As India awaits the unveiling of the interim Union Budget 2024, the healthcare, wellness, and pharmaceutical sectors express optimistic expectations for a transformative fiscal policy.
Here’s a breakdown of their perspectives:
Jaideep Tiwari, Founder & CEO, Bramhansh Technologies
As we approach Budget 2024, the MedTech industry eagerly anticipates a progressive fiscal policy that propels innovation, elevates patient care, and strengthens healthcare foundations. The synergy of technology and healthcare underscores the government’s role in nurturing MedTech startups for shaping the future of healthcare.
Innovation is at the core of the MedTech sector, and a budget allocating resources for research and development incentives, fostering industry-academic collaboration, and supporting emerging technologies will propel the sector forward. Strategic initiatives promoting digital health infrastructure, including telemedicine, interoperability, and data security, are crucial for enhancing patient care and overall healthcare system efficiency.
The MedTech startup community seeks a budget recognizing the importance of a regulatory framework that fosters innovation while ensuring patient safety, advocating for a streamlined approval process to bring life-changing technologies to market more efficiently. The expectations are high for Budget 2024 to acknowledge and support the transformative role of MedTech in advancing healthcare outcomes and economic growth.
Dr. Sri Ganesh, Chairman & Managing Director, Nethradhama Super Speciality Eye Hospital, Bangalore
A central policy to make advanced surgical technologies accessible to common people will go a long way in the enhancement of the healthcare sector, especially in eye care. This shall majorly include two aspects, one is the inclusion of advanced surgical technologies in health insurance, which will help in extending the benefits of cutting-edge technology to more patients.
There has been progress in that as few insurance companies have started fully or partially covering advanced surgical modalities in their plans. However, it is essential to include this in all insurance policies, including Govt. insurance schemes.
The second is the exemption or reduction in customs duty for surgical equipment and consumables.
Previously, there was no customs duty on sight-saving equipment, but this was revoked a few years ago. We have 9 million blind people in India, which is the largest in the world. Most of these are reversible blindness caused by cataracts. Most of the equipment we use for such surgeries is imported and expensive.
For every eye surgery, we have to use consumables, but for that also we need to pay customs duty, which makes it quite expensive. The surgeon’s charges are the lowest in India, but the high cost and customs duty for the technology and consumables make the surgery expensive. Hence, we are requesting the government to make sight-saving equipment and consumables exempted from customs duty, which will make these surgeries affordable and accessible for more people.
Dr. Azad Moopen, Chairman of Aster DM Healthcare
In the last Union Budget, the overall impetus for the healthcare delivery sector was missing. We are hoping that this will get addressed in the upcoming Union Budget with an increase in budget allocation to a minimum of 5% of the GDP which is essential to fulfill the need gaps.
Expanding Healthcare Access
There is a need to have more hospitals and healthcare facilities in rural and suburban areas to meet the rising demand given that Ayushman Bharat is aiming to make affordable healthcare accessible for 500 million people. Hope the government will put more focus on public-private partnerships (PPP) to address this, and also permit 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in both Health Insurance and Retail Pharmacy sectors.
Medical Education and Research Reform
While the last budget announced the establishment of nursing colleges alongside medical colleges, there is an urgent need for comprehensive reform of medical education to ensure that the medical professionals of tomorrow are aligned with contemporary healthcare needs. This brings forth the need to develop medical colleges, nursing colleges, and paramedical colleges in all the 500 district hospitals in the country.
The healthcare sector is evolving rapidly, and this has been fast-tracked by the pandemic and there is a significant need for the professionals of tomorrow to learn and develop as per this evolution. The revamp will also require significant investments to integrate access to technology, more practical approaches, research and innovation-driven methods, and qualified professionals to help shape the best minds. A substantial allocation, including the setting up of a Central Medical Research and Innovation Institute in each state, would be a good start. Setting up a Central Digital Health and AI University will also help deploy technological innovation in healthcare to address challenges such as accessibility and equity along with healthcare costs. Additionally, there should be a specialized university catering to NRI students intending to return to India for academic pursuits.
