Estonia: The ‘Smart’ Country
We had an opportunity to visitTallin, the capital city of Estonia and what a rich experience it was, as we went from exploring the Enterprise Estonia showroom and the e-Residency opportunities to having interesting discussions with legal partners and witnessing the high energy, high technology ambience of Tallinn Science Park, Tehnopol.We have been connected to the Estonian innovation eco-system earlier but witnessing that in person and at close quarters was indeed a great experience
Enterprise Estonia showroom, where Media Team Member FredericoPlantera took us through the pulse of Enterprise Estonia – a short presentation (enter e-Estonia) on how with just a population of about 1.3 million the country is managing to be in the top tiers of theWorld Bank, OECD and other similar ratings. With 99% of services being online (excluding a few like divorce, marriage and buying and selling real estate), the country boasts of having recognised Internet as a social right, providing smart ID cards to all its residents (not citizens) and having 7% of its GDP coming from the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector. Innovation is digital-by-default and incorporation of a company is a matter of 18 minutes in this country; add to that the facilities of e-taxation and e-residency (see our post on e-residency here); and there is a high potential of having a magical combination.
We also got a glimpse into how X-Road, the ‘highway of e-Estonia’, works. X-Road is basically the infrastructure and backbone of e-Estonia that connects various databases, ERPs, tax boards, state portals, banks, telecom companies, population registers, et al. across the country, thereby facilitating over millions of transactions per year. We are told that the technology of X-Road is largely similar to and a predecessor of today’s block-chain technology (having been in existence since 2001). It is also being exported and there are talks of exporting this technology to other EU countries like Finland, Netherlands, with the creation of a digitised EU market being the ultimate goal.
Amongst other things, Enterprise Estonia also provides ‘Start-up grant’ of up to €15,000, subject to certain terms and conditions. It is also the focal point for receiving various other grants and funding, made available through the Ministry of Economic Affairs under the Organisation of Research and Development Act, which is an enabling legislation for baseline funding, research grants.
Legal framework and taxation: We had the opportunity of meeting some of the top law firms in Tallin with detailed discussions on legal structure and taxation. You’ll be glad that there isno corporate income tax in Estonia on retained and reinvested profits; 20% corporate income tax on distributed profits (actual and deemed); dividends paid to non-residents being not subject to any withholding tax; DTAA between India and Estonia; 20% value added tax rate; no mandatory auditing for private limited companies below certain thresholds; easy foreign direct investment in Estonia; minimum share capital requirement (for private limited) of €2500, but the company can be established so that the share capital is paid later on; etc.
Incubation space: We also had the opportunity of visiting the incubation space of Tallinn Science Park, Tehnopol, which has supported companies such as Skype, GuardTime (the block-chain service provider to the Estonian government).Tehnopol is one of the biggest tech hubs in the Baltic region and works extensively with companies in the green technology, ICT and health technology sector, often times providing supports to companies, even at prototyping phases. The average incubation period is up to 2 years and till a company raises capital/generates the first sale. It invests up to € 10 000worth of expertise to start-up companies to find the first seed investment or reach export markets, providing access to 30+ business coaches working hands-on with start-ups, 70+ trainings, investor panels, sales, pitching and networking events annually, co-working center, and last but not the least, access to € 300,000prototyping fund PROTOTRON (prototron.ee). (For more details, see here).
So there, if you as an Indian enterprise wish to expand to EU, perhaps Estonia can be your landing place.