Revised GST Rates – with effect from 25 January 2018

The 25th GST Council was held on 18 January 2018, and the rates of 29 goods and 53 services were reduced to lower tax slabs. These revised rates came into effect on 25 January. Other highlights of the panel included the decision to divide between the Centre and State, collections worth ₹35,000 crores from the Integrated Goods and Services Tax. The proposal to bring petroleum and diesel products under the ambit of GST is likely to be considered in the next meeting.

Here are the key goods and services that have been lowered or raised into new GST slabs.  

Good/Service Present GST Rates Revised GST Rates
Diamonds & precious stones 3% 0.25%
Articles of straw, esparto or other plaiting materials, Velvet fabric 12% 5%
LPG supplied to household domestic consumers, Raw materials and consumables needed for launch vehicles, satellites and payloads, Tamarind kernel powder, Mehendi paste in cones, Tailoring services, Transportation of petroleum crude and petroleum products, job-work services for manufacture of leather goods and footwear 18% 5%
Sugar boiled confectionery, Drinking water packed in 20 litre bottles, Biodiesel, Drip irrigation system including laterals & sprinklers, Mechanical sprayer, Fertilizer grade Phosphoric acid, Bamboo wood building joinery, Transportation of petroleum crude and petroleum products with ITC credit, Metro and monorail projects, Common effluent treatment plants services for treatment of effluents, Mining or exploration services of petroleum crude and natural gas and for drilling services in respect of the said goods 18% 12%
Old and used motor vehicles(other than medium & large cars and SUVs) with a condition than no ITC is availed 28% 12%
Old and used motor vehicles [medium and large cars and SUVs] with a condition that No ITC is availed, Public transport buses that run on biofuel, Services by way of admission to theme parks, water parks, joy rides, merry-go-rounds, go-karting and ballet 28% 18%
Small housekeeping service providers, notified under section 9 (5) of GST Act, who provide housekeeping service through ECO,  without availing ITC nil 5%
Actionable claim in the form of chance to win in betting and gambling including horse racing nil 28%
Rice bran(other than de-oiled rice bran) 0% 5%
Cigarette filter rods 12% 18%

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Practical Implications of Asset Allocation

Asset allocation, despite its importance in portfolio management, is perhaps the last thing on the mind of the novice investor. Before regaling the virtues of asset allocation, a layman’s definition of asset allocation is perhaps warranted, so here goes: asset allocation is a process by which an investor aims to enhance the risk-reward ratio of a portfolio of risky assets. It is important to stress upon two things here: (1) asset allocation is not a one-time exercise, it is an ongoing process; and (2) the use of multiple asset classes to convert a portfolio of risky assets into a benign money-making machine.

Equipped with a basic understanding of the theory behind asset allocation what is stopping the novice investor from going ahead and enhancing portfolio returns? The reason is that the effect of asset of allocation rests largely on finding asset classes whose returns are uncorrelated with one another – the lower the correlation, the better. For instance, it is popular belief that gold is a hedge against inflation i.e. gold prices and inflation rates move in tandem. Therefore, what one loses in purchasing power is compensated by an increase in gold prices. This, however, is a long term phenomenon i.e. one may witness large deviations in the short term.

The key to benefiting from asset allocation, therefore, is to periodically tweak the portfolio for changes in correlations between asset classes and include new ones with the overall objective of enhancing the risk-reward ratio of a given portfolio. Although this may seem like too onerous a task, the novice investor need not worry. A certain level of diversification via asset allocation can be achieved by following the below steps:

  1. Ascertain whether you have surplus money to invest – a simple equation of income less expenses. The figure you ascertain will comprise your overall pie available for asset allocation.
  2. Understand your needs as defined by three key parameters viz. risk appetite, return requirements and time constraints. Your needs are a function of your age, marital status, number of dependants etc.
  3. Identify avenues to invest in the broadest categories of asset classes viz. equity, debt, commodities, real estate and alternative asset classes.
  4. Steps 2 and 3 will require a bit of periodic back and forth because the asset class(es) you choose will depend on your needs. E.g. someone with a higher risk appetite may have a higher percentage of equities in the pie than someone with a lower risk appetite. The latter investor may lean towards debt investments.

In summary, the age-old adage of not putting all of one’s eggs in one’s basket applies here. A systematic approach to asset allocation with disciplined and timely execution can ensure that investors, novice and otherwise, hold well-constructed portfolios and therefore benefit from asset allocation.

Vinay Basavaraj

Vinay boasts of a decade of experience working in both large and small organizations. His roles have ranged from sales to operations and even a stint in academia. He currently manages affairs in capital markets in Capital Float.

Oct 24, 2018

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5 Common SME Financing Mistakes To Avoid

The SME (small and medium enterprises) sector is an important contributor to India’s economic growth. Even though their product or service may add great value for certain people, many SMEs face challenges. This is mostly because of the lack of research and planning by the business owners about the potential opportunities and risks of the particular niche in which these units operate. Many-a-times such businesses fail to make accurate assessments of their working capital requirements and, even when they do, cannot find ways to finance them.

