Recently on 12th May 2020, Hon’ble Prime Minister, in his announcement for the pandemic related economic package spoke of ‘atmanirbhar bharat’. In simpler terms, it is his vision of a self-reliant India. With such a vast population, which implies that there’s no paucity of consumers in the Indian market. The policy of self-reliance is not obstinately protectionist in nature. Rather it seeks to encourage Indian industries to be instrumental in the global economy. He further spoke of uplifting and espousing indigenous products by way of ‘vocal for local’. This move will help foster aboriginal products and our local handicraft industry. To aid the vocal for local policy, the union cabinet amended the definition of MSME’s on 1st June 2020. These measures will succour ease of doing business, lure investors, and generate employment. Furthermore, post the Galwan valley skirmish in Ladakh, in which 20 Indian soldiers were martyred, anti-china sentiments hit a new high with development of movements such as boycott Chinese products Pan-India. Moreover, on 29th June 2020, 59 Chinese bans were banned in India, citing national security and data privacy concerns and hence giving a boost to Indian start-ups. Let us discuss the steps for start-ups registration in India.
In a survey by LocalCircles about 38% of Indian start-ups, as well as small and medium enterprises, are already out of funds because of the pandemic, with 4% reportedly shutting their business down. In a nationwide survey by FICCI, 70% of start-ups across the country have been impacted by Covid-19 while as many 12% had to halt operations altogether.
Amidst the pandemic and the ongoing geopolitical scenario, Indian start-ups need to attract domestic capital to finance their operations as many Chinese investors will seek to exit from portfolio companies in India. India’s new FDI regulations make it necessary for any neighbouring country sharing land borders with India to seek approval before making direct investments in India. Chinese investors, like Softbank, Tencent, have been a source of a large pool of risk capital for the Indian venture ecosystem.
However, it is not as dismal as it seems. Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Government gave its nod to Startup Policy, 2020, which aims to develop 100 incubators in the state and create an ecosystem to set-up at least 10,000 start-ups. GAIL has decided to invest in start-ups operating in the area of compressed biogas through its startup initiative ‘Pankh’. The time for Indian start-ups in now, they have immense potential to innovate, and can act as a propellant for the country’s growth. The startup ecosystem in India has mushroomed over the years and will scale faster in the coming years.
There is no better opportunity for start-ups in India. In this article, I’ll trace the evolution of start-ups in the nation, steps for registration, and benefits and exemptions available to them.
Topics Covered in this article
Evolution of start-ups in India
A nation cannot prosper without entrepreneurs. The youth population of India stands at 34%. This number can be leveraged by granting young individuals the opportunity to become job-creators rather than job-seekers. With skilled and talented minds, India has immense untapped potential waiting to be exploited and used for prosperity and well-being.
A NASSCOM India Startup Report 2015 analysed that with over $5 billion worth investment in 2015 and three to four Start-ups emerging every day, India stands at thethird position in the world in terms of the number of Start-ups. Around 11,500 start-ups will come up in the country by 2020, creating over 2.5 lakh jobs, compared to the current 75,000 jobs.
India has always been embedded with an entrepreneurial spirit.From trading everyday commodities like jute, spices, and cotton to being one of the major technological hubs seeking to reform the global economy. India is now seen as a major market by global investors and a fair share of unicorns. The Indian startup ecosystem has been booming. To study the growth, we must look back in history to ascertain the factors. The growth of the IT industry has helped to facilitate the ecosystem; indigenous companies like HCL, Wipro, TCS granted employment to young software graduates. This increased the number of students eyeing engineering as a course for their higher studies. Several foreign companies started outsourcing coding and software projects to India as it had a young and talented workforce. This aided in uplifting the Indian middle class as it opened avenues to the foreign world with substantial goodly salaries. Since venture funding was unsubstantial back then, companies focused on providing services such as R&D.