We were also hoping for concessions for NRIs residing abroad like a reduction on TDS for those who have a source of income in India and are required to pay taxes in the country they reside in. Other considerations include affordable airline fares to SAARC and GCC countries to support the growing trade and business collaborations between the regions, along with the implementation of a health scheme for those returning to India for retirement, among other beneficial measures.
Dr. Harshit Jain, Founder & Global CEO, Doceree
In the last few years, the Government of India has taken significant steps to revamp the healthcare infrastructure, placing a strong emphasis on digital health records under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission.
We anticipate the government’s continued commitment to the initiative and look forward to a heightened focus on the robust implementation of this scheme in the upcoming fiscal year, fostering transparency in the healthcare ecosystem and accelerating advancements in treatment outcomes.
We also expect a forward-looking approach from the government, emphasizing allocating funds to enhance technology-powered innovative healthcare models tailored for India’s diverse population.
As a pioneer in the digital healthcare messaging industry, Doceree reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing steadfast support to the government and its initiative and stands ready to contribute to the ongoing journey to fortify the digitalization of the healthcare economy, leveraging its expertise to drive positive transformation and innovation in the sector.
Ms Pritika Singh, CEO At Prayag Hospitals Group
As the Chief Executive Officer of the Prayag Group of Hospitals, I see the upcoming budget as a pivotal opportunity for the government to strengthen the healthcare sector, especially in light of recent challenges. We expect a strategic emphasis on improving healthcare infrastructure, allocating resources for advanced medical technologies, and promoting research and development.
The government’s assistance, such as offering tax incentives for healthcare investments, implementing streamlined policies to boost public-private partnerships, and increasing budgetary allocations for medical education and training, would significantly enhance the overall healthcare environment.
Furthermore, giving priority to health insurance reforms and providing incentives for preventive healthcare measures could lead to a healthier population and alleviate the strain on the healthcare system.
In these unprecedented times, a collaborative effort between the government and private healthcare entities is imperative. We hope that the budget reflects a forward-thinking approach, aligns with industry expectations, and ultimately establishes a resilient healthcare framework for the nation.”
Naresh Ahuja, Founder, and CEO at SMS Scientific Products Pvt Ltd
Patient education is often overlooked but plays a crucial role in ensuring accurate information dissemination, particularly in today’s era dominated by the Internet and social media. The prevalence of misinformation circulating online poses a significant challenge, leading to confusion for both patients and caregivers.
There is an urgent need to prioritize patient education and awareness, facilitated by the development and implementation of tools and resources that enable seamless and precise communication between healthcare providers and patients during consultations. Recognizing the seriousness of this issue, we express our hope that the finance minister pays special attention to this critical aspect of budget considerations.
We advocate for GST relief on products and tools designed to enhance doctor-patient communication. Additionally, we propose offering incentives to pharmaceutical companies that incorporate these products and tools as part of their services to the medical industry. Such measures will not only enhance patient understanding but also contribute to the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.”
Susanta Kumar Ghosh, Scientific Advisor at Eco BioTraps and Former Scientist G at ICMR-National Institute of Malaria Research, Bengaluru
In the budget plan for 2023-24, a significant amount of 89,565 crores was allocated to the health sector. The National Health Mission (NHM) stands out as a crucial initiative within this budget, aiming to tackle both communicable and non-communicable diseases, thereby influencing health delivery substantially. An admirable allocation of 35,947 crores has been directed towards NHM, encompassing comprehensive programs for both rural and urban health.
Under the NHM framework, specific funds have been designated for the National Disease Control Programme, focusing on tuberculosis and vector-borne diseases. Notably, the National Centre for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC) primarily addresses six vector-borne diseases, including malaria, Filaria, Kala-azar, Japanese Encephalitis, dengue, and chikungunya. Other diseases like Zika, West Nile Virus, Scrub Typhus, Kyasanur Forest Disease, and Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever also fall under the purview of NCVBDC.