Some common financing mistakes made by SMEs relate to whether or not to borrow, estimating the correct amount of SME business loan required, checking the full financing cost, the time wasted on getting a loan approved and the opportunity costs.

SME Financing Options and Some Common Mistakes

The Government and the private sector have taken several initiatives to increase availability of small business loans to SMEs in India. Despite the improved availability of SME finance, many units are still struggle with easy access to finance. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness of new-age, innovative financing solutions that are offered by FinTech lenders like Capital Float.

Here are the five most common financing mistakes made by SMEs:

1. Lack of Planning: One of the gravest shortcomings of smaller businesses is the inability to plan for the longer term. Business owners tend to get so involved with daily operations, troubleshooting and trying to complete orders that they fail to step back and look at the bigger picture. In the absence of a business plan, many SMEs do not foresee the amount of cash they would require to grow and expand. They suddenly find themselves in a severe cash crunch, unable to meet their working capital needs.

A sound business plan is essential for approaching a bank for a loan. Moreover, the ability to project a cash crunch or the funds needed to grow would allow SMEs to approach banks in time, since traditional lending institutions may take months before sanctioning the loan. This is where FinTech lenders have eased the situation. By deploying cutting-edge technology, Capital Float can ensure loan approval within hours. The use of powerful algorisms helps determine the prospects of a business, easing the process of loan approval. In fact, such lenders do not require a formal business plan for sanctioning SME finance.

2.Wrong Estimation of Funds Required: Most business owners feel anxious about overestimating their loan requirement and having to pay interest on excess funds. This makes them lean towards underestimating their costs. Thus, even when a loan is disbursed, these businesses are left wanting for more. Of course, the overestimation of the loan requirement hits the bottom-line.

What such businesses need is Capital Float’s Pay Later Finance product, which offers a Predetermined credit amount. While a credit amount is determined, based on the prospects of the business, the SME has the flexibility to transfer only as much funds, as it currently needs. Repayments can be made as the business generates money, and the repayment restores the credit amount, making funds available for future requirements.

3.Hidden Charges: Several lenders burden SMEs with hidden fees. These charges may be exorbitant and the business owner may not even know when they are levied. At Capital Float, perfect transparency is maintained, with no hidden charges. In fact, unlike most traditional banking institutions that impose a fee for the early repayment of a loan, there are no prepayment charges at Capital Float.

4.Choosing the Wrong SME Finance Product: Most SMEs turn toward unorganized moneylenders or traditional banking institutions to borrow money. These loans are not tailored to the specific needs of the SMEs. New-age lenders like Capital Float offer various SME business loans that have been designed keeping in mind the needs, business model and ability to repay of different businesses.

5.Trying to Arrange Collateral: SMEs sometimes put too much at stake to get a loan or do not borrow money in the absence of collateral. Capital Float offers small business loans in India without the requirement for collateral. One can also opt for a Merchant Cash Advance, which converts accounts receivables of a business to quick and usable funds.

Apart from these common mistakes made by small businesses, the timing of the loan approval and receipt of funds plays a critical role in the success of SMEs. Any delay in arranging the necessary funds can prove catastrophic for a business. This is mainly because SMEs often do not have sufficient negotiating power with their suppliers. They need to make payments for raw materials long before they can raise an invoice to their customers.

The rapid evolution of technology to address SME finance needs have revolutionized the lending space. The objective of FinTech lenders is to eliminate the liquidity issues faced by the SME sector by ensuring the quick approval and disbursal of the loan amount, while also making it easier for these smaller businesses to repay the loan. However, to make use of these advantages, SMEs need to be made aware of such options.

Oct 24, 2018

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Capital Float: Banker For Small Businesses – Livemint

Written by Shrutika Verma

Sandeep Bindra, the New Delhi-based e-commerce merchant who runs Pathways Marketing and Consulting Pvt. Ltd is the official distributor of consumer electronics brands such as Havells, Godrej, Usha and Symphony coolers for large e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart.com, Snapdeal.com and Amazon.in. Two months ago, Bindra ran out of money raised from family and friends and his pleas for debt for his two-year-old company were not entertained by any bank. “They (banks) ignored us as they do not consider companies that are less than three years old,” said Bindra. With the festival season round the corner, he needed immediate cash to sustain the fast-growing sales online. That is when Bengaluru-based start-up Capital Float came to his rescue.

Founded by Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja, alumni of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Capital Float is a new-age lending solution that operates online and offers unsecured loans to start-ups, manufacturers and e-commerce merchants such as Bindra. Set up in 2013, the company has already lent to more than 70 borrowers and has disbursed over Rs.20 crore. Run by Zen Lefin Pvt. Ltd, Capital Float is modelled after Atlanta-based Kabbage, which recently raised $50 million from Japan’s SoftBank.

Hinduja, born and brought up in Bengaluru, initially joined his family’s garments business under Gokaldas Exports that was sold to private equity firm Blackstone in 2008-09. He later studied business management at Stanford where he met Rishyasringa. Rishyasringa, 30 looks after finance, business and product development while Hinduja, 32, handles sales and operations. Since inception, the company has grown rapidly and has attracted a total funding of close to Rs.24 crore from SAIF Partners and George Soros’s Aspada Investment. The start-up is drawing the attention of investors and small businesses as it offers fast, affordable and flexible working capital loans, an alternative to traditional lending institutions such as banks, chit funds and local money lenders.

