New Delhi, Augb 10: Entrepreneur, that is, a person who undertakes an enterprise; a word that has become commonplace in today’s corporate environment; we hear practically every day. And yet, Akshi Singal, the focus of our story today, came to us with a unique question. She wondered – while we routinely term individuals starting new businesses as “entrepreneurs”, why don’t we hear the term being used in the context of professionals? A doctor, a lawyer or a chartered accountant who undertake their enterprise. Are they not entrepreneurs? This got us thinking – so we decided to cover Akshi Singal – a professional and an entrepreneur whose focus is on assisting growing enterprises. An entrepreneur for entrepreneurs. 

Akshi Singal is a chartered accountant and holds a specialization in international tax law from the prestigious Leiden University, a law degree from Mumbai University and a B.Com (Hons) from Delhi University, where she served as Vice President of her student body. Having grown up in a house of a passionate entrepreneur, she was instinctively attracted to the idea of creating something of her own. Akshi began her career imbibing the industry best practices through over 7 years with leading firms like PWC, Deloitte and BMR. However, upon witnessing the monumental shift in the national sentiment towards promoting start-ups, Akshi decided this was the right time for her to realize her dream and start her career as an entrepreneur. She left the comfort of her job to open and run an office in Mumbai independently. 

Akshi understands that an overwhelming majority of start-ups close down within five years of establishment, often due to a lack of proper professional guidance. Having advised on the buy and sell-side of investments in different start-ups, she sees an existing vacuum for growing enterprises that find it challenging to access expensive professional assistance. Moreover, such enterprises have little understanding of the complex regulatory regime they seek to function within and desperately seek trustworthy professionals who can take care of the technicalities, focusing on growing the core business. With this guiding principle, Akshi has built her practice around becoming a one-stop-shop for the regulatory needs of growing enterprises and providing end-to-end client servicing from entity selection and co-founder agreements to taxation, regulatory and legal advisory to both start-ups and start-up investment networks. 

Akshi believes that while the government has brought in several regulatory changes to facilitate the growth of new enterprises and promote the ease of doing business, there remain many opportunities for reform in the legal framework that can further augment and catapult the development of the start-up community. For instance, currently, a private company is restrained from accepting deposits, with a few exceptions. A very welcome change was brought in 2017 that enabled registered start-ups to accept monetary deposits from investors. However, given the cash flow situation of many start-ups, founders often face a cash crunch. They need to approach friends and extended family for bridge financing for short intervals of time. Allowing registered start-ups to easily accept deposits from any person, albeit up to a certain amount, with minimal compliance requirements, would significantly reduce the regulatory burden on founders. Secondly, registered start-ups who have filed a declaration for exemption from section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act are immune from angel tax. However, there is no exemption for start-ups from the provisions of section 68. It requires the recipient of a share application money to prove the identity and creditworthiness of the applicant and genuineness of the transaction. These impose an unduly onerous burden on start-up founders to verify their investors’ identity, authenticity, and creditworthiness before the tax authorities. Requiring start-ups to, at the most, prove the investor’s identity and shifting the onus of proving the investor’s creditworthiness and genuineness of the transaction to the investor will greatly relieve founders from high litigation costs and heavy tax burdens. Thirdly, from the investors’ viewpoint, avid investors would be more willing to invest in start-ups if they were exempted from the capital gains tax, subject to reinvestment of profits in registered start-ups. Finally, investor interest in the start-up space would increase if their investment was eligible for a deduction under Chapter VIA of the IT Act.

Being a female entrepreneur and a mother of a 4-year-old, Akshi is deeply aware of the balancing act every working mother faces while juggling a career with personal responsibilities and family. She is fascinated and motivated by the many female entrepreneurs that have held this baton and is deeply passionate about women entrepreneurship, actively promoting female employment in her firm. She is also cognizant of the struggles women face while pursuing dynamic careers and thankful for the tremendous family support she has received to pursue her dream.

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