According to available resources, the annual budget of NCVBDC is estimated to be around 1400 to 1500 crores, with a dedicated budget of 1500 crores. NHM provides additional supportive funding of about 8 to 10%, resulting in a total budget ranging from 4200 to 4500 crores. Despite the significance of addressing vector-borne diseases, this sector only constitutes 10% of the NHM budget, amounting to 4000 crores.
This amount is considered insufficient, particularly when three diseases—malaria, filaria, and Kala-azar—are targeted for elimination by 2030. Noteworthy progress has been made in reducing malaria cases since 2015, with around 90% of cases concentrated in 8 tribal states
across 27 districts. Programs like the camp-based DASTAK initiative launched in Uttar Pradesh for effective Japanese Encephalitis control should be included with adequate funding.
Lymphatic Filariasis elimination is present in 272 endemic districts, warranting special funding for home-based morbidity case management. Additionally, special financial assistance is needed for patients with Lymphedema requiring integrative medicine. Currently, less than 1000 cases of Kala-azar are reported, and strict monitoring is essential to achieve the goal of eliminating mosquito-borne diseases. Ultimately, ‘Log Bhagidar’ remains the central focus for effective management of vector-borne diseases.”
Sachidanand Upadhyay, MD & CEO, Lord’s Mark Industries
We expect the government to continue with its focus on developing infrastructure facilities in the form of medical device parks so that the medical device industry becomes self-reliant.
Localization of the supply chain of medical devices and kit manufacturing will ensure better healthcare outcomes for the country in terms of availability and affordability. The budget needs to propose an allocation of resources to expand digital infrastructure and build R&D facilities to ensure superior healthcare delivery and interventions.
Anish Bafna, CEO & MD, Healthium Medtech
As India continues to enhance its position and seize the opportunity to become a global hub for the medtech sector, the industry is poised to witness continued expansion, growth, investment opportunities, and technological innovation during FY 2024-25.
For the sector to achieve economies of scale, a collaborative action plan involving public-private partnerships between the government, medical device companies, hospitals, manufacturers and suppliers, healthcare providers, and insurance players, continues to be the need of the hour. Conducive policies will back the industry, encourage the spur in local manufacturing, and allow new medical devices to reach patients faster, benefiting patients and healthcare providers.
As we gear up for the Union Budget of FY 2024-25, the industry will look forward collectively to a phased-out approach on custom duties, facilitation of single window clearances for local manufacturers, increase in export incentives under RoDTEP (Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products Scheme) along with broadening the scopes of schemes like PLI. A separate law provision and an inclusive regulatory framework, will enable faster access to innovation, keep up our relentless spirit of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and eventually help accelerate better clinical outcomes. The opportunity and vision for India as a medtech hub remain within our collective grasp; how successfully we will seize it will define the industry outlook and status.
P V Shyam Sunder, Director, Concept and Technology, at Evolv28
Our expectations focus is on strengthening healthcare infrastructure, to address the diverse healthcare needs of India. Streamlining GST policy for healthcare startups. Encouraging cutting-edge technology-focused healthcare frameworks for Patent and business continuity.
Given the increased focus on Mental wellness post-pandemic, with a primary emphasis on promoting mind wellness, the initiatives should facilitate access to capital to strengthen the healthcare ecosystem, and leverage technology to establish world-class healthcare systems. As health-tech startups, we anticipate that the 2024 Union Budget would foster an atmosphere conducive to digital healthcare innovation. Crucially, we argue for R&D innovation support, ease of Patenting, and incentives to elevate India’s reputation as a leading global R&D powerhouse.
Financial support for the integration of future technologies such as AI and telemedicine, as well as investments in digital infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data protection, are critical components aligned with the National Digital Health Mission’s aims. We advocate for the creation of innovative healthcare models that harness technology and skilled labor, to achieve cost-effectiveness and broad accessibility across income levels.
