through a single interface.
The project would be implemented on a pilot basis in nine Central Government Departments and five States (AP, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi) by February 2010. Twenty nine Government to Business (G2B) services relating to Central, State and Local governments will be implemented initially in the first year of the pilot phase. The project would be implemented on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, with a term of 10 years. The first 3 years of the term would be the pilot phase, while the remaining 7 years will be the expansion phase, wherein the project will be expanded to cover the whole country and to provide over 200 G2B services and other value added services by suitable private vendors.
The cost of the pilot phase during the first three will be borne by the Government. The investment required in the seven years of the expansion phase would be made by the concessionaire and recovered through transaction charges to be collected from the business entities availing the G2B services.
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has endeavoured to make the project self-sustaining beyond the pilot phase, when there will be no financial outflow from the GOI. For this, threshold levels of transactions have been prescribed in the RFP, to be achieved by the concessionaire during each year of the seven years of the expansion phase. This will ensure that the concessionaire keeps innovating while providing the services to the users of e-Biz Portal, and adhere to the highest levels of quality in terms of service delivery.
A revenue-sharing formula is prescribed for sharing the revenue between the concessionaire and the Government, once the threshold level of transactions is crossed. The revenues generated through this revenue sharing model are expected to suffice the requirement of the administrative, project management and monitoring expenses from the 4th year onwards. Thus, the viability and sustainability of e-Biz Project is dependent on the extent to which the threshold levels are achieved / exceeded.
Value propositions of e-Biz portal are creation of a “Virtual Single-Window & Integration of multiple service Providers on One Web Based Platform”. The need for emphasizing development of single-window system for business users, and combining forms, payment gateways etc. are of immediate concern towards simplification of business environment. The Government has also been actively engaged on streamlining regulatory reforms, reducing license regime, ease of doing business through e-governance etc. e-Biz is a concerted effort in that direction.
E-Biz Project seeks to provide significant value addition by offering integrated services cutting across multiple agencies within the government – centre, state, and other statutory authorities – so as to reduce the burden of regulatory and compliance requirements and saving cost and time significantly for all stakeholders. For example, by bringing together information and services provided by the various Government agencies into a common service platform, e-Biz enables its customers to find out all the required information and carry out all transactions pertaining to that service, without having to navigate to different websites. Customers need only to do a one-time submission of application for a service, and then be able to receive the results from different agencies just through that one submission. Integrated services required by businesses include: information on business opportunities, start-up services, licensing, business funding, etc. OBLS (Online Business Licensing Service) implemented by the Government of Singapore, is one of the global best practices in integrated G2B services and has been used as a benchmark for the e-Biz project.
The Government is keen to expand the project in the whole country and provide over 200 G2B services, as well as other value added services by suitable private vendors. This project has the potential to create tremendous value for investors and completely transform the existing regulatory scenario in India. Success of several online services initiatives indicate wide-acceptance and demand for online services because it enables delivering services more efficiently and in a cost effective manner. e-Biz which focuses on making information and services available under one roof- enable personalized, transparent and access to information democratic- will empower business in India in a major way.