An initiative of Government of India for StartUps
Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to build a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country that will drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities. The Government through this initiative aims to empower Startups to grow through innovation and design.
In order to meet the objectives of the initiative, Government of India is announcing this Action Plan that addresses all aspects of the Startup ecosystem. With this Action Plan the Government hopes to accelerate spreading of the Startup movement:
- From digital/ technology sector to a wide array of sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, social sector, healthcare, education, etc.; and
- From existing tier 1 city to tier 2 and tier 3 cities including semi-urban and rural areas. The Action Plan is divided across the following areas:
- Simplification and Handholding
- Funding Support and Incentives
- Industry-Academia Partnership and Incubation
The definition of a Startup (only for the purpose of Government schemes) has been detailed in Annexure I.
Definition of a Startup (Only for the purposes of Government Schemes)
Part A: Definition of Startup
Startup means an entity, incorporated or registered in India not prior to five years, with annual turnover not exceeding INR 25 crore in any preceding financial year, working towards innovation, development, deployment or commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property.
Provided that such entity is not formed by splitting up, or reconstruction, of a business already in existence.
Provided also that an entity shall cease to be a Startup if its turnover for the previous financial years has exceeded INR 25 crore or it has completed 5 years from the date of incorporation/ registration.
Provided further that a Startup shall be eligible for tax benefits only after it has obtained certification from the Inter-Ministerial Board, setup for such purpose.
Part B: Definition of Terms
Entity: Private Limited Company (under The Companies Act, 2013) or a Registered Partnership Firm (under The Indian Partnership Act, 1932) or Limited Liability Partnership (under The Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008)
Identification of businesses covered under the definition in Part A above:
A business is covered under the definition if it aims to develop and commercialize
- a new product or service or process; or
- a significantly improved existing product or service or process, that will create or add value for customers or workflow.
The mere act of developing
- products or services or processes which do not have potential for commercialization; or
- undifferentiated products or services or processes; or
- products or services or processes with no or limited incremental value for customers or workflow would not be covered under this definition.
In order for a “Startup” to be considered eligible, the Startup should
- be supported by a recommendation (with regard to innovative nature of business), in a format specified by DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion), from an Incubator established in a post-graduate college in India; or
- be supported by an incubator which is funded (in relation to the project) from GoI(Government of India) as part of any specified scheme to promote innovation; or
- be supported by a recommendation (with regard to innovative nature of business), in a format specified by DIPP, from an Incubator recognized by GoI; or
- be funded by an Incubation Fund/Angel Fund/ Private Equity Fund/ Accelerator/Angel Network duly registered with SEBI(Securities and Exchange Board of India)* that endorses innovative nature of the business; or
- be funded by GoI as part of any specified scheme to promote innovation; or
- have a patent granted by the Indian Patent and Trademark Office in areas affiliated with the nature of business being promoted.
* DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) may publish a ‘negative’ list of funds which are not eligible for this initiative.
Section 2(91) of the Companies Act, 2013 “turnover” means the aggregate value of the realization of amount made from the sale, supply or distribution of goods or on account of services rendered, or both, by the company during a financial year;
Inter-Ministerial Board :
An Inter-Ministerial Board setup by DIPP to validate the innovative nature of the business for granting tax related benefits
Approval from the Inter-Ministerial Board shall not in any manner, limit or absolve the entity(ies) from any liability incurred in case of any misrepresentation/ fraud arising from submission of such application and/ or supporting such application.
Compliances Regime based on Self-Certification
To reduce the regulatory burden on Startups thereby allowing them to focus on their core business and keep compliance cost low
Regulatory formalities requiring compliance with various labour and environment laws are time consuming and difficult in nature. Often, new and small firms are unaware of nuances of the issues and can be subjected to intrusive action by regulatory agencies. In order to make compliance for Startups friendly and flexible, simplifications are required in the regulatory regime.
Accordingly, the process of conducting inspections shall be made more meaningful and simple.
- Startups shall be allowed to self-certify compliance (through the Startup mobile app) with 9 labour and environment laws (refer below).
