August 24, 2015 Print

The best entrepreneurial ideas are all pointless if an impenetrable bureaucracy stands in the way of bringing those ideas to market. Minimizing the regulatory cost of doing business is one of the most crucial steps on the road to a thriving economy, enabling people to meet each other’s needs and create new value through market transactions. That’s why India-based Atlas Network partner the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is tackling the issue as one of the 16 recipients of Atlas Network’s 2015 Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise Policy Reform grant opportunity.

“The central government has devised a 98-point agenda for reforms at the state level to ensure ease of doing business,” CCS said. “The central government has already taken a number of measures to reform at its level, and now the ball is in the states’ court to take action.”

India has an active federalism, which means that the central government cannot force states to initiate reforms. CCS plans to play a role in state level-advocacy, with an objective of ensuring the ease of doing business in two key states: Delhi and Maharashtra, home to the capital cities of New Delhi and Mumbai. These states are used as sample locations in the World Bank Group’s “Doing Business” report, and CCS has devoted considerable attention to the policies of both states, maintaining offices in each.

CCS has set specific and realistic objectives to measure its success in reducing the cost of doing business in India. First, it aims to reduce the number of procedures required to start a new business from 11 to nine in Delhi, and from 13 to 10 (in Mumbai. Accordingly, CCS hopes that cutting some procedural red tape will also reduce the number of days needed to start a new business from 27 to 22 in Delhi, and from 30 to 25 in Mumbai. The organization also aims to reduce the minimum capital requirement for new business owners is 111.20 percent to zero, and to reduce the number of days it takes to enforce a contract from 1,420 to 500.

To accomplish these goals, CCS has outlined a number of strategies, including media campaigns and first-hand discussions with policymakers that explain the drawbacks of such heavy business regulation, conducting studies on the steps that India’s government officials can take to reduce regulatory costs, building coalitions and organizing workshops to exchange knowledge and best practices about organizing new business enterprises and navigating legal procedures, and gathering field research that tells the stories of entrepreneurs who struggle to make their way through the system.

CCS has already built a considerable base of experience surrounding issues of business regulation and entrepreneurship. One long-running example is the “Jeevika: Law, Liberty, & Livelihood” campaign, a documentary film festival that advocates liberalizing the maze of regulations governing low-income professions that are often part of the unofficial informal economy, such as street vendors, bamboo harvesters, and cycle rickshaw pullers. CCS has run Jeevika for 12 years, and the campaign has broad appeal outside of its usual audience for policy reform and proposals. The organization proposes integrating its Leveraging Indices project with Jeevika by basing the Annual Asian Livelihood Documentary Festival portion of the campaign on the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, and by building a web portal that will include narratives of India’s “regulation victims” and serve as a collection of all relevant research and news on the topic.

Atlas Network established its Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise Policy Reform grant to help partner think tanks achieve a tangible, real-world impact, by measuring the outcomes and results of their work against reputable international rankings or indices. Generously supported by the John Templeton Foundation, this project provides grants to Atlas Network partners to conduct research, advocacy campaigns, and media campaigns to promote policy reforms that measurably move the needle in a specific prominent ranking or index.