And Practo’s founder Shashank ND wants FM Jaitley to do a lot more for startups in Budget 2016!



The year 2015 was an exciting year for startups. There has been phenomenal growth, and incredible excitement (and investments) into ideas. Ideas that could potentially solve some of the most serious problems India has – from transportation to healthcare, financial inclusion to advanced robotics and more.

The last 6 months in particular have seen big focus on startups from the government as well with Prime Minister Modi’s Startup India Stand up India being the watershed moment. So clearly, aggressively pushing startups and making it easier for them to start and painless for them to scale is critical for a strong, thriving economy that wants to grow at 10%. I think at an industry level the following things need to be done to enable growth -

Startup Industry

Infrastructure:

As a country we need to make much faster progress in connecting everyone and bringing them online. While programs like NOFN and Bharatnet have been around for a while, the actual deployment has been incredibly slow. We need to take concrete steps to pick up the pace here and at least meet the targets set within the programs themselves.

Fund of Funds:

While we’ve been hearing about a fund of funds for startups for a while, we would love to see the next steps that detail out disbursement and get startups access to this fund.

Taxation:

Greater clarity and sharper differentiation between goods and services would be very helpful to clear up the TDS requirements on app downloads and TDS for software sales. Implementation of the GST would go a long way in solving this for sure. A longer tax break time period for startups would be welcome as well as further simplification of tax and other regulatory requirements.

Easier Exits

Exits are a healthy sign for any startup ecosystem. Our 4 acquisitions in the last year have shown us that it can be quite onerous currently. Enabling faster, easier exits would be very welcome as well. Government has been pushing some bills on this in the parliament but we would love to see this materialize as would help the overall ecosystem – from founders to investors.

And for the healthcare industry, this is what he has to say:

Digitization

With the focus on digital India, we hope the government provides provisions that drive digitization adoption by healthcare providers. Many of the countries that we operate in, the government provides incentives for adoption and meaningful usage. Digitization can bring considerable efficiency in the system which will help alleviate a lot of challenges consumers face today due to the limited access/supply of healthcare providers in the country. Having digital records itself can considerably improve the quality of diagnosis and care consumers receive.

Medical Devices

This is an extremely important aspect of healthcare, especially as they can be a great way to solve our access problems. Millions of people in rural areas of India have to travel hundreds of kilometers for something as simple as even a blood test. There is no reason why tablets with special attachments for example can’t replace need for a doctor in places like these and automate many such tests and connect the patient to the doctor if test parameters are out of prescribed limits. There can be multiple models – the government can purchase and provide to PHCs or even take steps where device makers can procure these devices at a more affordable price. I think for the cost that vast majority of Indian market can sustain, importing won’t be viable so the Make in India program could really help in this aspect and special focus on this area in the budget would be welcome.

Public Healthcare:

We also hope that the government incentives the public healthcare system to work more closely with the innovation driven by startups in India to solve many of the problems they face – without necessitating increase in public health expenditure

Prevention:

Large amounts of healthcare cost in the system can be reduced by focusing on prevention. A big piece of this is sanitation. We hope the government can focus on this and find a way to implement this even faster as improper sanitation is costing our country over $50B a year. Nearly 600,000 deaths a year are caused due to diarrhea – a big part of this is due to improper sanitation. So the faster we can solve this, the faster we can help people live healthier.

Insurance :

Recently, the government has announced several insurance schemes targeted at rural India. We believe similar schemes targeted at senior citizens and women countrywide would go a long way in solving a lot of healthcare issues in the country as well.

With these steps, startups can continue to thrive and solve some of the most fundamental problems that plague our country, add considerable growth to our economy and help further establish India’s innovation credentials.

This article has been authored by Shashank ND, CEO and founder of healthcare app Practo.

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