The Union Budget for FY18-19 was much anticipated, owing to reasons more than one. The first full-fledged financial plan after the introduction of GST and the last one by the Narendra Modi-led government, the most significant event of the Indian financial year is over. With the national polls looming in, the Union Budget rolled out by finance minister Arun Jaitely was favourable towards agriculture, rural development, social infrastructure and digital transformation. However, international mobile phone companies, bond investors, equity servicing institutions and the defence sector are at the not-so-advantageous end of the spectrum. In general, this year’s Union Budget has been a shift from the typical stance of the government that all segments need equal attention.
An industry segment that sees clear growth opportunities is retail. Amidst public opinion that the budget had not mentioned the retail segment, the various provisions have subtle repercussions that will help widen the scope of consumption. Consequently, this will have a long-term impact on retailers, where they can reap benefits from consumers with a higher expendable income.
Here are the key provisions of the Union Budget for FY 18-19 that have relevant implications for retailers.
- Reduction in Corporate Tax
With regards to taxation, the budget has declared a reduction in corporate tax to 25% for companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 250 crore. This accounts for almost 99% of the companies in India and would have an impact of Rs 7000 crore on government finances. As only 250 companies have a turnover above the threshold value, this is a significant reduction in terms of the business turnover cutoff of Rs 50 crore that had been announced in last year’s budget for the same tax bracket.
This move has resulted in a decrease in the tax burden for small and medium businesses, who can now use these additional funds to purchase inventory or machinery, expand their premises, hire new employees or for marketing activities. In case it does not cover your entire expenses, retailers can also avail easy business finance from digitally-enabled FinTech lenders who provide customized credit products like Merchant Cash Advance.
- Increased Investments in Digital India
Lack of investment in digital infrastructure by the government has always been a pain point that has deterred the productivity and development of startups and small businesses. This is especially true for the e-commerce sector, as rural India is the driving force behind its growth. This year alone, e-tailers recorded a three-fold increase in the number of shoppers in small towns compared to metro cities.
Under the massive Rs 3,073 crore Digital India Program, over 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be set up to provide broadband access to 20 crore rural citizens in over 2,50,000 villages. This opens up an avenue for individuals in rural India to harness the Internet for trade, banking, logistics and even to avail formal finance from digital lenders. E-commerce retailers can use this opportunity to its fullest, as 55% of the 185 million active consumers are predicted to be from rural India by 2020.
- Changes in Personal Taxation
A welcome move for the salaried middle class, this budget proposed a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 for transport allowance and medical reimbursement. While this may seem irrelevant to retailers, the impact of this allowance does indeed affect them. As personal income increases, so does the disposable component. Consumer behavioral studies ascertain that the disposable income is equitable to spends on retail. Thus, the re-introduction of medical and travel benefits is a favourable budget impact on retailers.
- Refinancing for MSMEs
The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector plays a major role as India progresses towards becoming one of the biggest economies in the world. Despite contributing a staggering 15% to the country’s GDP with a high market share of 40% towards employment, these businesses have an unmet credit demand of $ 400 billion.
Acknowledging the fact, the budget declared an allocation of Rs 3794 crore to the MSME sector for credit support, capital and interest subsidy on innovation. With this reform in play, the refinancing policy and eligibility criteria under Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) program will be reviewed to encourage easier financing of MSMEs by NBFCs. This impact of the budget on retailers opens plenty of avenues avail formal source of finance in a timely manner.
A unique Aadhaar-like identity for each enterprise will also be implemented for streamlining business identity. This measure can further enable Fintech lenders like Capital Float to process eKYC of enterprises swiftly and offer working capital finance in a matter of seconds.
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