The industry advocates for favorable policy to address inflationary concerns, including measures such as lowering customs tariffs on raw materials, eliminating the additional 5% health cess, and enhancing export incentives under the RoDTEP system. Simplifying compliance burdens, application procedures, supervisory regimes, lending structures, assuring pricing transparency, and easing cross-border commerce will boost local manufacturing, and R&D, and address supply chain difficulties in the health-tech sector.
Dr. Meghna Mour, Aesthetic Dermatologist-Trichologist-Cosmetologist-Laser Specialist & Founder of Skuccii Supercliniq
Anticipating the upcoming budget, my vision for the aesthetic healthcare industry is to reign in growth, efficiency, and innovation. Cosmetic treatments are more than just for appearance, they are a gateway to enhance self-esteem and confidence. Realizing the consumer demand for aesthetic treatments, there is an inclination expected, and hence the focus should be on launching strategic initiatives promoting technological advancements, making cutting-edge treatments more accessible.
A considerate cut-off on GST and other taxes can enhance approachability and bring affordability to these treatments. Efforts through educational awareness on debunking myths and improving the safety and benefits of cosmetic procedures should be taken. Our policies and advanced technology ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the best beauty care. Let’s imagine and strive for a future where beauty health is not just a service, but an essential part of holistic health. We are pioneering this change in India.
Being a women entrepreneur, I aspire to a landscape of more investment in women-led businesses for a diversified and resilient business ecosystem. This should not only be seen as a push for women empowerment as it shall foster inclusivity and drive the economic growth of the country.’’
Deepak Pahwa, Director, Delair
With less than a fortnight left for the Budget, the pharma industry is hopeful of receiving some major boost from the government. Where India ranks 3rd globally in terms of pharmaceutical production by volume, we are expecting incentives and policies that will strengthen the export prospects of the country.
Therefore, to reinforce the pharmaceutical supremacy of the country across the globe, in the upcoming budget the government should allot over 2.5% of the pharmaceutical investment towards boosting the manufacturing capacity of the pharma products while ensuring that the products are of the highest quality.
The budget should be strategically allotted to promote innovation and tailoring manufacturing practices to meet the rising demand projected in the market while being at par with international standards. On similar lines, to further accelerate the growth of the pharma industry, the upcoming budget should incessantly focus on bolstering the R&D capability to strengthen the manufacturing landscape with the integration of cutting-edge technologies and highly efficient equipment.
Dr. Krishna Veer Singh, Co-Founder, Lissun
In the upcoming budget, we anticipate further emphasis on mental health support. The government has already acknowledged its importance, introducing initiatives like tele Manas and incorporating IPD coverage for mental health through IRDA. However, two critical areas require attention.
First, India urgently needs a greater number of qualified mental health professionals, particularly clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers. The government should focus on increasing these numbers to meet the rising demand, a trend that has become especially pronounced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secondly, psychotherapy, a fundamental component of mental health treatment, remains uncovered by insurance. Ensuring OPD coverage for psychotherapy is essential; it would address affordability issues, making these vital services accessible to a broader segment of the population…– said Mr. Krishna Veer Singh, Co-Founder, Lissun
Dr. Debojyoti Dhar, Co-founder & Director, Leucine Rich Bio
While acknowledging the commendable efforts of the current government in fostering the startup culture in India, it is crucial to emphasize the focused attention required by the healthcare sector in the upcoming budget. This is important as the health-tech sector experienced a drop of ~55% in funding in 2023 and the situation can only be improved with the government’s support.
The realization of a healthier Bharat hinges on a more pronounced focus on preventive measures for common diseases rather than a predominantly curative approach. Prioritizing prevention not only mitigates the impact of the disease burden on the nation’s economy but also aligns with the overarching goal of a healthy India.
An intriguing prospect lies in recognizing that effective prevention and management of chronic diseases can significantly reduce the frequency of avoidable hospital admissions, thereby alleviating the economic strain on the country.
