BUDGET 2020 – Interpreting the Fine-print for FinTech India & Its Stakeholders

The incumbent Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her address of the Union Budget 2020 on February 1 (2020) the ambitious plan to transform India into a $5-trillion economy by 2024. The primary focus is inclined towards reinvigorating investments and consumption demand to achieve this target – restoration of common man’s confidence and also that of market entities is the key. The FinTech industry was expecting from the budget a revision of (personal) tax slabs to smoothen financial burden on the middle-income groups (while even reduced GST was voiced as an expectation coupled with appropriate tax incentives plus easing access to credit) –, so as to boost spending, thereby enhance instant loan and credit demand and supply dynamics.

The concerns were reasonably dealt with in the Union Budget 2020 pronouncement as the government introduced new personal income tax slabs and rates set to elevate disposable incomes and consumer spending. As also for the startups, the abolition of Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) is poised to spur investments; further, the postponement of tax payment on ESOPs is a welcome move as is also an increase in the turnover limit to Rs. 100 Cr for accessing tax benefits. But, that’s not all; to boost business activities in India, the corporate tax is now set at 22% (amongst the lowest in the world).

However, per the Economic Times BFSI’s conversation with Venture Catalysts’ Anuj Golecha, the FinTech industry doesn’t stand much to gain from the Union Budget 2020 apart from getting NBFCs into the system of TReDS (Trade Receivables Discounting System – a liquidity boosting mechanism that FinTechs can utilise). Mr. Golecha clarifies that the ESOP relief isn’t made accessible to FinTechs, since the thin details of the budget document mention that only such startups are eligible for the ESOP benefits (and the tax relief that are extended for 10 years and the Rs. 100 crore turnover limits) which are recognised by the Inter-Ministerial Board (IMB) and which also qualify u/s 80-IAC of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, i.e., mere 221 startups in India. This figure for income tax exemption seeking entities was 94 out of 15,798 government-registered startups, as of February 7, 2019, as reported by Indian Express. This means that neither then (27,000 startups – as of 2019), nor now (30,000 startups – as of 2020), are all the startups registered with the DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) made eligible for claiming ESOP benefits of a 5-year (proposed) deferment of tax payments by startup employees.

Another development worth mentioning is that the zero-MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) is now getting implemented in UPI and RuPay (following the promise made in the Union Budget 2019). MDR is essentially the amount that the merchants pay to banks for accessing the infrastructure that facilitates digital payments. While FinTech startups offering merchant payment services can rejoice, the Payments Council of India (PCI) has a deviating opinion on this development. The PCI Chairman Vishwas Patel states that the zero-MDR move is poised to limit innovation and investment – capable of rendering the business model unviable. He also opines that if the government is aiming to boost payment digitisation, then it should instead be done via a controlled and lower MDR coupled with added tax benefits to merchants. Lastly, he conveys that if MDR isn’t going to be charged to merchants, it’s the government who should bear the cost, reports Economic Times.

However, with even the government anticipating India’s digital economy to contribute $1 trillion to the goal of achieving the $5 trillion economy target, it’s motivating to note that UPI transactions have registered over a billion transactions and the domestic RuPay card has garnered a positive response (of acceptance) in a number of Asian and Middle East countries. With this, if the government can assist in increasing liquidity, inculcating transparency and easing the burden of compliance on the FinTech sector, the future will have promising prospects for the FinTech, its stakeholders, and the economy of India.

Financial Inclusion & Financial Stability: National & International Frameworks

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin

The realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (in particular, SDG’s Goal 1—No Poverty) set by the United Nations (UN) requires giving considerably stringent attention and concerted efforts also to financial inclusion. In 2004, the Khan Commission was setup by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to explore Financial Inclusion. The recommendations of the commission were included in mid-term policy review (and so arrived the advent of simplified banking accounts).