With higher income came higher spending. Indian families started consuming more, groceries, electronic, smartphones. Internet and mobile connectivity became accessible to a major chunk of the populations. E-commerce websites like Flipkart and Snapdeal came up, delivering products right at doorsteps while adopting to Indian insecurities and introducing unique concepts like Cash on Delivery (COD). This led to a chain of unprecedented start-ups in India like Paytm, a digital payment bank, Zomato, a food delivery app, Ola, a taxi service provider. All these provided comfort to the Indian populace. The younger population was influenced by their success, with dreams to open their own start-upsoffering something standout to the Indian consumer. This led to a spurt of innovation rather than simply copying other successful start-ups. This made India an extensive market for investors. With unparalleled products came the need to produce them. India soon began climbing up the IPR ladder, with considerable registrations in the field of patents, trademarks etc. India had about 50,000 start-ups in 2018, with the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world.In the month of May, 2020, 13 Indian start-ups raised funding, of which 8 received a total sum of about 42 million.
Furthermore, government initiatives like Digital India, Make in India, Startup India and Stand-up India has further facilitated the growth of start-ups in India. Schemes like Startup India get recognition from DPIIT and several exemptions if their company is eligible as per the criteria. Whereas, Stand-up India expedites loans ranging from 10 lakhs to one crore to at least one SC or ST or one woman borrower per bank branch for establishing a greenfield enterprise.
Startup India Policy
Startup India is the pet project of the Narendra Modi government. It was announced on 16th January 2016 as an initiative to establish a sturdy ecosystem to nurture innovation and empower start-ups in India. The government also drafted a 19-point action plan which envisaged several incubation centres, uncomplicated and smooth patent filing, tax exemptions, ease of establishing a business, a quicker exit mechanism, and a ₹10,000 crore corpus fund. The plan would help generate employment amongst the youth, foster economic growth and encourage entrepreneurial vigour. The policy was met with great fervour, and Karnataka was amongst the first few states which implemented a multi-sector start-up policy. It gives wings to young entrepreneurs and instils confidence to put forth their ingenious beliefs. It addresses the apprehension of risk involved and acknowledges it by guaranteeing transparency, weed out unnecessary compliances, a promise of a digital India, and favourable policies. The project has unravelled to include sectors like biotechnology, agriculture, education, healthcare, etc. It also boasts of setting up support infrastructure including incubation centres under the Atal innovation scheme, research parks, bio-clusters, startup centres, tinkering labs, etc. Since its inception, 442 start-ups have been recognised, and 266 start-ups have availed tax exemptions.
Eligibility for start-ups registration in India
As per recent amendments and changes, a business is eligible to get registered as a startup upon fulfilment of the following criteria. The process for registration can be done online on the startup India website. The entire procedure is uncomplicated and intuitive.
- The business entity must be registered either as a private limited company, a partnership firm, or a limited liability partnership. The business has to adhere to the regulatory compliances stated out in respective statues.
- The business entity must be incorporated or registered not before ten years in India.The earlier limit was for seven years.
- The annual turnover of the business entity has not exceeded ₹100 crores in previous years. The previous limit had a cap of ₹25 crores.
- The product of the business entity must be sui generis. It should not be a consequence of disbanding or restructuring an existing company.
- Upon requirement of a patent or a trademark, a business entity can access the list of facilitators issued by the government on payment of statutory fees.
- Funds shall be in the form of SEBI registered venture funds. The government won’t invest directly into start-ups.
- Documents to be filed along with the registration form are:
- A letter of recommendation from an incubator established in a post-graduate college, or
- A letter of support from an incubator funded by the government, or
- A letter of recommendation from an incubator recognised by the government or DIPP, or
- A letter of funding of not less than 20% equity by an incubation fund duly registered with SEBI, or
- A letter of funding by the central government or state government, or
- A patent filed and published in the journal by indian patent office, and
- Certificate of incorporation of your business entity, and
- Description of uniqueness of your product
- A business entity remains a startup till ten years from the date of incorporation or registration or when its turnover has exceeded ₹100 crores in previous financial years.
- Upon completion, a business entity will get a downloadable system-generated certificate of recognition. If it is found upon verification, that any document is incorrect or forged, then the business entity shall be fined with 50% of its paid-up share capital with a minimum fine of ₹25,000.
