Mr Sumit Agarwal Founder Cap Mantra Wealth Consultants Pvt Ltd on his expectations from Union Budget 2020


The way I see random people, who probably may fail to spell word ‘economics’, throwing the words like slowdown in GDP, economic crisis etc. I remember the quote by famous statistician, risk and probability expert and author of Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Skin in The Game and many more Mr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  


He says, “It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than be alone in the right one. Those who have followed the assertive idiot rather than introspective wise person have passed us some of their genes. This is apparent from a social pathology: psychopaths rally followers”. 


A friend of mine suggested to read the business journey of an Indian business giant involved in consumer electronics to DTH to petroleum and energy business. To my surprise, this company acquired 15 companies in 20 years time and changed the structure of organization 30 times without showing sustainability and positive cash flow without manipulating the operations in any of the business. It financed the business by borrowing funds from commercial banks and invested in the business of energy and natural resources which are highly capital intensive and requires investment for decades. For their consumer electronics items, if news from leading newspapers is to be believed, then it suggests that credit tap for distribution channel partners never dried up. When this business house filed bankruptcy, shamelessly its owners blamed the demonetization. A clear cut case of crony capitalism cried victim when asked to straighten up. And this is not the isolated case.  


I talked to Mr. Sumit Agarwal, Equity and Derivative Strategy expert and Founder of Cap Matra Wealth Consultants Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, who, for last fifteen years has been having his finger on the pulse of Stock Exchanges in general and Indian stock and commodity exchanges in particular. 


Though my focus was to know his demand from Finance Minister in this upcoming budget, but I stretched the scope a bit tried to have his opinion on what is going right or wrong with the economy and what are his expectations from the budget. 


Sumit Agarwal: Let us retrace few of the many steps taken by present government in the recent past.


Government has been raging battle to bring in transparency to clear this NPA mess created mostly between 2008-13. Now at least it is clear that which bank is carrying how much toxic and non-performing asset in their balance sheet and efforts are being made at feverish speed to clean that up. Close to Rs.90,000 Crore NPA was cleaned between 2018-19. Though it is still standing at around Rs.8 Lakh Crore, but government’s effort is visible on ground. Even small borrowers are being asked to pay up their long due loans. I can’t tell you the formula of payment being recovered from them, but I assume that they are being asked to pay up the actual loan plus some cost, but they are being asked to pay. 


Second action which is commendable is streamlining NBFC finance. It was faulty from the beginning itself. NBFCs used to raise finance from commercial banks and mutual funds using short term loans or selling short term commercial papers for a period of six months and then giving home and car loans to consumers for period ranging between five to twenty years was not making commercial or legal sense, it required continuous refill of money and it made absolutely no business or legal sense. Since it was bringing in growth in retail consumption of consumer durables and other sectors, everyone was riding along. But this bubble had to burst and it did burst with IL&FS. Now NBFCs are finding it tough to raise money and it is reflecting in consumer market behaviour. 


Along with RERA, another decision which is proving be great in “Insolvency and Bankruptcy Act”, which is forcing crony capitalists pay up. As far as RERA is concerned, it is definitely a much needed step by the government. We can’t forget implementation of GST here which was again need of the hour to bring uniformity in taxation and increase the ease of doing business.  


Though above mention steps have slowed down the economy due to implementation woes, but you will agree with me that you can’t live with cancer for too long and when it is operated, it will slow down your speed drastically till you fully recover.


So, coming back to second part of your question about what should be done to bring economy back on the high growth trajectory, which is required to make India a $ 5 Trillion economy by 2025, I think government needs to take many steps but I will list out my preferences here. 


First and foremost, government must do everything what it takes to increase private investment in SME and MSME sector. This sector is under tremendous stress. It was unorganized, mostly driven by cash economy; GST and demonetization proved too much for it. Where the line of good or bad gets blurred is the fact that SME and MSME sector drives India’s growth story and provides maximum employment. So, while GST and demonetisation were much needed step, they brought in the separate set of challenges. India’s import from China is somewhere around $ 60 Billion and most of them replace items being manufactured by these SMEs and MSMEs. For a country like India and the nature of economy it has, it can’t continue to have this huge import bill and nature of import from any country. 


Not only that, government must take the responsibility of technology and marketing communication of products manufactured by this sector. Not many of them can pick up the art of communicating features and benefits of their products. Government needs to do it in domestic as well as international market. Government must go out and tell everyone that why products manufactured by our own SMEs needs to be purchased. We all know how Chinese business operates. We need to pump up our business if not protect them.


Next step which government needs to take is ensuring smooth coordination between the center and states. I am very well aware that India is federation of states and state has autonomy in certain aspects of their existence and may have interest different than the nation, but government will have to ensure that.  


You know that market few years back was unstructured, but with the entry of big technology and online retail companies, price discovery of each and every item has become much easier than it ever was. With smart phones in every hand, it is reaching in every nook and corner. Technology is making the market structured and with this, market is losing the incentive unstructured, unorganized market offers, because consumers are at ill to know what could be the actual or standard price. So, if lack of coordination between center and state government will only complicate the matter for the business. While consumers will know at what price they should buy the product, friction between state and central government will increase the cost for manufactures, making entry of foreign players easy and thus circumventing the growth or even existential prospects of domestic companies. Individual small players can’t keep running and coordinating between state and central government. 


GST, despite all its benefits has become a big challenge for micro and small business units. What we have seen is this government is very poor at communication of acts passed in the parliament and schemes launched in the budget or otherwise. There are enough people who are supposed to help these micro and small business units to understand and help with taxations indulge them more into scaremongering. What I expect from the government is continuous training and information dissemination till this entire GST thing is streamlined and drilled down in every possible and prospective businessperson’s mind. Tax filing should be made as simple as possible. 


Stock market is the indicator of economy; health of economy reflects here. From January 2018, Small Cap Index is down 40% and Mid Cap index is down 22% and clearly indicates that Indian economy is under slowdown. My expectation from the government is increase the slab of no income tax from Rs.2.5 Lakh to at least Rs.5 Lakh. It will put more money in the hand of consumers and help boosting the consumption. 


Second point is government should rethink its position on Long Term Capital Gain Tax and Dividend Tax. Dividend tax is clear cut case of double taxation, though may be unintended but is negative element of tax legislation. Long term capital gain tax is holding back individuals from staying invested in capital assets like real asset or holding stocks for longer period. This way, government is stopping companies from raising long term fund and if companies find raising long term capital unattractive or difficult or costly, then how will they fund their capital expenditure. 


Last but not the least, I want government to check what it is the outcome of its expenditure on agriculture. I know agriculture is tricky subject to touch but at least there should be some calculation on how much is being spent on agriculture, starting from the input to irrigation to output to infrastructure building to food processing and what is the productivity of this spending. I don’t think government can in anyway reduce spending on agriculture, but it can definitely know the outcome of spending. Further, I would also request government to make all possible effort to stop the leakages in different welfare schemes and subsidies doled out to the people of this country. 


You may also like to read Mr Sanjay Kumar Thakur Chief Data Officer Saudi Investment Bank of his expectation from Union Budget

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gaurav bahl
Insightful points covered under the discussion. The IT Slab point is quite imperative seeing the current state of the economy.
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