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GPFI 2019 Japan: Elderly Financial Inclusion & India

The Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), launched in 2010, carries the mission of ensuring comprehensive financial inclusion. The platform for the G20 countries, non-G20 countries and pertinent stakeholders also aims to execute the G20 Financial Inclusion Action Plan (readied at the G20 Summit in Seoul). The Germany GPFI Presidency in 2017 was held with the theme, “Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Persons.” In 2018, the Argentina GPFI Presidency was held with the theme, “Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development.” Building on the German and Argentina themes, in 2019, the Japan GPFI presidency fulfils the troika (of immediately preceding, present, and future presidency nations) of GPFI partnerships with the theme, “Aging and Financial Inclusion.” The G20 Leaders’ Summit 2019 will be held on June 28 – 29 in Osaka, Japan. Financial inclusion is essential for elevating livelihoods of the deprived and the elderly population. Continue reading “GPFI 2019 Japan: Elderly Financial Inclusion & India”

India in the Global Microscope for Financial Inclusion 2018

Introduction

The Global Microscope report released periodically by the Economist Intelligence Unit gauges the enabling environment for financial inclusion (furthering the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals) considering 5 diverse categories (government and policy, stability and integrity, products and outlets, consumer protection, and infrastructure) and 55 countries. The 2018 research report witnessed the model development of the key enablers of financial inclusion. It also saw the inculcation of the indicators on digital financial services to the research methodology. The Global Microscope report essentially discusses the key growth topics of the developing economies: consumer protection, enabling environment, financial inclusion strategy, policy, regulation, and government initiatives, and trends. The Microscope assesses the regulatory and policy environment to which the key players in the financial inclusion domain are exposed to: banks, NBFCs, digital money issuers, and cross-border payment companies. The vital contributions of inclusive insurance, financial agents, FinTech firms, and credit information companies (CICs) are also examined.

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G20, India, & Financial Inclusion: En Route to 2022 Summit

Introduction: The Milieu

The 1990s witnessed the advent of microfinance at the mainstream in international development policies. There was a prime focus on market development by private financial firms. As the decade of the 2000s approached, the ambience of state legitimacy (via policies and strategies of financial inclusion) made its way. The warranted summoning of government interference is owing to the (still incumbent) ailing realities shaped by the worrying existence of social and geographical inequalities, gender biases, etc. With this stance, financial inclusion is envisioned as an instrument to establish, transform, and reinforce state institutions. The deployment of financial inclusion (social) policies in India is meant to facilitate access to marginalised (susceptible) populations of afresh rights and inclusivity. Also, such social policies having financial inclusivity agenda at the core could also promote the incoming of new alternatives to organise the behaviour of recipient (fragile) segment of the society.

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FinTech Adoption, Financial Inclusion, & The Next Regulatory Challenges

Introduction to FinTech

Investopedia defines FinTech as: “new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. At its core, FinTech is utilised to help companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by utilising specialised software and algorithms that are used on computers and, increasingly, smartphones.”

Ernst & Young’s (EY) definition of FinTech is as follows: “FinTech: organizations combining innovative business models and technology to enable, enhance and disrupt financial services.” EY also states that its FinTech definition also encompasses, apart from early-stage start-ups and new entrants, a reference also to scaling firms, growth-stage firms, and non-financial services firms. The uniqueness of FinTech stems from the nature of its characterisation and the market conduct regulation (of the firms), collectively to which it’s (the FinTech industry) subjected owing to the fact that it manages assets, incomes, wealth, retirement funds, and salaries of people subscribing from all walks of life (for this reason, FinTech’s mass-adoption-rate and financial inclusion matters, to ensure a holistic growth of the financial services industry and its stakeholders).

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Microfinance & Financial Inclusion: Servicing the Marginalised India

‘‘The Poor stay poor, not because they are lazy but because they have no access to capital.” – Laureate Milton Friedman

Introduction to Microfinance

Microfinance (erstwhile microcredit) is a financial service offering loans, savings, and insurance to entrepreneurs and small enterprises that lack proper access to banks or investors. The primary objective of microfinance is to make available to the underserved individuals (since they lack the credit or resources to subscribe to a regular bank loan) the required money so as to invest in their nascent business projects. Continue reading “Microfinance & Financial Inclusion: Servicing the Marginalised India”

Freelance Industry on the Rise

Freelancing was an option earlier to merely make a living without getting into something permanent but now it is seen as a choice by millions across the world for its various boons.

Freelancing has been fostered exponentially over the last decade due to technological advancement, worker’s need for flexibility and being able to work remotely, and the innumerable innovative job opportunities created by the companies to get better quality work and even then save money. Continue reading “Freelance Industry on the Rise”