Recognition as start-ups
Only those start-ups which are eligible for registration under G.S.R. notification 127(E) can apply for recognition by the DPIIT. Along with the online application, certificate of Start-ups registration in India and an exhaustive narration on the nature and uniqueness of the business and product shall be attached. The unlikeness of your product, and its capability to help boost the economy, generate wealth, create employment, are some of the factors which are considered while perusing the application. Upon issuance of the certificate of recognition, a startup is eligible for tax exemptions, reduced IPR registration fees, fast track exit, etc. granted under the scheme.
Tax benefit under Section 80-IAC of the Income-tax act, 1961
Section 80-IAC is a new section introduced in the income tax act, 1961, in April2017. It expounds a special provision in respect of eligible start-ups. To support small start-ups, the tax holiday will only be available to start-ups whose turnover does not ₹100 crores in the previous year in regard to the assessment year for which such deduction is claimed. The provision allows 100% tax deduction of income of an eligible startup out of the 3 of the ten years from the year of its incorporation.
Explanation(i) of the section explains eligible business which is engagedin innovation, development, or improvement of products, processes or services, or scalable business models with high potential for employment generation or wealth creation. Explanation (ii) explains an eligible startup as a private limited company, a partnership firm, a limited liability partnership incorporated on or after 1st April 2016 but before 1st April 2021. Certificate of eligibility shall be approved by the inter-ministerial board and be notified in the official gazette of the central government. Hence, a startup has to fulfil the aforementioned criteria to get a tax rebate under the section.
Tax exemption under Section 56, Income tax act, 1961
Section 56(2)(vii)(b) was introduced in the income tax act, 1961 after the finance act, 2012. It seeks to tax any excess premium received by a closely held company on the issue of shares at a price more than its fair market value. Such excess is deemed to be the income of the company. This came to be known as angel tax, an anti-abuse measure, as it hindered the flow of funds into start-ups. The tax is levied at a hefty rate of 30%. Surprisingly, the tax is only applicable to angel investors from India and investments from non-resident investors and venture capitalist funds are exempted.
Recently, India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, in an effort to boost economic growth, exempted start-ups from the ambit of Section 56(2)(viib). As per the notification, only DPIIT registered start-ups will be exempted. Start-ups are exempted from angel tax if their paid-up capital and share premium does not exceed ten crores, subsequent to issuing of shares. Furthermore, an angel investor must have a minimum net worth of ₹2 crores and income in thelast three years should not be less than ₹50 lakhs. This a much-accepted move as it clears the impediment regarding investment for start-ups.
Indian states with policies for Start-ups registration in India
Several states have startup policies. These include Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Gujarat, etc. the Bihar government set up a venture capital of ₹5,000 crores in 2016to encourage and facilitate young entrepreneurs in the state. Amongst several states, Jharkhand is the newest entrant to form a startup policy. It has allocated ten crores for innovation and incubation centres in different parts of the territory, in addition to setting up an innovation lab. It also seeks to offer 100% reimbursement of VAT, stamp duty, registration fee, patent filing costs paid by start-ups. Furthermore, it has earmarked 10% of space in IT parks with a priority status for the allocation of land to start-ups. There will be three-year moratorium fee on payment of municipal duties, reimbursement of lease rentals for three years and internet service provider for five years subsequent to registration.
State startup ranking
Recently the government launched its second edition of ranking states on their startup initiatives. The main objective of the exercise is to expedite the development of startup ecosystems in different states. An evaluation committee assessed the feedback from states and suggested a total of 30 action points and seven pillars to act as guidelines in the implementation of recommendations.
Gujarat was ranked as the best state in developing startup ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs in the inaugural rankings last year.
Exemptions available to start-ups
Eligible start-ups have to be recognised by the DPIIT to possess several exemptions granted under the startup India programme. Furthermore, start-ups need to have a certificate from the IMB (Inter-Ministerial Board) to avail tax exemptions. IMB is a creation of the DPIIT to look into validity for applications regarding tax rebate. Some exemptions are.
- 3 year tax holiday under Section 80-IAC of the income tax act, 1961:Any business entity being a private limited company or a limited liability partnership incorporated on or after 1st April, 2016 but before 1st April, 2021 is eligible for a 100% tax exemption on its profits for 3 of the 10 years. This excludes the minimum alternate tax levied under Section 115JB which stands at 15% on profits.Start-ups are allowed to choose the 3 out of the 10 years.
