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Budget '17: OTT players hoping for tax rationalisation to boost growth

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MUMBAI: 2016 was indeed a critical year for the over-the-top (OTT) services in India. In an emerging market like India, the potential of more content consumption is certainly a reality. Increasing availability of smart phones, internet penetration, affordable data rates, 4G rollout, availability of good quality content and new entrants have led the OTT industry to bloom in 2016 and the trend is likely to continue. But the segment players are also looking up to the government for a clearer economic roadmap after the shockwaves of demonestisation.

"The entertainment industry has always been on the forefront of economic contribution. Though it is expected that GST rollout (as and when it happens later this year) would bring about more uniformity in the system of paying multiple taxes, it is also expected that finance minister Arun Jaitley will announce reforms, which will help control piracy issues in the country and help boost video on demand market in India,” said Muvizz.com COO and co-founder Abhayanand Singh.

Zee’s business head of digital for India Archana Anand opined that 2016 will go down as the year in which the wheels were set in motion for the growth of OTT. According to her, OTT platforms likely to become the go-to source of entertainment in the coming years, particularly for the millennials, who do not have easy access to a TV set and for whom it’s really about the content and not the size of the screen. But for that economic incentives are also needed from the government.

Echoing similar views, Web Talkies chairman and managing director Virendra Shahaney asserted the government needs to beef up digital infrastructure like Internet and faster implementation of free wi-fi projects. “A relaxed taxation policy for start-ups would be welcome and tax breaks for start-ups should increase to five years with a significant improvement in ease of doing business," he added.

Pointing out that India downloaded six billion apps in 2016 making service usage the highest globally, Dekkho co-founder Tanay Desai said ,"The BHIM app has been downloaded 10 million times already indicating a healthy potential payment pipeline. GST will aid online payments for users as well as brands by reducing tax barriers across states in India and the industry looks forward to additional (tax) relaxation measures in the upcoming Budget."

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