Currently, it lends money to companies that are more than a year old. The amount of fund offered is between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.1 crore. Interest charged on the loan varies and is in line with banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). Bindra, for instance, borrowed a sum of Rs.20 lakh at an interest rate of 18.5%.

Unlike traditional banks, Capital Float lends money to small businesses that might not have collateral, significant revenues or years of experience. But the company does not disburse loans blindly. It employs unorthodox techniques, including psychometric tests to run checks on its clients, gauages their social media reputation, and grills them on business decisions and entrepreneurial skills before lending.

According to Bindra, companies such as Capital Float take away the human element from the process of money lending and make it more data-driven with an algorithmic approach to evaluating whether the business can stand on its feet or not. “In India, a lot of access to finance is based on who you know and how good is your relationship with the branch manager of a bank,” says Bindra.

Agrees Mridul Arora, vice-president at SAIF Partners, “Lending is currently dominated by banks. However, the SME (small and medium enterprises) space is underpenetrated and given the demand perspective, a company like Capital Float has a huge potential.” Arora says online lending business makes economic sense too and counts Capital Float’s access to proprietary data from e-commerce companies as one of its strength.

Rishyasringa says the company started focusing on e-commerce as the sector was buzzing and banks failed to see the opportunity. Today, there are several thousand manufacturers who either sell directly to e-commerce portals or they sell on marketplaces. Capital Float tied up with Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra to meet their vendors and understand their requirements. Soon, the company realized that these small businesses were unable to grow because of working capital challenges. Today, Capital Float works with most e-commerce marketplaces and is also a part of Snapdeal’s Capital Assist, a service to provide capital assistance to small sellers.

“When we started digging into entrepreneur finance in India, the scale of the problem was staggering. Today, there is about $140 billion of formal debt provided to SMEs by banks and NBFCs but the unmet need is another $200 billion,” says Rishyasringa, who worked with consulting firms in India and in New York in the financial services and technology space before founding Capital Float

Rishyasringa calls it the “missing middle problem” that he and his partner are trying to solve in the country. “If you are a large or a mid-size corporate, banks will line up outside your door. If you are a rural farmer or artisan, the MFIs will queue up to lend you, but if you are in this missing middleRs.50 lakh to Rs.20 crore turnover range, then there are not many options available,” he explains.

Today, India has more than 30 million registered SMEs and about 35% of these are ineligible to receive any financing from banks or NBFCs. “They look at your financial statement and bank statement but there is lot more which can make these companies underwritable,” says Hinduja.

The idea to start Capital Float struck the duo during their second year at Stanford after brainstorming sessions with their professor and mentor Baba Shiv. “Nearly 10 ideas were shot down before Capital Float was conceptualized,” said Shiv, a director at the Strategic Marketing Management Executive Program at Stanford and an adviser on the board of several companies, including Capital Float. Shiv recalls how the two friends were close to developing something in the taxi services space when they discovered firms operating similar businesses.

The company today takes seven to ten days to approve a loan, which it hopes to bring down to three to five days soon. Companies such as Kabbage take only seven minutes to approve a loan in the US. However, Hinduja does not believe that a company in India can get there because of the risk involved and the lack of data available around a start-up or an entrepreneur.

To be sure, Capital Float is not the only firm in this business. It faces competition, albeit from smaller companies, such as Capital First, NeoGrowth Credit Pvt. Ltd and SMEcorner.in. A lean operation, Capital Float employees 30 people.

The company’s progress is hardly a surprise given the teamwork and similar passions of its founders. For a start, both swear by Jeff Bezos’s biography The Everything Storeas a life changing book. “We can relate to the book at professional and personal levels,” they say. Both want to get into politics at some point. “We want to solve the policy issues and see ourselves in some policymaking roles. We left the (Silicon) Valley and came to India to solve some of the problems people here face,” says Rishyasringa.

Between table tennis matches at their Bellary Road office in Bengaluru, the founders plan to make Capital Float similar to OnDeck Capital (scheduled to go public this month) or the San Francisco-based Lending Club which is all set to raise about $900 million in its initial public offering. The company is scheduled to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

These companies not just provide short-term financing but also offer a lending platform to introduce investors and institutions to the ones raising money. “Right now, we are trying to prove to the market that we know how to lend money and we know where our mouth is but we are very quickly starting to convert ourselves into a platform and the pilots have already begun,” said Hinduja.

The question is, how long can the online money lending companies avoid competition from banks? “We are now competing with some of the banks that have realized that e-commerce is becoming an area where they need to get expertise,” says Hinduja.

Among established banks that recognize the trend are Yes Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd. Both lenders did not comment for the story.

“Companies like Capital Float will not be able to compete with banks at the pricing level whenever they jump into the game. But if these companies execute better and faster they can create a platform to work with banks,” says SAIF’s Arora.

News piece sourced from Livemint. Read the full piece here.

Oct 24, 2018