- Rebate on long term capital gains under Section 54EE of the income tax act, 1961:Eligible start-ups are exempt for tax on their long term gains, if such gain or part thereof, is invested in a fund notified by the central government within 6 months from the date of transfer of asset. The maximum amount to be invested is ₹5o lakhs. It shall be invested for a period of 3 years and shall stand revoked if withdrawn before such period ends.
- Exemption from angel investment tax under Section 56(2)(viib) of the income tax act, 1961:A business entity registered with DPIIT and whose aggregate paid-up share capital and share premium, after the issue of shares, does not exceed ₹25 crores, is exempt from tax on investment above the fair market value.
- Amendment to Section 54GB of the income tax act, 1961: The section provides for tax exemptions on long term capital gains on the sale of property, only if profit arising out of such sale is reinvested into micro, small and medium enterprises. The amended section now includes start-ups within its ambit. So, if an individual or a HUF decides to sell their property and invests the sale money to subscribe to a minimum of 50% of share capital or voting rights in an existing startup, they will be exempted from tax. However, the exemption is only available if the shares are not resold or transferred to anyone within 5 years. Likewise, the start-ups too have to use the amount invested in purchasing assets and should not transfer the purchases asset to someone else for at least five years.
- Amendment to Section 79 of the income tax act, 1961: The section deals with set off and carry forward of losses. The amendment relaxes conditions for eligible start-ups. Start-ups can carry forward their losses of satisfaction of either continuity of 51% shareholding or voting powers or continuity of 100% of original shareholders.
Furthermore, a startup is exempted from certain labour and environmental laws if recognised under the programme. It offers easy winding up, within 90 days of applying for insolvency. Moreover, it has relaxed public procurement norms. This will open up a huge market for start-ups as state-owned entities will buy products from private business entities through public procurement.
Exemption available to start-ups under company law
Since a startup can be formed as a private limited company, it can avail all those exemptions and relaxations granted to private companies under the statue. The ministry of corporate affairs vide notifications dated 5th June 2015 and 13th June 2017 relaxed several compliance requirements to increase operational pliability. Some of them are.
- It is not mandatory for a startup to include cash flow statements in its financial statements.
- The annual return will only include the aggregate of remuneration drawn by directors. Further such annual return has to be signed by the director in the absence of a company secretary.
- An auditor need not place his report on adequacy and efficiency of a company’s internal financial controls system before an annual general meeting along with the financial statements of the company. Such exemption shall only apply to a one-person company or small company, or a company which has less than ₹50 crores turnover as per its latest audited financial statement or aggregate borrowings of less than ₹25 crores from any bank, financial institution or body corporate, at any given pint in a financial year.
- Start-ups are no longer mandated to hold quarterly board meetings every year. They are now authorised to hold two board meetings, once in 6 months in a calendar year, provided the gap between two consecutive board meetings in not less than 90 days.
- A startup is now eligible to apply for fast track insolvency proceedings under Section 55-58 of the insolvency and bankruptcy code, 2016. Such proceeding shall be completed within 90 days of its commencement.
- A startup is now eligible to accept deposits from its members, provided such amount does not exceed 100% of its aggregate of paid up capital, free reserves and securities premium account. This is a respite for start-ups who find it difficult to borrow money from banks due to lack of collateral security.
Financing options available for startup companies
Funding and fundraising are fundamental for the growth of start-ups. They bolster its operations by providing capital. Operations may include, team hiring, marketing and sales, prototype creation, licenses and certifications, etc. This can be done by way of the following.
- Equity financing: This includes.
- Venture Capital/Private equity: Upon due diligence of a startup by the investors, there will be issuance of shares in the share capital or debenture at a subscription amount determined based on the valuation of the startup.
- Angel Investors: They are usually sizeable industry professionals who fund a startup in return for an equity stake. As per SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012, only a maximum of 200 funds can invest in one scheme, an investee company shall not be older than 5 years, and the lock in period of the investment is 1 year.
- Debt financing: This includes:
- Loans from banks and NBFCs: They grants loans and unlike investors they do not seek ownership in the venture. A business entity must have collateral security and a good track record to secure a loan. Such loans help in purchasing inventory, securing funds for future expansion, etc.
