Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Interim Budget 2024-25 on February 1, 2024, will be the last before the country goes to Lok Sabha polls in April-May 2024. In the dynamic landscape of India's business ecosystem, the Interim Budget 2024 has drawn anticipation among female entrepreneurs and women CEOs, which are rising in numbers across industries.

Richa Singh, CEO and co-founder of a parental control filter tool Happinetz, and Sudha Srinivasan, CEO of NGO The / Nudge Institute, talk about the importance of reinforcing the 'Make in India' initiative and the promotion of women's workforce participation. Jyoti Bhandari, founder and CEO of wealth management firm Lovak Capital highlights the importance of upskilling young women, whereas Shreya Sabharwal, founder and CEO of brand communication firm Squarefork sheds light on the expectations from digital marketing startups.

Kavitha Rao, co-founder- 10club homes, seeks policy measures for the consumer retail sector, while Upasna Dash, founder & CEO of Jajabor Brand Consultancy, calls for the establishment of dedicated infrastructure to facilitate skill development. Saloni Verma, co-founder and chairperson, Sunshine Corporate Creches, seeks financial incentives for companies operating in the areas of creche services to the corporate sector.

Empowering 'Make in India'

For Richa Singh of Happinetz, the budget presents a unique opportunity to further align businesses with the Centre’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. “My expectations from the current budget would be increased financial relief, such as tax rebates or GST reductions,” Singh states. Singh also calls for increased financial relief, envisioning tax rebates and GST reductions as catalysts to propel manufacturers and companies championing the 'Make in India' initiative.

Agri innovation & women empowerment

Sudha Srinivasan of The / Nudge Institute seeks a focus on agri-tech and women empowerment. She awaits the fruition of the agri-tech accelerator fund announced in the previous budget and calls for a continued farmer-first approach.

She also advocates for the government to engage with agri-tech startups as a 'buyer at scale,' integrating their solutions into schemes designed for smallholder and marginal farmers. “I'm also looking forward to robust policies to elevate women's workforce participation and entrepreneurship by incentivising women-led businesses through enhanced access to funding and capital.”

Upskilling of young women

Jyoti Bhandari of Lovak Capital says the previous year’s budget underscored the significance of women's economic empowerment. This time, she suggests, the Interim Budget 2024 should give priority to skill training, particularly for young women in Bharat, by offering vocational programmes after completing Class 12. “The growth of successful women entrepreneurs from these groups must also be encouraged by aiding the transition of their enterprises into larger value chain-focused producer organisations,” Bhandari says.

Shreya Sabharwal of Squarefork says she anticipates the budget to encourage innovation and alleviate regulatory burdens. “Startups are in search of tax incentives and grants to support research and development in cutting-edge technologies such as AI-driven analytics and personalised marketing tools,” she says.

Support for rising retail industry

Kavitha Rao of 10club homes says the retail industry in India is poised to become the world's third-largest by 2027. "With a retail market projected to reach a staggering $1.41 trillion by 2026 and the anticipation of over 900 million new internet users by 2025, consumer behaviour and market trends are evolving at an unprecedented pace. In the 2024-25 budget, the consumer retail sector is awaiting a comprehensive set of policy measures that will shape the industry's trajectory."

Focus on skills development

Jajabor CEO Upasna Dash seeks further support to fuel the start-up industry’s growth. She says it is imperative to underscore Bharat entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, and emerging industries to steer India toward becoming a digitally empowered, self-reliant, and inclusive economy. "Addressing this transformation necessitates institutional support, particularly the establishment of dedicated infrastructure, to facilitate skill development among individuals from Bharat, fostering sustainable growth."

Financial incentives for smaller firms

Saloni Verma of Sunshine Corporate Creches says the Maternity Act 2017 made it mandatory for a company with 50+ employees to provide creche services to their employees, 6 months of paid maternity leave also became the law at the same time. "While intentions in both clauses are good, it would help if the government came up with some financial incentives for companies of smaller size to help them pay salaries of those on maternity leave and then set up creches for them." 

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