Besides, the introduction of simplified compliance frameworks and targeted incentives for innovative life science and healthtech startups holds the potential to unlock the full capabilities of the Indian life science cluster which includes trained and skilled manpower, IT prowess, etc. heralding a revolutionary era in the Indian healthcare ecosystem.”
Deepak Sharma, CEO and Co-Founder of Medlern
Healthcare remains a very challenging sector despite the huge potential for it to contribute to direct and indirect economic growth, employment growth as well improvement of development and productivity. The shortage of skilled and qualified human resources and underinvestment in training by the private sector is a big contributing factor that is also leading to inadequate access in rural areas as well as insufficient investments in research and development or innovative care models.
Anticipating the upcoming budget, it is expected that the government will incentivize both the demand and supply sides of the equation. One direct approach can be to provide financial and tax incentives to online and specialized medical education and training providers as well as hospitals to invest in workforce training and skilling.
Such support would enable the introduction of advanced training programs for doctors, nursing staff, paramedics, and other essential personnel involved in emergencies and critical care scenarios. Advocating for a complete GST exemption for online educational platforms offering medical training, we emphasize the importance of expanding access to quality learning in smaller towns and rural areas.
This approach not only contributes to Continuous Medical Education (CME) but also addresses the acute shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. Looking ahead, the upcoming budget is anticipated to focus on chronic care, health insurance expansion, and the continued acceleration of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission.
Additionally, sustained financial support programs, akin to PLI and clustering initiatives, are expected to be extended to the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors, fostering self-sufficiency for the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.
Neeraj Kumar, CEO, Peakmind
India currently boasts 429 funded companies in the mental health segment, and we anticipate a significant increase with continued robust support from the Government. In my pre-budget recommendations, I urge the government to continue emphasizing emotional wellness programs for colleges and corporations to make them more accessible and transparent.
Considering exemption or even reduction of GST on counseling services for citizens is another measure that can make mental health care more affordable. This increase is essential for enhancing infrastructure, developing the capabilities of mental health professionals, and launching a behavior change campaign to destigmatize mental health.
While acknowledging the government’s strides in mental health legislation over the past five years, from the Mental Health Care Act 2017 to the recent introduction of the National Suicide Prevention Policy, I express optimism that the upcoming budget will reflect a commitment to this progressive approach.
Pranav Bajaj, Co-Founder, Medulance Healthcare.
“As advocates for advancing healthcare resilience, Medulance Healthcare eagerly anticipates the upcoming budget as a pivotal opportunity to fortify India’s emergency services. Recognizing the indispensable role of ambulances and the paramedic sector, we urge the government to prioritize strategic investments in these areas to improve response times and overall emergency medical care efficacy. A key expectation is the revision of the GST structure for ambulance procurement.
Currently burdened with a 28% GST, we propose a significant reduction to 0%. This move not only alleviates financial constraints but also incentivizes the nationwide enhancement of emergency fleets, contributing to faster and more effective emergency response.
We commend the government’s progressive stance in exempting consumers from GST on emergency services, ensuring immediate medical attention remains accessible without additional financial burdens. We hope this exemption continues, affirming the government’s dedication to providing accessible emergency healthcare for all.
Medulance Healthcare views this budget not just as a fiscal adjustment but as an investment in the health and safety of our citizens. We look forward to a budget that not only acknowledges the critical role of emergency services but actively contributes to their enhancement, reflecting a commitment to the well-being of the nation.”
BiE, Founder, Queenie Singh
As the founder of BiE, a clean beauty brand committed to promoting natural and sustainable skincare, my expectations from the Union Budget are centered around creating an environment that uplifts and empowers women entrepreneurs. I hope to see targeted initiatives that facilitate easier access to capital for women-led businesses, fostering financial independence and growth.
In addition, incentives for research and development in the beauty and wellness sector, with a specific focus on clean and sustainable practices, would contribute not only to the growth of our industry but also to environmental sustainability. I look forward to a budget that recognizes the unique challenges and opportunities for women in business, paving the way for a more inclusive and supportive entrepreneurial landscape.