- External commercial borrowings: It is when a business entity, recognised outside of India grants a loan or a debt for any commercial purpose. Such borrowings can be obtained through automatic route or approval route. They are monitored by RBI and SEBI and must conform to their norms.
- CGTMSE loans: The credit guarantee trust for micro and small enterprise scheme, launched by the government can facilitate loans of up to ₹1 crore without any surety or security to entrepreneurs.
Other unconventional but largely popular means of financing your start-ups is through crowdfunding, accelerators, incubators, etc. Crowdfunding is open to the public and a startup may present their idea to a large group of people, and any individual who believes in the concept may fund it. Incubators usually preceded the seed funding stage. They provide small investments and services, such as office space or management training. Unlike incubators, accelerators take equity in the startup along with professional services and mentoring. Corporate seed funds are when huge corporate offer investments to start-ups in the form of seed money.
Flowing from its name, a business entity needs capital to germinate and grow in the market in its nascent stage. Seed funding acts as a bedrock for the startup, providing enough capital till they can build a minimum viable product and test the same in the market in validating proof of concept before approaching private equities and venture capital funds. Those who invest usually get an equity stake in exchange for the capital they’ve invested. This capital may be obtained either from friends or family or even the founders, who use their savings or income as seed funds to operate the business entity. This is known as bootstrapping.
Seed funding is pertinent before receiving the series A funding. It helps cover infrastructure costs, lowers risk, covers other insufficient funds unaccounted for, etc. Crowdfunding, corporate seed funds, incubators, angel investors, accelerators are some of the ways a startup can acquire seed funding. The state government of Karnataka provides seed funding under its Idea2POC scheme of its startup policy. The same is limited to a grant in aid of up to ₹50 lakhs. Recently 2 days after the TikTok bank, its Indian counterpart MitronTV, received a seed funding of two crores.
Start-ups and IPO
Initial public offering is when a business entity receives funds from offering and issuing shares to the public. It helps start-ups tap into a large pool of investors.
SEBI recently approved norms for listing of tech oriented start-ups and new age companies on exchanges.It is governed by the innovators growth platform. Under the revamped platform, a business entity needs to net worth track record of 3 years or at least 75% of its shareholding should be with qualified institutional buyers. The minimum contribution has to be 20% which needs to be locked in for a period of 3 years, inclusive of the 6 month lock in period. A company needs to have net tangible assets of at least ₹3 crores, calculated on a consolidated basis, in each of preceding 3 years, of which 50% can be held in monetary assets.For migration, a startup would have to be listed on the IGP for at least 1 years and have at least 200 shareholders at time of migration. Recently an indian startup named Alphalogic Techsys became the first business entity to float India’s first startup IPO.
Launched by Hon’ble Prime Minster Narendra Modi, micro units development and refinance agency is a public financial institution. It aims to provide loans at minimal rates to micro-finance institutions and banks who then grant loans of up to ₹10lakhs to MSMEs. The advantage of the scheme is that lenders do not charge any application or processing fee and loans are granted without a collateral fee. Furthermore, the period of repayment of loan is 5 years. Likewise, the scheme was extended to start-ups under the Pradhan mantra mudra yojana. It grants three types of loans.
- Shishu:It covers loans of up to ₹50,000, with interest rate from 12% annually.
- Kishor: It covers loans above ₹50,000 and up to ₹5 lakhs. The rate of interest varies on the bank and credit score of the applicant.
- Tarun: It covers loans above ₹5 lakhs and upto ₹10 lakhs.
A business entity who has not defaulted previously on repayment of any loan is eligible to avail the scheme. This means that a startup shall have a good credit score. In order to avail the scheme a startup has to figure out under which category the business entity falls. Moreover, a startup can avail the loan from various sources via banks, NBFCs, MFIs, etc. Recently, the government announced a 2& interest subsidy for small borrowers under the mudra scheme.
The goal of a startup is to be one’s own boss and generate employment and create wealth. The ongoing pandemic and the various schemes and exemptions available can help provide a plethora of opportunities to start-ups. It might be that some start-ups even become unicorns and help other businesses to expand.
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