India has one of the lowest spending on healthcare globally. While it was stated that the country is set to increase healthcare spending to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025, it continues to stand at 1%. We hope to see some action around this in the upcoming budget. A major focus must be given to the home healthcare industry which is one of the ways to realize the government’s vision of affordable healthcare for all. However, current taxation policies and regulations do not cover home healthcare and diagnostic tests and other at-home aspects still form a large part of people’s out of pocket expenses. Home healthcare is not recognized as a mainstream sector and should be brought under the ambit of governmental schemes like the Ayushman Bharat yojna. We also expect to see an increase in the limits on reimbursement of expenses on diagnostics, preventive health check-ups, etc. and for home healthcare to be made a part of this exemption. Critical healthcare equipment such as ventilators, wheelchairs, crutches, and medical equipment spare parts should be exempted from GST. This will help make quality healthcare more accessible.
While it is encouraging that steps have been taken to register services like elder care homes and home care agencies for the provision of care to elderly, the real challenge is in terms of lack of facilities. Add to this is the cost of elder care and complete non-availability of insurance.
Mr Sarvesh Shashi, Founder, SARVA, India’s fastest growing yoga and wellness ecosystem
Data from the World Economic Forum indicates that over 77% of Indians will be under the age of 45 by the next decade. However, despite being one of the youngest countries, we are also the most unfit with estimates suggesting that 1 in every 3 Indians are medically unfit and suffer from preventable lifestyle disorders. In the last five years, the government has exhibited a keen interest in the revival of Yoga. The hon’ble prime minister has personally taken a lot of interest in positioning Yoga as a universal exercise that can help people stay fit, look good and be healthy. While these have been welcome and have helped encourage players like SARVA who are ensuring that there is a more organized and holistic approach to the concept of yoga, we still have a long way to go. Preventive health and wellness is the need of the hour for each given the high instances of disease and lifestyle-induced illnesses in our country. In order for holistic health to be made more attractive to consumers, it is important that the tax component on commercially-run Yoga practices and institutes be revisited since yoga can help address chronic medical ailments and fill the gaps in traditional healthcare.
Under section 80D of the Income Tax Act of 1961, taxpayers can claim tax deductions on health checkups and health premiums; preventive wellness, however, is still placed under a high tax bracket. This year however we hope that the budget goes beyond providing tax deductions to those getting back to good health after falling sick but also supports and incentivize those who take care of their own fitness. This could potentially include fitness services such as memberships to gyms, fitness studios, commercially-run yoga centers, etc.
Amit Choudhary, Founder & CEO, Dawaa Dost
The government had pushed for affordable and accessible healthcare in its last term, and we hope that this year’s budget will also have some concrete action plans to realize this vision. Innovative, tech-based, large-scale and affordable healthcare solutions are the need of the hour in India and our expectations from the budget also revolve around the same.
We hope the government will simplify regulations for pharmacies buying medicines from GST paid channels. There should be 100% input credit for such entities and the working capital must be freed even under circumstances where the manufacturer or authorized distributor have erred on paying the deposit. The retailer has no recourse to anyone else nor the margins to absorb the entire GST as is the case today. We also hope the government will consider offering income tax breaks to affordable medicine providers like Dawaa Dost as this will make them more accessible to the masses. There can be specific provisions for the creation of a sunrise industry for providingincome tax subsidies for hiring new talent from a PF contribution standpoint, accelerated depreciation on stores, and subsidy on technology development via grants. There is a huge opportunity in terms of building a new industry and the need of the hour is for government support like the one provided to the IT sector two decades back.
Neha Rastogi, Founder and COO-Agatsa, Innovator of world’s smallest and leadless ECG machine
The start-up ecosystem in India is thriving thanks to some conducive government policies announced in the last budget. Given this, startups in all sectors including those focusing on healthcare and health tech innovation are going to witness rapid growth in the years ahead. However, the issue that needs to be addressed at the outset is India’s current healthcare infrastructure and allotted budget which are not adequate to ensure universal healthcare services to all. This is where innovations in medical devices and services come into picture and we hope the budget will focus on this aspect. A growing number of tech-enabled companies like Agatsa are stepping in to provide specialized healthcare monitoring solutions through portable devices using cutting edge technology. The need of the hour therefore is to provide adequate funding and support to fuel further innovations under the Make in India and Digital India campaigns.
While the market for healthcare startups and digital healthcare devices is robust, we also need more support from the government to promote indigenous innovations and provide an impetus to domestic device manufacturers. We would like to see the government procure more Indian products from the market so that our dependency on foreign imports can be brought down to a minimum. This will not only boost the Indian startup niche but also make healthcare services more affordable for the common people.
Mr Vikas Bagaria, Founder, Pee Safe, India’s premium sanitation and personal care brand
The femtech industry has a huge potential and is expected to reach $50 billion globally by 2025, as per estimates by Frost and Sullivan. Though this is a relatively new industry, it aims to address some of the age-old problems women have been facing and is projected to be the next big thing in the women’s health and hygiene market. It promotes the use of digital health applications such as hygiene products, diagnostics, reproductive health monitoring systems, etc. to help women take control of their health. Given this, our expectation from the budget 2020 centres around government policy and regulation to enable ease of doing business through centralized policies. This will also attract more foreign investment opportunities in the segment. There is also a need to simplify the taxation process and make early stage funding easier. While the government has done well in terms of facilitating foreign investments in India, this outlook needs to be maintained going forward to effectively promote more innovations under the Make in India campaign. Even though there is immense potential, the investor confidence in the Indian femtech industry is still considerably low – and we hope the policies to be announced in the budget ahead will be an enabler.