Skilling, micro-loans, concessions: What women want from Budget 2023
In 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman made history when she became India’s first full-time woman finance minister to present the Union Budget.
Presenting her first Budget, she highlighted the role of women by declaring them—Naari tu Narayani—as per our country’s tradition, suggesting they hold an important place in the growth and development of modern India.
In 2020, she announced that women self-help groups (SHGs) in villages—the Daanyalakshmis (seed distributors)—will be ably supported by the government’s Mudra schemes and NABARD. Besides, she highlighted the success of the government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padao campaign and allocated a total of Rs 28,600 crore for women-specific schemes for the financial year 2020-21.
In the matter of financial inclusion in 2021, the FM proposed to reduce the margin money requirement from 25% to 15% and included loans for activities allied to agriculture under the Stand Up India scheme for SCs, STs, and women to further facilitate credit flow.
"Naari Shakti is the harbinger of our bright future," Sitharaman remarked last year.
She elaborated, saying, “For women-led development, our government has comprehensively revamped the schemes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Three schemes—Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi, and Poshan 2.0—were launched recently to provide integrated benefits to women and children."
A week before the presentation of the Union Budget 2023, women from the Indian startup ecosystem tell HerStory all about their expectations and what they think is the way forward.
Women entrepreneurs have great expectations from the government regarding credit support and COVID incentive for women-led businesses.
There is a need to relook at investments for healthy leadership to be inclusive, diverse, and reasonable. In the upcoming Budget, the women workforce, especially entrepreneurs, expect the government to give extra incentives, including tax relaxation, interest-free loans, and offer funds dedicated to women entrepreneurs.
The Budget should also have measures for skill development for women and parity in salaries for the female workforce, keeping in mind that the scope has now shifted to technology-based jobs.
Entrepreneurs also want better educational opportunities and skill-based learning for women to start their own companies or choose career paths outside of traditional women-dominated fields.
A solid and viable women-centric industrial policy is required to get prominence for women’s entrepreneurship development. The startup sector expects the Budget to continue with stability in the policies.
Dr Garima Sawhney, Co-founder, Pristyn Care
Budget 2023 should prioritise investment in skill development and equal opportunities for women in the workforce. There can be more focus on academic incubation centres to support innovative ideas by women in academics and motivate them to turn them into businesses.
Further, these centres can help with the complexities around starting up a business and dealing with compliances.
Rajeshwari Singh, Co-founder and CEO, deQollab
Supporting economic empowerment
To deal with the huge gap in funding for women-led startups, the Budget can help provide interest-free loans, working capital, and incentives for women-led startups and MSMEs.
Additionally, the government should focus on investing in programmes that support women’s economic empowerment and increase their access to resources to join the workforce.
Several women-led businesses in India run from homes. The awareness of MSME schemes and the incubation of these businesses to turn into scalable startups is essential for economic progress.
Pashmi Shah, Co-founder and CMO, Get- A-Way
A favourable ecosystem
Besides subsidies, easy access to capital, and GST concessions, among others, women also need a more favourable ecosystem, enabling them as entrepreneurs.
This can be in the form of mentor support, infrastructure, capital support, and more to assist them and act as a catalyst in their acceleration phase.
Kamna Hazrati, Founder, KH Advisory
Funding for women-led startups
With India assuming the G20 presidency this year, this year’s Budget is more crucial, and the government needs to take prudent steps to achieve gender equality.
The first thing needed is increased allocation towards the gender budget, which has historically been less than 1% of the GDP.
Businesses—wherein women borrow money for their small businesses from small finance banks (SFBs) and NBFCs—should be given incentives to support female businesses.
At present, the recovery mechanism of the SFBs is very harsh. But, if these women get some SOPs, their businesses can flourish.
Promoting entrepreneurship by funding women-led startups with high growth potential through government programmes should be on the government’s agenda.
Shruti Jain, CSO, Arihant Capital
Ease of legislation
Budget 2023 should have more protection and benefits for women employees. It should also encompass ease of legislation to promote women entrepreneurs, especially in semi-urban and rural India, with a special emphasis on technology, energy, and agricultural sectors.
The Budget should incentivise employment generation—both in the formal and informal sectors—to make the most of our demographic dividend. More measures to boost startups will continue, specifically in agritech and new-age technologies, including IoT, AI, AR, energy, and fintech.
The startup ecosystem will look forward to bold tax relief measures, easing investments in growth funding, and reforms to support Indian businesses going global.
With hybrid workplaces and the gig economy picking up, expectations are that some new legislation will find its place to promote equitable practices.
The four labour codes—the Code on Wages, Industrial Relations Code, Social Security Code, and Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code—are set to replace the existing 29 labour laws.
Despite their approval in 2020, many state governments are yet to implement the new codes. A few simplified mechanisms included in the Budget 2023 can help in their faster adoption.
Through these codes, the government can ensure over 90% of India’s 50 million workers in the unorganised sector enjoy the benefits of minimum wages and social security.
Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, serial entrepreneur and CEO, Great Place to Work®
Access to credit and loans at lower interest
One of my main expectations is for the Budget 2023 to provide funding and resources for skill development and training programmes for women, which will help them succeed in their businesses and contribute to the economy.
Additionally, it would be beneficial for the government to provide access to credit and loans at lower interest rates for women-led businesses to help them kickstart and grow their businesses and compete on equal footing with their male counterparts.
The government should also implement policies and schemes to promote women’s participation in the financial sector, including providing tax incentives for companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions.
Further, the Budget should provide women entrepreneurs with mentorship and networking opportunities to help them connect with successful women in business and learn from their experiences.
Sonam Srivastav, Founder and CEO, Wright Research
Bigger budget for mental health
The finance minister should look at introducing a different taxation system for women-owned startups or perhaps extend it to all the startups and other stakeholders in the ecosystem. Easing a startup’s access to cash flow is crucial.
The government should also consider making securing debt easier for women entrepreneurs. Offering more competitive interest rates, easier terms of approval, and faster disbursement of the amount would help with easy access to capital as and when required for scaling the venture.
Lastly, the Budget should have more support for mental health than a Rs 40 crore allocation, which has remained unchanged in the past couple of years. The government should also look towards incentivising startups to come up with innovative offerings in the field, helping people live more fulfilling and purposeful life.
Harini Ramachandran, Co-creator, Excellence Installations Technology, and Co-founder of Antano & Harini
Edited by Suman Singh