- In case of the labour laws, no inspections will be conducted for a period of 3 years. Startups may be inspected on receipt of credible and verifiable complaint of violation, filed in writing and approved by at least one level senior to the inspecting officer.
In case of environment laws, Startups which fall under the ‘white category’ (as defined by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)) would be able to self-certify compliance and only random checks would be carried out in such cases.
- The Building and Other Constructions Workers’ (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
- The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
- The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
- The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
- The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
- The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 Environment Laws:
- The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Cess (Amendment) Act, 2003
- The Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
Rolling-out of Mobile App and portal
To serve as the single platform for Startups for interacting with Government and Regulatory Institutions for all business needs and information exchange among various stakeholders
In order to commence operations, Startups require registration with relevant regulatory authorities. Delays or lack of clarity in registration process may lead to delays in establishment and operations of Startups, thereby reducing the ability of the business to get bank loans, employ workers and generate incomes. Enabling registration process in an easy and timely manner can reduce this burden significantly.
Besides, Startups often suffer from the uncertainty regarding the exact regulatory requirements to set up its operations. In order to ensure that such information is readily available, it is intended that a checklist of required licenses covering labour licensing, environmental clearances etc. be made available. Currently, the Startup ecosystem in India also lacks formal platform(s) for Startups to connect and collaborate with other ecosystem partners.
Towards these efforts, the Government shall introduce a Mobile App to provide on-the-go accessibility for:
- Registering Startups with relevant agencies of the Government. A simple form shall be made available for the same. The Mobile App shall have backend integration with Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Registrar of Firms for seamless information exchange and processing of the registration application
- Tracking the status of the registration application and anytime downloading of the registration certificate. A digital version of the final registration certificate shall be made available for downloading through the Mobile App
- Filing for compliances and obtaining information on various clearances/ approvals/ registrations required
- Collaborating with various Startup ecosystem partners. The App shall provide a collaborative platform with a national network of stakeholders (including venture funds, incubators, academia, mentors etc.) of the Startup ecosystem to have discussions towards enhancing and bolstering the ecosystem
- Applying for various schemes being undertaken under the Startup India Action Plan The App shall be made available from April 01, 2016 on all leading mobile/ smart devices’ platforms. The Startup portal shall have similar functionalities (being offered through the mobile app) using a richer web-based User Interface.
Legal Support and Fast-tracking Patent Examination at Lower Costs
To promote awareness and adoption of IPRs by Startups and facilitate them in protecting and commercializing the IPRs by providing access to high quality Intellectual Property services and resources, including fast-track examination of patent applications and rebate in fees.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are emerging as a strategic business tool for any business organization to enhance industrial competitiveness. Startups with limited resources and manpower, can sustain in this highly competitive world only through continuous growth and development oriented innovations; for this, it is equally crucial that they protect their IPRs. The scheme for Startup Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP) shall facilitate filing of Patents, Trademarks and Designs by innovative Startups. Various measures being taken in this regard include:
- Fast-tracking of Startup patent applications:
The valuation of any innovation goes up immensely, once it gets the protective cover of a patent. To this end, the patent application of Startups shall be fast-tracked for examination and disposal, so that they can realize the value of their IPRs at the earliest possible.
- Panel of facilitators to assist in filing of IP applications:
For effective implementation of the scheme, a panel of “facilitators” shall be empanelled by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM), who shall also regulate their conduct and functions. Facilitators will be responsible for providing general advisory on different IPRs as also information on protecting and promoting IPRs in other countries. They shall also provide assistance in filing and disposal of the IP applications related to patents, trademarks and designs under relevant Acts, including appearing on behalf of Startups at hearings and contesting opposition, if any, by other parties, till final disposal of the IPR application.
- Government to bear facilitation cost:
Under this scheme, the Central Government shall bear the entire fees of the facilitators for any number of patents, trademarks or designs that a Startup may file, and the Startups shall bear the cost of only the statutory fees payable.
- Rebate on filing of application:
Startups shall be provided an 80% rebate in filing of patents vis-a-vis other companies. This will help them pare costs in the crucial formative years.
The scheme is being launched initially on a pilot basis for 1 year; based on the experience gained, further steps shall be taken.
