Is Pandemic the Right Time To Start a Business? While some sectors had to re-design themselves, the relevance has grown multifold for others
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The past few months have been extremely unprecedented for individuals and businesses alike. While there have been few unfavourable situations, the current pandemic has also opened newer avenues in many segments. This positive drive has been influenced by many supportive changes. The increased use of Internet platforms, advanced technology adoption and changes in ease of doing business has created an atmosphere that can be viewed as the right time to start a business.
While some sectors had to re-design themselves, the relevance has grown multifold for others. Let's take a look at some of the promising sectors where you can make your entrepreneurial journey a reality.
Ed-tech and digital learning: COVID-19 has pushed the education, learning and skill training sector to digital mediums, fast tracking the adoption of technology by two decades. Today this is one of the most rewarding sectors to be in. Whether it is learning management systems, assessment tools, learner engagement platforms; ed-tech has created conventional and non-conventional opportunities. The new education policy that was announced recently will also fuel the growth of the sector as it has paved the way for massive digitization in the learning space.
Health-care/diagnostic/pharma sector: In last few months, India has witnessed 8 million-plus COVID cases (and still counting) creating an increasing demand for these services. Many companies are coming to the forefront with innovative ideas to address the current situation, especially by leveraging technology. Currently there are 4,500-plus health tech start-ups in India and with the current potential a 21-22 per cent growth is expected in this segment. This growth is also driven by the initiatives taken by states like Punjab, Telangana and Karnataka wherein the government has increased their expenditure share by 5.5 per cent, this would enable companies in the sector positively.
Voice, data and entertainment services: Social distancing and disruption in travel has led to increased dependence on mobile data, broadband data and fibernet WI-FI. Right from students to teachers to corporates, everyone has become dependent on these services. Additionally the way we consume entertainment has also changed. There is a flux of activities on OTTs. These together make this a promising segment for new business avenues.
Compliance firms: Due to COVID -19, multiple regulatory changes have happened in the ecosystem. There has also been major reverse migration in states like UP, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, MP and Rajasthan where these states have re-looked at labour policies to benefit all. State like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, etc., have increased the applicable headcount under Factories Act, 1947, Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 & Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and simplified the business setups for new start-ups and existing companies. They have relaxed the applicability under various labour laws and thereby reduced the burden of registration and procedural compliance. States like Karnataka and Goa introduced the "fixed term contract employment" under Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 to encourage direct employment through a contract for a fixed period. The fixed term contract employment will reduce the third-party involvement for hiring a contract employee. Now in this context, companies will have to understand the changes well and implement them quickly. Thus the need for third-party compliance has increased.
Essential services: Groceries, fruits, vegetables, milk, water, dairy products, oil and gas, food processing, pharmacy, hospitals, banks, manufacturing of health products and medicines, Telecommunication, media, transportation for essential services have witnessed better traction from the market. E-commerce has become the go-to market not only for customers, even businesses positively impacting business in this sector. We can see that these segments show optimism for new businesses to start.
The above may be the sector in a nutshell, but what has significantly changed is the ecosystem. Let us closely look at two crucial elements what has transformed the environment and made starting business a good move:
Labour compliance: Factories Act applicability increased from 10 to 20 for most of the states encouraging the new ventures to start the business. The Contract Labour Act applicability increase from 20 to 50 gives relaxation to companies and the vendors from obtaining registration and licence under the Act. It also relaxes the required compliances related to the CLRA Act. Industrial Disputes Act increased the applicability of Chapter V-B under Section 25K is changed from 100 to 300 for many states which in turn will relax the procedures and compensation for lay-off and retrenchment of employees.
Ease of doing business: Most of the states during this pandemic introduced the simplified process especially in labour laws. Many states introduced the automation on registration and renewal of the registration process. Few states digitized and allowed the register and records maintenance in digital mode (soft copy). States such as Telangana introduced the computerized risk assessment-based inspections with random allocation of inspecting officers to facilitate ease of doing business. They also re-looked at the timeline for inspection from once in a two years to five years based on the risk level. Karnataka planning to implement the computerized inspection and simplified registration and renewal process.
Throughout history, terrible events have led to great transformations. The bubonic plague of the 1,300s led to the modern employment contract. Cholera epidemics of the mid-1800s gave us urban parks and radically improved infrastructure. The 1918 Spanish Flu revolutionized healthcare. Thus, COVID-19 will also how businesses operate and how we work, bring new businesses/services to the front, and digitize all industries ahead by two decades.