New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) Roughly 2,300 people from India have used the e-Residency programme offered by Estonia and set up over 300 companies in the European nation, a top official Wednesday said.

Started in 2014, e-Residency programme offers a government-issued digital identity that provides the applicant access to e-services in Estonia, including setting up of companies. The e-resident gets a smart card which can be used to sign documents.

“India stands at ninth position in terms of countries from which we have e-residents, we have e-residents from about 167 countries. China is number 8, a little ahead of India but the difference is small,” Riho Kruuv, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia, told reporters here.

However, India was ahead of China is terms of number of companies that have been established by the Indian e-residents (at 8th position with 307 companies), he added.

China occupied the 18th position in terms of the companies set up. Finland topped the list of countries from where people have applied for e-Residency, followed by nations like Russia, Ukraine, Germany, the US, and the UK.

Estonia, whose neighbours include Latvia, Russia, Finland and Sweden, has a population of over 1.3 million people.

“With e-Residency, you get very easy access to the European market. You can start dealing with European partners using your Estonian company, it gives you access to a 500 million-market immediately,” Kruuv said.

He added that notable Indian e-residents include Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Ambani has set up a research centre in Estonia for Reliance Jio.

In 2018, the programme saw over 1,000 individuals applying for e-Residency from India and around 205 new Estonian companies being created – majorly from startups and other tech-related sectors. The north European country, which is home to unicorns like Taxify, is also wooing Indian startups to set up base there.

“We are upbeat and quite enthusiastic about 2019 which I believe, will be yet another excellent year for e-Residency in India,” Kruuv said, adding that the programme will help strengthen bilateral trade between India and Estonia.

Asked whether the programme could potentially be misused to make Estonia a tax haven, Kruuv responded in the negative.

“E-Residency has never been seen as a vehicle for money laundering or tax evasion. It has been established to give people an opportunity to enjoy digital lifestyles, to experience utmost economic freedom in running a business… we will use all legal activities, operations to make sure that the system will not be misused,” he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.