Relaxed Norms of Public Procurement for Startups
To provide an equal platform to Startups (in the manufacturing sector) vis-à-vis the experienced entrepreneurs/ companies in public procurement
Typically, whenever a tender is floated by a Government entity or by a PSU, very often the eligibility condition specifies either “prior experience” or “prior turnover”. Such a stipulation prohibits/ impedes Startups from participating in such tenders. At present, effective April 1, 2015 Central Government, State Government and PSUs have to mandatorily procure at least 20% from the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME).
In order to promote Startups, Government shall exempt Startups (in the manufacturing sector) from the criteria of “prior experience/ turnover” without any relaxation in quality standards or technical parameters. The Startups will also have to demonstrate requisite capability to execute the project as per the requirements and should have their own manufacturing facility in India.
Faster Exit for Startups
To make it easier for Startups to wind up operations
Given the innovative nature of Startups, a significant percentage fail to succeed. In the event of a business failure, it is critical to reallocate capital and resources to more productive avenues and accordingly a swift and simple process has been proposed for Startups to wind-up operations. This will promote entrepreneurs to experiment with new and innovative ideas, without having the fear of facing a complex and long-drawn exit process where their capital remain interminably stuck.
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill 2015 (“IBB”), tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2015 has provisions for the fast track and / or voluntary closure of businesses.
In terms of the IBB, Startups with simple debt structures or those meeting such criteria as may be specified may be wound up within a period of 90 days from making of an application for winding up on a fast track basis. In such instances, an insolvency professional shall be appointed for the Startup, who shall be in charge of the company (the promoters and management shall no longer run the company) for liquidating its assets and paying its creditors within six months of such appointment. On appointment of the insolvency professional, the liquidator shall be responsible for the swift closure of the business, sale of assets and repayment of creditors in accordance with the distribution waterfall set out in the IBB. This process will respect the concept of limited liability.
Providing Funding Support through a Fund of Funds with a Corpus for INR 10,000 Crore
To provide funding support for development and growth of innovation driven enterprises
One of key challenges faced by Startups in India has been access to finance. Often Startups, due to lack of collaterals or existing cash flows, fail to justify the loans. Besides, the high risk nature of Startups wherein a significant percentage fail to take-off, hampers their investment attractiveness.
In order to provide funding support to Startups, Government will set up a fund with an initial corpus of INR 2,500 crore and a total corpus of INR 10,000 crore over a period 4 years (i.e. INR 2,500 crore per year) . The Fund will be in the nature of Fund of Funds, which means that it will not invest directly into Startups, but shall participate in the capital of SEBI registered Venture Funds.
Key features of the Fund of Funds are highlighted below:
- The Fund of Funds shall be managed by a Board with private professionals drawn from industry bodies, academia, and successful Startups
- Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) shall be a co-investor in the Fund of Funds
- The Fund of Funds shall contribute to a maximum of 50% of the stated daughter fund size. In order to be able to receive the contribution, the daughter fund should have already raised the balance 50% or more of the stated fund size as the case maybe. The Fund of Funds shall have representation on the governance structure/ board of the venture fund based on the contribution made.
- The Fund shall ensure support to a broad mix of sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, health, education, etc.
Credit Guarantee Fund for Startups
To catalyze entrepreneurship by providing credit to innovators across all sections of society
In order to overcome traditional Indian stigma associated with failure of Startup enterprises in general and to encourage experimentation among Startup entrepreneurs through disruptive business models, credit guarantee comfort would help flow of Venture Debt from the formal Banking System.
Debt funding to Startups is also perceived as high risk area and to encourage Banks and other Lenders to provide Venture Debts to Startups, Credit guarantee mechanism through National Credit Guarantee Trust Company (NCGTC)/ SIDBI is being envisaged with a budgetary Corpus of INR 500 crore per year for the next four years.
Tax Exemption on Capital Gains
To promote investments into Startups by mobilizing the capital gains arising from sale of capital assets
Due to their high risk nature, Startups are not able to attract investment in their initial stage. It is therefore important that suitable incentives are provided to investors for investing in the Startup ecosystem. With this objective, exemption shall be given to persons who have capital gains during the year, if they have invested such capital gains in the Fund of Funds recognized by the Government.
