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Businesses improving, India Inc expecting better results in 2021: Survey

The opening up of the economy and implementation of a broad set of measures under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package has led to a continuous improvement over time in the performance of businesses, with India Inc expecting even better results in 2021, a joint survey conducted by FICCI and Dhruva Advisors showed on Monday.

According to the survey, the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19 early next year has improved the confidence level of businesses, with almost 74 percent of the survey participants saying that they foresee a significant positive impact on their business once the vaccine is made available.

The survey conducted in December 2020 showed that COVID-19 induced travel restrictions have limited the ability of companies to undertake business operations efficiently and 74 percent of the survey participants validated this. To overcome this challenge and maintain business operations, companies have leveraged digital tools of communication.

Given the benefits of the use of technology, 64 percent of the surveyed companies said that moving forward, they will use a mix of travel and virtual meetings even after the situation becomes normal.

Another major outcome of COVID-19 is the likely shift in global supply chains away from China to other economies. Nearly 70 percent of the survey participants said that India could benefit from this move and they expected a fair share of manufacturing to shift from China to India in the near future.

To capitalize on the opportunities that could come India’s way, there is a need to strengthen India’s manufacturing ecosystem. Under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, the government has introduced several measures to address the immediate pain points of the economy as well as steps to improve India’s manufacturing competitiveness. These measures have been well received by the industry, with 45 percent of the companies rating the latest set of announcements made under Atmanirbhar Bharat package 3.0 as ‘good to excellent’.

The results of the December 2020 survey also indicate that there has been a further improvement in the performance of companies compared with the situation in August 2020.

With improvement seen in the economy, nearly 40 percent of the surveyed companies are currently operating at a capacity utilization level of over 70 percent, compared with 30 percent of the companies in August 2020, the FICCI-Dhruva survey said.

Other indicators of improving business performance in the December 2020 survey are related to order books and exports. Nearly 50 percent of the companies have reported that they have seen an increase in their order books and about 40 percent said that their exports have increased. In the August 2020 survey, the corresponding figures were 44 percent and 30 percent respectively.

Even as visible signs of improvement in the performance of businesses appear, the impact of COVID-19 still lingers. The survey results show that businesses continue to face challenges on account of weak demand (59 percent), managing costs (54 percent), and financial liquidity (48 percent). Given this, the survey participants expect both government and the RBI to continue with their support measures even next year. There is a strong demand that the upcoming budget must prioritize growth-oriented measures, including a cut indirect tax rates.

Commenting on the survey results, Uday Shankar, President, FICCI, said: “The results of the survey are encouraging and highlight the ongoing industrial and economic recovery. This momentum needs to be built upon and now all eyes are on the upcoming budget. The government has been seeking growth-inducing ideas and we have shared several suggestions. The context of this budget is completely different due to an unprecedented social and economic challenge. We are sure that the government will take bold steps to respond to these challenges.”

Dinesh Kanabar, CEO, Dhruva Advisors LLP, said: “The survey results portray a continued improvement in the business environment in India, with weak demand and managing costs still remains India Inc’s key challenges. The vaccine news has infused optimism among businesses. Given the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the Union Budget 2021-22 is one of the most anticipated budgets.”

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