How the Union Budget 2024 can shape India’s startup ecosystem

Continued tax breaks and fiscal incentives, as announced in previous budgets, remain crucial for boosting early-stage funding. A critical question hangs in the air – will it be a tailwind, propelling startups to greater heights or a headwind testing their resilience?

By Mahankali Srinivas Rao


India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem pulsates with the energy of a world-class player, its unwavering spirit pushing the boundaries of innovation and attracting global attention.

Over 116,000 recognized ventures are constantly strengthening India’s startup landscape. From ground-breaking solutions in robotics and clean energy to reshaping healthcare and the digital landscape, Indian entrepreneurs are shaping future industries. While the sector has witnessed phenomenal growth, fuelled by a robust talent pool and investor interest, challenges remain. Funding dipped by 73 per cent in 2023, a stark reminder of the economic headwinds and the inconsistent tax environment.

Significance of the Union Budget 2024 for Startups

The upcoming budget holds immense significance for these ventures. Continued tax breaks and fiscal incentives, as announced in previous budgets, remain crucial for boosting early-stage funding. A critical question hangs in the air – will it be a tailwind, propelling startups to greater heights or a headwind testing their resilience?

Startups require a growth-friendly ecosystem. Scaled-back regulations, simpler compliance, and calibrated capital gains can unlock funding and propel early ventures. Seed funding for AI, healthcare, and cleantech can further spark innovation. Beyond finance, clarity in regulations and leveraging avenues for open dialogue with policymakers are vital. Investing in talent with digital dexterity will fuel sustained success.

Addressing key issues in taxation requires action on several fronts. One concern is the difference in tax rates for long-term capital gains, where publicly listed shares are taxed at 10 per cent and privately held unlisted ones at 20 per cent. The varying holding periods for these shares, one year for listed and two years for unlisted, add complexity to the tax system.

In the Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC) community, there’s a significant concern about the tax on ‘carried interest’ or ‘carry,’ compensation for VC fund managers. Privately held companies, especially startups, selling shares at a premium to foreign investors may face extra taxes, affecting fundraising for local companies.

Lastly, extending ‘angel tax’ to transactions with foreign investors raises concerns. If excess premiums received by Indian unlisted companies are taxed, it could impact cross-border investments. These issues emphasize the need for well-thought-out policies to support startups and investors.

Tax Optimization and Carry-Forward Losses

Tax breaks and incentives have been the lifeblood of Indian startups. Extending the existing tax holiday and allowing the carry-forward of losses for a longer period can provide much-needed breathing space. This will ease the burden on young ventures, allowing them to reinvest profits in growth and attract talent. 

Dedicated Funds for Sustainable Growth

Investing in the future requires a focus on sustainability. By creating dedicated funding channels for greentech, clean energy, and social impact ventures, the budget can fuel advancements in renewable energy, environmental protection, and social responsibility, propelling positive change across sectors and creating a thriving ecosystem for sustainable innovation. These funds, coupled with tax breaks for sustainable initiatives, can incentivize entrepreneurs to tackle climate change and create a more equitable future.

Tech Industry Incentives for Innovation

India’s tech prowess is undeniable, but it needs constant nurturing. This budget has the opportunity to offer targeted incentives for research and development in key areas like AI, blockchain, and cloud computing. This will encourage innovation, attract global tech giants and position India as a leader in the digital revolution.

AI-powered Transformation

It’s a given that AI is reshaping every industry today. Therefore, budget allocations should reflect this paradigm shift, providing grants and subsidies for startups developing AI solutions in healthcare, education, and agriculture. This will accelerate AI adoption, improve efficiency across sectors, and unlock new avenues for economic growth.

Enhancing Funding Opportunities

Access to capital remains a major hurdle for many startups. Investing in the future of India’s startup ecosystem, the budget might seek to implement tax breaks for angel investors and VCs, incentivize crowdfunding platforms, and establish a dedicated startup exchange to create a holistic funding infrastructure, ensuring startups have the resources needed to thrive and contribute to national prosperity. This will diversify funding options and make capital more accessible for young ventures.

Simplified GST Structure

The complexities of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) can be daunting for startups. Streamlining GST compliance for early-stage startups through fewer slabs, simplified reporting, and targeted exemptions can both ease their administrative burden and boost government revenue in the long term. This will also allow startups to focus on their core business.

Dedicated Startup Funds for Emerging Industries

Beyond the established tech and e-commerce sectors, India has a plethora of promising yet nascent industries, such as space tech, gaming and animation. The budget’s allocation of dedicated funding for emerging sectors, coupled with streamlined access and transparent guidelines, can provide vital financial support, attract talent, and propel the rapid growth of these promising industries.

Tech Industry Expectations

The tech industry expects the budget to address concerns around talent acquisition by promoting STEM education and reskilling programs. Additionally, streamlining data privacy regulations and fostering a collaborative environment between academia and startups can further propel India’s digital journey.

The budget is also critical for the not-for-profit startup enablers that provide young Indian entrepreneurs with the necessary support. These ecosystem enablers, sustain themselves independently and pose a crucial question: Can financially autonomous not-for-profits actively engage in the start-up ecosystem through investments? The influence of the budget becomes apparent as these entities pursue equity stakes in startups, striving to claim a portion of the profits. This dynamic challenges traditional perspectives and defines their role within the economic ecosystem.

India’s budget holds the key to unlocking start-up growth. Expect tax breaks, AI incentives and dedicated funds for green tech, propelling innovation and job creation. Simplified GST and accessible capital can breathe life into young ventures, transforming dreams into economic engines. The countdown is on, and the budget could define the startup landscape for years to come