This will augment the funds available to various VCs/AIFs for investment in Startups.
In addition, existing capital gain tax exemption for investment in newly formed manufacturing MSMEs by individuals shall be extended to all Startups. Currently, such an entity needs to purchase “new assests” with the capital gain received to avail such an exemption. Investment in ‘computer or computer software’ (as used in core business activity) shall also be considered as purchase of ‘new assets’ in order to promote technology driven Startups.
Tax Exemption to Startups for 3 Years
To promote the growth of Startups and address working capital requirements
Innovation is the essence of every Startup. Young minds kindle new ideas every day to think beyond conventional strategies of the existing corporate world.
During the initial years, budding entrepreneurs struggle to evaluate the feasibility of their business idea. Significant capital investment is made in embracing ever-changing technology, fighting rising competition and navigating through the unique challenges arising from their venture. Also, there are limited alternative sources of finance available to the small and growing entrepreneurs, leading to constrained cash funds.
With a view to stimulate the development of Startups in India and provide them a competitive platform, it is imperative that the profits of Startup initiatives are exempted from income-tax for a period of 3 years. This fiscal exemption shall facilitate growth of business and meet the working capital requirements during the initial years of operations. The exemption shall be available subject to non-distribution of dividend by the Startup.
Tax Exemption on Investments above Fair Market value
To encourage seed-capital investment in Startups
Under The Income Tax Act, 1961, where a Startup (company) receives any consideration for issue of shares which exceeds the Fair Market Value (FMV) of such shares, such excess consideration is taxable in the hands of recipient as Income from Other Sources.
In the context of Startups, where the idea is at a conceptualization or development stage, it is often difficult to determine the FMV of such shares. In majority of the cases, FMV is also significantly lower than the value at which the capital investment is made. This results into the tax being levied under section 56(2) (viib).
Currently, investment by venture capital funds in Startups is exempted from operations of this provision. The same shall be extended to investment made by incubators in the Startups.
Organizing Startup Fests for Showcasing Innovation and Providing a Collaboration Platform
To galvanize the Startup ecosystem and to provide national and international visibility to the Startup ecosystem in India
A pivotal component for growth of Startups is regular communication and collaboration within the Startup community, both national as well international. An effective Startup ecosystem can’t be created by the Startups alone. It is dependent on active participation of academia, investors, industry and other stakeholders.
To bolster the Startup ecosystem in India, the Government is proposing to introduce Startup fests at national and international stages.
These fests would provide a platform to Startups in India to showcase their ideas and work with a larger audience comprising of potential investors, mentors and fellow Startups.
As part of “Make in India” initiative, Government proposes to:
- Hold one fest at the national level annually to enable all the stakeholders of Startup ecosystem to come together on one platform.
- Hold one fest at the international level annually in an international city known for its Startup ecosystem.
The fests shall have activities such as sessions to connect with investors, mentors, incubators and Startups, showcasing innovations, exhibitions and product launches, pitches by Startups, mentoring sessions, curated Startup walks, talks by disruptive innovators, competitions such as Hackathon, Makerspace, etc., announcements of rewards and recognitions, panels and conferences with industry leaders, etc.
Launch of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) with Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) Program
To serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Startup businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas
The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) shall have two core functions:
Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU), wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs
- Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated The main components proposed to be undertaken as part of the mission include: Entrepreneurship promotion:
- Establishment of sector specific Incubators including in PPP mode
- Establishment of 500 Tinkering Labs
- Pre-incubation training to potential entrepreneurs in various technology areas in collaboration with various academic institutions having expertise in the field
- Strengthening of incubation facilities in existing incubators and mentoring of Startups
- Seed funding to potentially successful and high growth Startups Innovation promotion:
- Institution of Innovation Awards (3 per state/UT) and 3 National level awards
- Providing support to State Innovation Councils for awareness creation and organizing state level workshops/conferences
- Launch of Grand Innovation Challenge Awards for finding ultra-low cost solutions to India’s pressing and intractable problems