Rama Krishna Sangem
“Agriculture startups should be given a one-time grant in this union budget for 2023-24, which will be presented in the Parliament on February 1,” said e-Fresh Agri Solutions Private Limited founder chairman and CEO Srihari Kotela. He urged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to consider a slew of measures to support agri-tech start ups so that the overall farm sector would be strengthened. His e-Fresh is an agri-tech startup.
Talking to Excel India at his Banjara Hills, Hyderabad office on January 27, Friday, Srihari Kotela a chartered accountant felt that all agri startups should be given a tax holiday for a period of five years from the date of they turn profitable. “Presently, the Centre gives three year tax holiday from the inception of a startup, but they barely make any profits in the first three years, so that sop is of no use,” said Kotela.
Srihari Kotela’s suggestion for sops to agri-startups comes at a time when the G-20 countries are holding a two day meeting in Hyderabad on January 28 and 29 on strengthening startups. G-20 Sherpa and former CEO of Niti Aayog Amitabh Kant is coordinating the meeting. Representatives of G-20 countries and 9 other observer nations are joining the meetings.
Srihari Kotela thinks that each of agri-tech startup can be provided a one- time grant of up to Rs 1 crore for a year, so that these startups can sustain and emerge stronger to serve the community. If providing this helpline is not possible for all agri-startups, at least those which offer 360 degrees support to agriculture sector should be given priority. Only 5-10 per cent of the total agri-startups offer this 360 degrees support.
The 360 degrees coverage means, a startup offers a variety of serves to farmers or FPOs (Farm Producer Organisations) – right from supply and advice on inputs to accounting, compliance services to crop production related technologies and marketing linkages for their output, explained Srihari Kotela. This means a one-stop shop for all requirements of FPOs or farmers.
Reduce burden of compliance
Srihari Kotela made a fervent appeal to FM Nirmala Sitharman to lessen the burden of compliance under both Income Tax Act and Companies Acts. “At present, we (agri-tech startups) are submitting several documents to the authorities under these two laws. This is taking away most of our time and energies. I request the Finance Minister to consider this to a bare minimum documents, one or two at the most,” said Srihari Kotela.
Strengthening of agri-tech startups is important to India at a time when PM Modi is determined to double the incomes of farmers. The PM is also showing interest to make India a global export hub for farm produces. As India signing FTA (Free Trade Agreements) with many countries, it is essential to modernise farm sector. Agri-tech startup will play a bigger role in this direction, said Srihari Kotela.